Mushrooms are great additions to pizzas, pastas, salads and many other dishes. However, the ideal is to leave the search for wild mushrooms to professional mycologists (scientists specializing in fungi). If you want to pick edible mushrooms yourself, be very careful. Take a good look at the appearance of the mushrooms and seek information from reliable sources. If you eat an unidentified mushroom, be aware of possible symptoms of intoxication and seek medical attention.
Part 1 of 4: Closely Observing a Mushroom's Appearance
Step 1. Choose a mushroom without white coverslips
Look for the ones that have beige or brownish sipes. Although some mushrooms with white lamellae are edible, the color is typical of the deadliest family of poisonous mushrooms, the Amanitas.
Step 2. Opt for mushrooms without shades of red on the hat or foot
Give preference to mushrooms with white, beige or brown hats and feet. Most reddish species are poisonous.
The color red is the mushroom's natural warning system to keep predators, including you, well away from them
Step 3. Look for scaleless mushrooms in the hat
Avoid picking mushrooms with scales or other light or dark speck-like marks on the hat. These spots are very common in poisonous varieties.
Some white mushrooms, for example, can have beige or brown spots
Step 4. Watch out for mushrooms with a foot ring
Take a look at the underside of the hat and see if the mushroom has a loose, mini-hat-like ring around its foot. If so, leave the mushroom behind. This feature is typical of poisonous species.
Step 5. Take two baskets with you
Put the mushrooms you are sure are edible in one and the doubtful ones in the other. Touching poisonous mushrooms does no harm to health. Consult an expert to find out more about the species that left you in doubt.
- Pay a visit to a laboratory or university to find a mushroom specialist.
- There is no specific location where edible mushrooms tend to grow. They can be found in trees and trunks as well as on the ground or among moss.
- It is not necessary to wear gloves to pick mushrooms.
Step 6. Do not eat any mushroom if you are not 100% sure it is not poisonous
Be very careful when picking mushrooms. Poisonous and non-poisonous species can look very similar, and some varieties change appearance according to growing conditions, which can make identification difficult.
- Mushrooms of the same type, for example, can have different colors depending on how much they are exposed to the sun.
- Experts say that you should not eat any type of mushroom that you have not been able to identify in nature at least three times, with the confirmation of a professional.
Part 2 of 4: Identifying Common Edible Mushrooms
Step 1. Look out for beige or brown medium hats to identify porcinis
Porcini mushrooms grow near pine, spruce and fir trees. They are usually ready for harvesting in early autumn, in low-lying regions, or in summer, in higher places. They usually have a thick, bulbous foot close to the ground, which thins as they get closer to the hat.
Step 2. Look for chanterelles, which have a small, concave hat in the center
Mushrooms of this type are also usually yellow or golden, with wavy tips turned up. The foot is shaped like a trumpet and thickens closer to the hat. Chanterelles are found near conifers and hardwood trees between fall and early spring.
Step 3. To identify a puffball mushroom, look for a well-rounded white or light beige hat
The puffballs have lots of spikes close together on the hat that are super easy to remove. They usually grow on trails and on the outer edges of forests in the fall and winter months.
To make sure a puffball is in the right spot, cut it in half. He must be very white inside. If it's yellow or brown, it means it's no longer fit for consumption
Step 4. Look out for long hats with scales to identify bearded coprinos
See if the mushroom in question has several lamella-like blades well glued under the hollow ring. Mushrooms of this type grow well in urban areas with cold, humid climates.
Avoid harvesting bearded copines near busy roads. Car smoke can contaminate mushrooms
Part 3 of 4: Learning More About Edible Mushrooms
Step 1. Join a mycology study group
Search the internet for mushroom study groups in your area. You may find meetings and classes open to the general public.
Some groups organize walks and other field events for people who want to know more about harvesting their own food
Step 2. Buy a guide to wild mushrooms in your region
Visit a physical or online bookstore and look for wild mushroom guides for where you live. You can take the books with you when you go out to practice mushroom identification. This will allow you to become even more familiar with the edible and poisonous varieties.
Step 3. See if your nearest university offers mycology classes
Go to the university's biology department closest to your home and find out if there are any mycology courses you can take as a listener. This way, you can develop your skills and learn even more about edible mushrooms.
If you can't find any subjects open to listeners, find out what classes and events department members recommend for the general public
Part 4 of 4: Seeking Health Care After Eating an Unknown Mushroom
Step 1. Watch for signs of gastrointestinal discomfort within the next 24 hours
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience diarrhea, vomiting, traces of blood in vomit or stools, or intestinal pain after eating an unidentified mushroom. Run to the emergency room to replace fluids and treat intoxication.
- Gastrointestinal problems can progress to permanent damage to the kidneys if not treated immediately.
- Even if you're embarrassed to admit to having eaten a potentially poisonous mushroom, be sure to seek treatment. Doctors are only concerned about your health.
Step 2. Watch for salivation, lacrimation, lactation or excessive sweating
Call an ambulance as soon as you notice an involuntary nervous system reaction, such as excessive sweating or uncontrollable crying. These symptoms usually appear 15 or 30 minutes after eating a potentially dangerous mushroom. Act quickly as they can progress to cause visual disturbances, drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing.
- Because of the speed with which symptoms related to the nervous system tend to intensify, you should ideally ask for help rather than trying to drive to a hospital.
- In the emergency room, doctors will likely give you Atropine, an antidote for most of these symptoms. Patients usually recover in approximately 24 hours, but if left untreated, intoxication can lead to respiratory arrest.
Step 3. Don't ignore visual distortions, hallucinations and feelings of excessive sleepiness
Get medical attention if you experience any central nervous system changes, such as drowsiness or hallucinations. Some mushrooms can cause seizures when eaten, or even induce a comatose state.
- Seek medical help to treat anxiety and fluid loss.
- Typically, these symptoms go away on their own and don't cause long-term damage.
Step 4. Watch for relapses after treatment
Physical or mental symptoms may reappear after recovery. Some poisonous mushrooms, like those in the Amanita family, make people who eat them look better, but feel bad again after a day. Intoxication can even lead to multiple organ failure.
- If you think you've eaten an Amanita mushroom, don't wait for symptoms to appear. Hurry to the hospital and explain to the doctors which mushroom you ingested, how much and how long ago.
- If you have any piece of mushroom stored, give it to us for analysis.
- Never rely on information found on the internet to determine whether or not you can eat a mushroom, not even in this article. Even if the source is trustworthy, you can still make a mistake when identifying the species.
- Eating a poisonous mushroom can have serious consequences. You can get sick, suffer from organ failure and even die. Ideally, you should only eat mushrooms that are sold in the supermarket.