Picking Wild Mushrooms Can Fun, Tasty and Dangerous

You have to know what you're looking for to find healthy, delicious treats.

Are you sick and tired of this weather yet? Me too.

On the bright side March showers bring April mushrooms. It's true. Damp wet springs (summers and falls too!) bring a plethora of wild mushrooms.

I know, you think I’m crazy. But mushroom picking is a lot of fun (and a little dangerous).

I learned how to pick mushrooms as a squirt with my grandmother. The day after a big rainstorm we would walk in the woods and find dozens and dozens of crazy looking fungi. Some are edible, some not.

Let’s start by saying contrary to popular belief, mushrooms have a wide nutritional value that includes protein, several B vitamins, vitamin C and lots of fiber. Some varieties are believed to stimulate the immune system. Conversely, some varieties can paralyze the nervous system, while others can cause severe hallucinations.

So which mushrooms are safe to eat? The first clue is in the appearance. If a mature mushroom has a worm hole or insect bites, it’s a safe bet its edible. Worms and bugs instinctively won’t eat a poison mushroom. Break a mushroom open and look for a worm or insect, then retain that mushroom as a template or example of what’s safe. Next smell the mushroom. A safe mushroom smells very similar to the types you find in a supermarket. If a mushroom has a peculiar or foul odor do not pick it.

Once you get your mushrooms home, wash them with cold running water. My grandmother would then blanch them with a Kennedy Half Dollar and a peeled clove of garlic in the pot. If either one turned black the mushrooms went in the barrel. I’m not sure about the silver but a sulfite vegetable such as garlic will definitely turn when exposed to toxins.

One day last spring my daughter and I went on a mushroom picking excavation in the Lynn Woods Conservation Reservation. On certain Saturdays, they have guided hunts with trained rangers providing assistance. Harold Parker and other conservation areas also host them. We forested two baskets full of wild looking fungi. Some were red with yellow spots, some were bright orange or shaped like inverted umbrellas. We took them home for Sunday dinner where they made a spectacular garnish. (No one but me had the courage to eat them!)

I’m still here and we had an awesome day hiking the paths and trails in the wood. So even if you don’t nourish your body with all those proteins and vitamins, you’ll still do your body some good with all that fresh air and exercise.



Kirsten March 27, 2011 at 11:31 PM
Wow!! This article brought back many fond and hilarious memories of my childhood. My brother and I both thought my Mom was a whack job, as I'm sure you get the same. I can't remember a spring she didn't go prancing through the forest finding, collecting, and eating mushrooms. Just like her daily bird poop inspection in the summer months to see when the blue berries were ripe. God help us if there was a really good storm or hurricane-while everybody else lined up candles, water, games etc., she had us lining up shovels, rakes, bags and buckets to hit the shore the following day to collect fresh seaweed. I was just happy we weren't shoveling steaming hot horse manure from a local stable. As much as my brother and I bitched and complained and made fun of her, we gained incredible knowledge and love for the outdoors. As an adult, I'm proud to say I'm a science major and I owe it to her in so many ways. And now as a parent of a 21mo old, I'm beyond excited for the warmer months because he's finally old enough to see HIS Mom prancing through the forest, combing the beaches, scoping out property lines for safe berry/grape picking, finding our own night crawlers and enjoying ALL that nature has to offer. What a great article in so many ways. Thank you!


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