There are many wonderful mushrooms to forage for. Harvesting mushrooms can be a great activity all year long. From forests to your own backyard mushrooms grow everywhere.
We will go over 4 mushrooms and discuss where to find them and how to identify them.
Before you get started, here are some tips. Don’t use a plastic bag for carrying your mushrooms. Instead use a cloth bag, mesh bag, or a wicker basket. It can be helpful to bring a pocket knife to remove mushrooms or cut them open. Avoid going onto private property. Avoid places like golf courses; they may use chemicals that make the mushrooms inedible. Don’t take all of the mushrooms you see, it’s courteous to leave some harvest for other people, many insects and animals eat the mushrooms as well. NEVER eat wild mushrooms raw, to be consumed safely they need to be cooked or adequately dried.
The oyster is a very prevalent mushroom that can be found throughout all four seasons. While they can be cultivated in many different colors the wild oysters we are talking about are very pale in color and range from white to cream to a pale tannish grey. They are usually 2-6 inches tall, and if they have a stem it is short and stubby. Otherwise, they attach directly to the wood. The cap should be smooth and clam-shaped with edges that roll over and long thin white gills on the underside. They love moisture and grow best after heavy rain. Found on fallen or living deciduous trees oyster’s can grow in large clusters. To check for beetles, gently shake or tap the mushrooms. Do not eat if the gills are infested with beetle larvae. Avoid oysters that are not soft and pliable or have turned yellow-brown.
2. Sulfur Shelf
Undeniably sulfur shelf is a beautiful and vibrant mushroom. It has the nickname ‘Chicken of the Woods. You can find it in spring, summer, and fall. Sulfur Shelf loves any wood and attaches directly to the wood with no stem. They have a bright orange or pink top with bright yellow edges and underside. The shape of the cap is like a semi-circle with tiny pores on the underside. Additionally, it can be a single shelf layer, but it usually grows in clusters with multiple overlapping shelves. The size of the shelves can vary from 2-24in.
Large shelves are older and tougher and not great to eat. Though on these larger shelves, the outer edges are the newest growth, that is where you want to harvest from. Avoid growths from eucalyptus and coniferous trees, these can cause stomach issues. Another trick for differentiating the age of shelves, your fingerprints will show up on young shelves but not on the old ones. Sulfur shelf has a toxic dopplegänger but they have 2 big differences that are very noticeable. Unlike sulfur shelf, the jack-o-lantern mushroom does not have gills or a stem. If you think you see either of those things, then avoid it.
Throughout spring and summer, you can find wild morels. Most average 2-6inches, and they range in color from tan to black. The cap of morel is cone-shaped and spongy that’s filled with pits and ridges (NOT folds or creases). They do not have pores or gills. Morels have a hollow stem that connects directly to the edges of the cap. Their favorite place is on dead elm trees. If part of the elm is underground, then a morel can look like it’s growing from the grass, but it’s actually coming from down below.
Beware of false morel; unlike the real thing, their caps have many wavy folds and creases, not pits or ridges. The stem is solid, and its insides are filled with a fibrous cottony material. It is essential to cut a morel in half vertically to check it. The entire inside should be hollow with no cottony material present.
4. Giant Puffball
Giant Puffballs can be found in the summer and the fall. They grow straight up from the ground without a stem though sometimes they’ll have a small root-like protrusion on the bottom. Giant puffballs average 2-12 inches, with some bigger than a volleyball! They have a large round cap that often looks like it’s filled with the moon’s craters. Giant puffballs do not have spores or gills. The inside must be firm and solid white with no insect damage or discoloration. As they age, the color will darken, and a small hole will start to form, this is to release the spores once it’s mature. A single puffball can release trillions of spores!