Which Wild Mushrooms Are Edible?

Looking to add edible mushrooms to your cuisine? Want to know which wild mushrooms are edible?

In this article we’ll cover some of the most easy to identify wild edible mushrooms.

Why have we chosen these? They are both easy to ID and delicious.

Note: If you click some of the links in this article we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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Edible Versus Poisonous

There’s no easy method to guarantee if a mushroom is edible or poisonous. It’s key that you know without a shadow of a doubt that what you bring home to eat is safe.

The stakes are high. Poisonous mushrooms can have serious consequences like liver failure, kidney failure, and death.

We have another article on poisonous mushroom identification. Study it. Study the mushrooms below.

Get to know how to ID them based on these key features:

  • Where they grow
  • When they grow – never pick mushrooms you find out of season (e.g. morels in the fall)
  • Caps
  • Gills
  • Stem
  • Any poisonous look alikes?
  • Spore Print

Get a Mushroom Guidebook

It’s also key that you pick up a mushroom guidebook to bring with you into the woods. There are a ton out there. The standy that I’ve used and the person who taught me used is the Field Guide to North American Mushrooms.

There are a ton of guides out there though. It’s best if you can find a small one that focuses on the mushrooms in your area. The most common division is mushrooms of the east vs mushrooms of the west.

A Field Guide to Mushrooms of the Carolinas (Southern Gateways Guides)
Mushrooms of the Rocky Mountain Region (A Timber Press Field Guide)

Take a Local Class

Search your local gardener’s groups, agriculture extension agents, and mushroom groups on Facebook. See if you can find local classes.

The easiest and safest way to learn safe wild edible mushrooms is from another pro that knows your area. To get started just Google wild mushroom class near me.

Get Certified to Find and Sell Wild Mushrooms

If you want to sell wild mushrooms you sometimes need state certification. Here’s an example of a certification program through Michigan State University Extension Program to find and sell mushrooms in Michigan.

Sorry for so much intro but it’s important you learn the basics and stay safe. Now without further delay, on to our top and easy edible wild mushrooms!

Easy to Identify Wild Edible Mushrooms

Morel Mushrooms

Morels showing hollow stems and caps attached to stem at base of caps
Morels showing hollow stems and caps attached to stem at base of caps Image by Alan Stanley from Pixabay

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Yellow Morel (Morchella americana) – 4 to 22 cm tall, random pits and ridges on cap, no undercarraige of cap – it connects directly to stem (this is a key feature to tell it apart from false morels), hollow head and stem, yellow brown when mature.

Common Eastern Black Morel (Morchella angusticeps) – Up to 18 cm tall, again random pits and ridges, cap connects directly to stem at base, hollow cap and stem, gray to black/brown.

Where They Grow

Under deciduous trees mainly though sometimes conifers. Near streams. Found throughout North America but more common in the east.

When They Grow

Spring

Poisonous Look Alikes

  • False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta)

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Seek morels under dying elms near streams. They also favor recently burned forests.

Chanterelles

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

There are many chanterelles of the genuse Cantharellus. Here are the more common edible ones:

  • Cinnabar Chanterelle (Cantharellus cinnabarinus) – 1 to 5 cm wide cap; cinnamon to red colored; upturned cap with gills connecting to stem; stalk is 2 to 5 cm; pink or cream spore print; forked folds instead of gills.
  • Common Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) – similar to above but pale yellow; forked “folds” instead of true gills.

Where They Grow

In forests on moss, in leaves, or soil.

When They Grow

Late spring to fall

Poisonous Look Alikes

False chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) – has true gills while the edible chanterelle has “folds” that randomly fork. Not truly poisonous but not great tasting.

Jack O Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus species) – also has unforked true gills. Poisonous.

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Be sure to study the difference between the true gills of poisonous look alikes and the forked folds of chanterelles.

See chanterelles in older growth forests with deciduous trees like birch, beech, poplar, and maple. They like moisture – always search after a recent rain.

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushroom on tree

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

  • Common Oyster Mushroom (Shelf Fungus – Pleurotus ostreatus) – Grows on rotting trees. Caps are 5 to 20 cm across. Very commonly cultivated and easy to grow. It’s probably safer to grow this than it is to find it in the wild! Decurrent gills (gills run from the cap down most of the stem). White to pale spore print.
  • King Oyster Mushroom (P. eryngii) – See next mushroom type below.

Where They Grow

Grow in clumps or solitary on logs of deciduous trees. Sometimes on evergreens.

When They Grow

All year

Poisonous Look Alikes

  • Jack-O-Lantern (Omphalotus Olearius) – Not white, usually yellow or orange instead. Poisonous.
  • Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe Dealbata) – Gills stop at the base of the stem instead of running all the way down. Poisonous.

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Try dead or dying aspens and beeches to find oyster mushrooms.

King Oyster Mushrooms

Organic King Oyster Mushroom Growing Kit

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Pleurotus eryngii – The largest oyster mushroom. Looks more like a wide large stalk than the wavy shelf oyster mushroom. Has a small tan cap. Other oyster mushrooms grow on dead trees and logs. King oysters like to feast on the roots of shrubby plants.

Where They Grow

Native to the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East. Cultivated around the world.

Poisonous Look Alikes

Not many. See other poisonous look alikes for oysters above.

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Giant Puffball

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Calvatia gigantea – Large circular mushroom that grows in lawns and gets to 20 to 50 cm in diameters. White skin that gets creamy and breaks with age.

Where They Grow

World wide in temperate zones

When They Grow

Summer to fall

Poisonous Look Alikes

None

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Harvest before mushroom turns tan.

Shaggy Mane

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Coprinus comatus – Shaggy cap that’s long and cylindrical. 3 to 15 cm in diameter. Turns inky and black as it ages. Black spore print.

Where They Grow

Temperate areas

When They Grow

Spring, Summer and fall

Poisonous Look Alikes

Vomit Mushroom (Chlorophyllum molybdites) – Does not have the distinctive shaggy mane. Most commonly eaten poisonous mushroom that causes the most poisonings.

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Look for shaggy manes on lawns or in wood chips.

Chicken of the Woods, Sulfur Shelf Mushroom

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Laetiporus sulphureus – also knows as sulphur shelf or chicken of the woods, bright orange shelf fungus, 5 to 30 cm in diameter, white spore print,

Where They Grow

Worldwide

When They Grow

Fall and Early winter

Poisonous Look Alikes

Jack O Lantern – these have gills, Chicken of the woods don’t.

Lion’s Mane or Bearded Tooth Mushrooms

Fresh Picked Organic Lion's Mane Mushrooms

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Hericium erinaceus – Tooth fungi due to it’s beard like mass instead of gills, up to 20 cm tall, spines can get up to 9 cm, soft white color, white spore print.

This is one of two species of “Hedgehog mushrooms.” The other is Hydnum repandum. H. repandum has much smaller spikes that only get 3 to 10 millimeters long. Has a much more defined cap while Lion’s Mane looks like a giant lion’s mane. Pale brown to reddish orange when mature. White spore prints. Grows under evergreen trees and deciduous trees in summer and early fall.

Where They Grow

Temperate areas

When They Grow

Summer and early winter

Poisonous Look Alikes

None

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Look for Lion’s Mane on stumps, logs, and decaying hardwood trees in summer and early winter.

Porcini, King Bolete, or Penny Bun

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Boletus edulis – A bolete which means no gills or spikes. Instead it has tubes underneath the cap. Large 7 to 30 cm cap at maturity. Large stem that can also get 7 cm in diameter. Olive brown spore print.

Where They Grow

Deciduous and evergreen forests through the northern hemisphere. In the U.S. it’s more common in the west than in the east or south.

When They Grow

Summer through fall

Poisonous Look Alikes

  • Devil’s bolete (Rubroboletus satanas) – red stem that turns blue if you bruise it

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Look for these in the summer and fall after a rain in coniferous forests.

Maitake Mushrooms or Hen of the Woods

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Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Grifola frondosa – large 60 cm fruiting body of wavy white to grey caps. Each cap is 2 to 8 cm wide. White spore print. Like shelf fungus, this is a perennial fungus that will reappear in the same place after rains year after year. Has tubes instead of gills under the caps.

Where They Grow

Under oaks and hardwoods

When They Grow

Late summer to fall

Poisonous Look Alikes

None that are poisonous

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Look for Maitake mushrooms under oaks and hardwoods.

Buna Shimeji or Beech Tree Mushrooms

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Hypsizygus tessellatus – When in Asia, look for these growing on beech trees in summer and fall. More commonly found in stores and easier to grow than to find.

Where They Grow

East Asia

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Look for these gilled mushrooms growing in clumps on beech trees.

Paddy Straw Mushrooms

Paddy Straw Mushroom (Volvariella Volvacea) Liquid Culture

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Volvariella volvacea – Mostly cultivated, grown on rice straw. Pink spore print – If searching in the wild always check the spore print of this one! Deadly look alikes from the Amanita genus have white spore prints.

Where They Grow

Asia

Poisonous Look Alikes

Little brown mushrooms. Be wary of this category. Better to buy plug spawn and grow these yourself.

Also resemble poisonous death caps.

Button Mushrooms or White Mushrooms

Key Features (Cap, Gills, Stem, Spore Print)

Agaricus bisporus – Not commonly found in the wild. Easy to confuse with highly poisonous Amanita species. The white button mushrooms matures into large brown Portobello mushrooms when mature.

Where They Grow

Native to Europe and North America

When They Grow

Spring through fall

Poisonous Look Alikes

Death caps, Destroying Angel, and other deadly Amanitas

Mushroom Hunting Tips

Avoid hunting these in the wild. They can be found outside however they are easy to confuse with Amanitas.