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Pictorial of Some Edible Mushrooms

Since I just got done writing about mushroom growing kits, I thought it might be worthwhile and interesting to put up a pictorial of some of the edible wild mushrooms I commonly look for and eat. This pictorial is not to be used as a source of definitive identification. Although all the mushrooms shown here are edible, some of them have look-alikes that aren’t edible. Although there are relatively few poisonous mushrooms and even fewer deadly ones, it is best to go mushroom hunting with a person who is an expert in identification before consuming wild mushrooms.

In the other article I alluded to, I mentioned that shaggy mane mushrooms were the easiest to grow from a kit, taking only about two weeks for maturity. In this picture, there are two clumps of shaggy manes. The one in the front is several hours older than the other clump and it is well on the way to dissolving into an inky puddle. The clump in the rear still has a number of shaggy manes that are edible, though a few are 'changing'.

This is an excellent tasting mushroom before it starts turning into a puddle. I often use an ice chest filled with ice water when I collect these because the cold temperatures make them last longer. I like eating these sauteed in butter.

There are inedible look-alikes for this mushroom, though none of them become inky, so in a case like this picture with a clump dissolving and another clump nearby, it is pretty safe to know that the clump that is still in good shape is edible.

Chanterelle

Most mushroom gleaners consider chanterelles to be among the most choice mushrooms. These usually grow singly, but there can be a profusion of them in a small amount of area. These grow well around here and they are extremely good tasting. We even have a chanterelle festival in one of the nearby towns. They are sometimes dried and sold that way, too.

There aren't many mushrooms that look much like chanterelles and chanterelles come in various colors. Pictured is a yellow chanterelle, but I've seen varying shades from red to blue to purple.

Coral Mushroom

Technically this is a fungus rather than a mushroom, but the reason for the common name is rather obvious; it looks like coral growing in the ground. This edible mushroom is okay tasting but difficult to clean. It partly makes up for this by often producing large amounts, with quite a bit of weight per cluster. 

I usually don't go out specifically looking for it, but if I see it, I'll bring it back to add to a meal.

Giant Puffball

Again, this is a fungus rather than a mushroom, but these are hard to miss. The one shown is actually small. At times, I've found them that were easily larger than a soccer ball, which they somewhat resemble.

This is among my favorite wild mushrooms and I love slicing these into slabs and cooking them like steaks. They also make a fantastic cream of mushroom soup.

To tell if they are ripe, they are simply sliced in half. If the flesh is white all the way through, they are edible. If they start to turn brown inside, they are past their prime and aren't very good eating. There are a few inedible mushrooms that look somewhat like an immature giant puffball, and these mushrooms only grow in a narrow altitude band, between about 4,000 and 5,000 feet.

As an interesting fact, all puffballs in North America are edible if they aren't too ripe. Some are just so small that they are scarcely worth the effort to pick.

Porcini

Porcinis are bolete mushrooms and not all boletes are edible, so some caution is in order. These have a typical toadstool shape and the underside of the cap is spongy-looking. These aren't tremendously common around here, but they were often found in Oregon. To me, porcinis aren't much better than button mushrooms, which are rather bland in flavor.

True morel

Many people, myself included, feel that this is the tastiest mushroom of all. Morels look rather like a pointed sponge stuck on a stick, except that the 'stick' or stem is hollow. The cap is as well. These grow wild throughout the temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia, though those in North America tend to be much larger than those that grow elsewhere. I love these mushrooms cooked in many ways, including stuffed with meat sauce.

Around here, the best place to look for morels is in areas that have been burned by forest fires, about 3 years earlier. It takes that long for these mushrooms to mature and grow. However, they can be locally plentiful.

I once filled three 5-gallon buckets with morels in just a few hours. 

Buying morels is quite expensive, though. Every year, we have morel buyers in town here that pay $30-50 per pound for the morels. They then dry them and resell them for a hefty profit. I don't pick them commercially, though. I like eating them too much.

There is no other mushroom (again, technically a fungus) that looks like a morel. Even false morels, which I've included below, don't look like true morels. This was the first mushroom I taught my children to identify, back when they were 6 and 8-years-old.

There are also several colors of morels. The one shown is a black morel, because the outside of the head is black. There are also yellow morels, brown morels, and white morels.

False Morel

No other mushroom looks like a false morel, either. I'm including it here primarily to show the difference between false morels and true morels. They can't be easily confused. and they often grow in the same areas, False morels are also hollow.

Some caution should be exercised with false morels, too. They aren't easily misidentified, however, they can be poisonous in some areas and some people are highly allergic to this fungus. It seems to hinge on where they grow, whether or not they are poisonous. They aren't deadly poisonous, but the most common complains are upset stomach and headaches after eating the poisonous ones. 

In fact, many mushroom guidebooks list false morels as poisonous, even though not all of them are. I've eaten a number of large portions of sauteed false morels with no difficulty at all. It is just worthwhile to urge caution with them.

Common meadow mushroom

This is a well-known mushroom because it is the one that is sold at the store as button mushrooms, white mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, portabello mushrooms, brown mushrooms, or Italian mushrooms. Normally, they are only called meadow mushrooms when they are found growing wild. However, all commercial stocks of these mushrooms originated in the wild.

Sometimes these mushrooms get quite large. We found one many years ago that weighed just over 5 pounds. As the name implies, they usually grow wild in grassy meadows. This one isn't hard to grow, which is why it is the most commonly grown, sold, and eaten mushroom in the world. 

These are a few of the more commonly collected and eaten mushrooms that I get when I'm out in the woods. It isn't all of the mushrooms I eat, just the most common.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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