When I was younger, my family used to go on camping trips quite often. I remember when we camped close to home, in Missouri, and my dad disappeared into the woods for a while, returning with a bag full of mushrooms. They looked curiously odd compared to all the mushrooms I had ever seen. He explained that they were morel mushrooms, were safe to eat, and tasted great. It wasn’t until we returned home, and my mom made mushroom soup, that I realized just how special these tasty treats were. After that experience, I knew I’d have to go on mushroom hunts myself, but in order to do this successfully, I had a lot to learn. Let me share some of my findings with you.
Approach Mushrooms Cautiously
The most important thing to remember, concerning mushrooms, is to make certain they are safe to eat before indulging. There are poisonous species which should strictly be avoided. Even some of the edible ones have poisonous “look a-likes” so never let your guard down. Here is a list of some mushrooms which are safe to ingest and easier to identify:
- Hen of the woods
- Sulfur-colored Chicken of the woods
- Giant puffballs
Where are these delectable treats found?
In order to collect mushrooms for eating, you must know how to locate, identify, and prepare them. Morels, which are my personal favorite, only grow several weeks out of the year, in spring time. Oyster mushrooms start growing in the spring and can continue through early winter depending on the harshness of weather conditions. You must be 100% positive of the mushroom species before consumption in order to be safe. There are many poisonous mushrooms that may be confused with edible ones, so pay attention.
In order to find an exact species you must be aware of when and where it grows. Mushrooms grow in moist conditions so if the weather is dry it will prevent them from growing. With that being said, the best time to hunt for mushrooms is after a couple days of rain, when there is a lot of dampness in the soil. Morels grow when the ground temperature is approximately 53 degrees Fahrenheit along with night temperate that have been consistently above 50 degrees for at least a week; they can be kind of particular.
How to Collect Mushrooms
The best practice for collecting mushrooms is to transport them, including the base, out of the woods for further examination. It’s very important to include the base for identification purposes. Carry a pocket knife, or something you can dig with, along with a bucket and wax paper. When you find the mushrooms wrap them in the wax paper, folding the edges over and twisting the ends like candy wrapper. It’s important to avoid trapping moister in with the mushrooms or they will decompose quickly.
List of Details to Keep Track of for Identifying
- Grown in clusters or single mushroom
- Where it’s growing (on the ground, tree, moss)
When the Hunt is Over
Once you get home, research the precise mushrooms you’ve found and some recipes for each of them. Unless you’re a skilled mushroom hunter, who distinguishes types and species of mushrooms easily, you will need to spend time after the hunt to make certain that what you’ve collected is edible and safe before you ever consume. Mushrooms are a topic of never ending possibilities and I hope you enjoy your adventure as much as I have mine.