Wild Edible Mushrooms: 10 Things to Know

For adventurers who love foraging from the wild, mushrooms are a popular choice. Wide-spread and diverse mushrooms are found all over the globe and make a nutritious and tasty addition to any diet.

While you can find a bigger range and tastier mushrooms in the wild compared to sourcing from a store or market, there are a lot of things to know before you should forage for wild mushrooms.

Read on to learn our “must-knows” regarding safely finding and using wild edible mushrooms.

Wild Edible Mushrooms Foraging Guide

To enjoy foraging and eating wild mushrooms then you first need to be well prepared to find and forage them. Our guide will help you be well equipped for your mushroom mission!

What You Need

Before you set out into the wilderness to gather mushrooms there are a few very important items you should take with you for safety and comfort.

  • Identification guide – even if you possess deep knowledge of mushroom identification you should embark on your mission equipped with a local and official identification guide to confirm your find as edible over poisonous. Using a mushroom identification app can streamline your ID process but you should always confirm with an official guide. 
  • Hiking gear – depending on the location of the mushrooms you are searching for you may need to come prepared. Good walking shoes, water, snacks and a first aid kit should always be carried when you venture out into the wilderness and well as some sort of communication such as a cellphone.
  • Collecting equipment – when you find your prized mushrooms you then need to collect them. Using a knife you can cut the mushroom at the base of the stem, this way it can regrow! You can also use a trowel to dig up the root system as a way to help identify specimens. A bag or basket is ideal to carry your bounty home!
  • Permit – lots of great foraging sites are on private land or restricted areas that may need a permit. Do your research to make sure you have permission to access foraging areas

Finding Wild Mushrooms

Finding wild edible mushrooms is the real challenge, you have to know where to look!

Different species have different variants that promote growth including temperature, humidity, soil conditions and even altitude. 

Ensure you do lots of research beforehand to gain local knowledge of what species grow in what kind of environments and where to look. Every species is different but many are easy to find after heavy rain as it erodes surrounding soil and exposes them, making them easy to spot.

How To Identify Wild Edible Mushrooms

Your identification guide will refer to many aspects of the mushroom in question such as:

  • size
  • shape
  • colour
  • texture
  • scent

You may need to completely dig the mushroom up from the ground to insect its root systems for identification. Many mushrooms can look very similar to one another so subtle differences are important to note. There’s no such thing as “close enough” when a tasty edible mushroom can look so much like a toxic mushroom.

Make sure you are absolutely sure that your identification is correct before you ingest any mushroom from the wild. Take any mushrooms you are uncertain of to a professional to double-check if need be. Better to be safe than sorry.

How To Tell If A Wild Mushroom Is Poisonous

Many poisonous mushrooms share common traits as we will now go over. These traits are not sure-things, they are just common and some edible mushrooms may possess them.

Gills

Wild mushrooms that possess ivory white gills on their underside are more often than not poisonous. This is not true of every single mushroom with white gills, but 90% of the time this will be true and can be a red flag when foraging.

Color

Bright colours are a common evolutionary trait of toxic, poisonous or venomous plants and animals. The bright colours signal to any passing animals that may take a bite to stay away. This has evolved to protect mushrooms so they thrive and reproduce.

The funny thing is, there are other species that are not poisonous that have emulated this adaption to avoid being eaten.

But for the most part, brightly coloured or patterned wild mushrooms tend to be poisonous.

Texture 

Again, no a hard and fast rule but a majority of mushrooms with a scaley texture will be toxic. Another defence mechanism from nearby grazers searching for a tasty snack.

Ultimately you will only know for sure if a wild mushroom is poisonous if you can correctly and accurately identify it. A good rule of thumb is “if in doubt, throw it out”.

Contamination Of Wild Mushrooms

Just became a wild mushroom is naturally edible, doesn’t mean it is in good condition to be consumed when you find it.

Mushrooms growing in high traffic or industrial areas can often times get contaminated. Contamination can occur from pesticides, fertilizer and other chemicals from farmers, roadworks or landscapers. 

Avoid foraging from high traffic areas near these areas. If an area has a strong chemical scent, then do not forage here.

Some contamination can be harmless and can easily be cleaned off your mushrooms when you bring them home.

A small amount of contamination will not necessarily cause an adverse reaction but prolonged ingestion or allergic reactions can cause you to become pretty ill from contaminants found on wild mushrooms.

Foraging Rule Of Thirds

This golden rule for forages ensures that wild supplies of natural resources, such as edible mushrooms will continue to be available for all to access.

The rule of thirds says that when you find a resource you only harvest up to one-third of the takings, leave one third for the next forager and one third to naturally regenerate. 

Of course, there are no regulations to this but to keep wild edible mushrooms around for everyone to enjoy for years to come then this is a good value to keep in mind!