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Wild Mushrooms Looking for a Field Guide

OK I've read the past posts on this board and realize the importance of being extremely careful when foraging for these. To that end I am interested in getting a good field guide. Can anyone out there recommend one?


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  1. Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora
    The National Audubon Society Field to Northern American Mushrooms
    100 Edible Mushrooms by Michael Kuo

    The first is rather encyclopedic, which might be a bit more than what you want, but I really recommend studying up on mycology in general if your interested in wild mushrooms. And at any rate, it's a really glorious book.

    The second is an actual field guide, to take with you while mushroom hunting. It has photographs for everything, detailed descriptions including spore print color, type of gills, bruising color and among other things it lists look alikes for everything (important, important). This is the one to keep in your pocket.

    The third is more specific for your purpose, and will be good if you have a good foundation of mycological knowledge already. Don't rely completely on it.

    This might seem redundnt to you so my apologies, but it really can be a dangerous venture. Hopefully you know an experienced hunter to go with and if not, check out your local (or even semi local) mycological society. They hold forays where you can go with and learn and pick and take home and eat. If there isn't one, perhaps a local university. Most likely if your area is good for mushroom pickin, there's bound to be some organization around that you can tag along with.

    1. I like Peterson's field guide to mushrooms. http://www.amazon.com/Field-Guide-Mus...
      Peterson's guides are carried at outdoors stores and as well many bookstores.

      1. I second the recommendation of David Arora's book but - and this is a really big but - please take a field course or find a knowledgeable mushroom-picker to show you the ropes before you eat any of your finds. When I first began picking I went out with a Polish friend who was very helpful, and more recently have been out with a woman who picks commercially. It's one thing to get a description of a mushroom (even with all the other tests, spore prints, etc.) and another thing altogether to go out with someone who can point out exactly what you're looking for and can show you any similar-looking species that might cause confusion. Or worse. I don't mean to scare you - mushroom picking is one of my great joys - but the consequences can be quite dire if you don't know what you're doing.

        1. I believe in France pharmacists are trained to identify mushrooms. So after you pick you get a confirmation before you eat. At markets in the country people selling wild mushrooms will have a sticker on each package signed by a pharmacist.

          1. Thanks everyone for your great suggestions. I believe I will look into finding someone with actual experience before I begin the effort as well as utilize the books mentioned.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jambalaya

              I'm glad to hear we won't be reading a news item (bottom of page 25, Strange-But-True section of your local paper) about your death by poisonous mushroom. I admit I am hooked on this little pastime but it really must be apprached with a sensible amount of caution. The punch line of my late mother-in-law's favourite joke was "He wouldn't eat the mushrooms."

            2. You absolutely cannot learn to forage for mushrooms safely using a book, no matter how good. Find an expert who's willing to teach you, and learn one mushroom at a time. Pictures don't convey the many subtle differences between some edible and some deadly fungi.

              7 Replies
              1. re: pikawicca

                If you make a spore print and identify it in a guide, you are safe. It only takes a few seconds, and the image can be recorded and stored in a camera.

                1. re: jayt90

                  This advice is SO so unsafe. Only eat wild mushrooms that are POSITIVELY identified by an expert in the field. And an expert in the field will tell you that.

                  Paul Stamets's books are great. But they are not field guides.

                  1. re: Quine

                    well, i certainly disagree. If u can read and follow all clues about the tree it is under - or not - and get a spore print - it is POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED . What more info do u think an expert has?

                    My wife and I taught ourselves - usint 2 diff field guides and other info - we picked only what we were positive of - we got 100's of pounds ,

                    We were simply able to read - and follow directions - which most people can do alone.

                    1. re: dibob817

                      dibob817 - you have been lucky. A spore print + environment + visual ID is NOT positive. Yes, it's pretty close. But it's NOT POSITIVE. Read a good field guide and you'll also be given descriptions of how the spore looks under a microscope and various other chemical reactions (colour change, etc.). Of course, you can pick safely if you learn a few very easily identified wild mushroom varieties and you stick to those. This is what I do. I've picked some pretty straightforward morels, boletes, armillaria and oysters. But if I were to pick something else - something new to me - I'd want to make absolutely 100% sure it was safe before consuming. And for that, I'd consult with an expert.

                      That said, there are certain edible wild mushrooms that cause unpleasant reactions in some people and not others. I, personally, can't eat so much as a teaspoon of puffball without becoming horrendously ill. My husband can't eat another type - a type of very abundant tricholoma which I've stopped picking because I'm a little uncertain about it.

                      1. re: Nyleve

                        like I said - we picked what we were positive of.

                        1. re: dibob817

                          Fair enough. That's what I do. And yes, some species are safer than others in that there may not be anything even remotely similar in appearance that could be poisonous. It's just when you're starting out, it's pretty important to almost have a mentor to help you identify these mushrooms. A book may not be enough.

                2. re: pikawicca

                  I absolutely agree with you, and even the experts can be wrong. I know of two examples, one personally, and one second-hand. I had a biology teacher in Germany who went foraging, and died. The other one I heard about from a reputable scientist was that a dozen mycologists had a dinner together, and a couple of them were reluctant to eat but this was based mostly on instinct. Turns out that the "safe" mushrooms shared some ground with poisonous ones and had picked up some of their spores. All who ate the mushrooms died.

                3. Morels are easy to identify. But where I live (Northern California), picking wild mushrooms is not recommended unless you're the sort that likes to skydive with an umbrella as a parachute.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: mpalmer6c

                    I like "All the Rain Promises and More." It's Arora's field guide for the Western US
                    (see first post in thread).
                    Here's the Amazon.com link:

                    This is what my mushroom hounds in Northern California use. (There are only two totally safe ones here anyway -- chanterelles and harissium.) By the way, Jambalaya, after foraging you will have run your mushroom "finds" by a mycologist before eating them -- unless you don't like having a working liver.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      I don't know if this is fool proof or not... but the area around Mexico City is big time mushroom country (mushroom season in the rainy summers usually brings in about 2 dozen varieties of wild mushrooms to market)... and the conventional wisdom is to fry them up with a couple of whole garlic cloves... if they become a god awful grey don't eat! I know this will work with Chanterelles because that is a common fungus there... not sure about harissium (as I can't think of the name in Spanish).

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        That rule may be true with one particular mushroom, but it's definitely not a method for determining edibility as a general rule. There are many of these very specific "old wives' tales" that try to give a simple way of weeding out the poisonous mushrooms from the good ones. None of these should be relied on. Each one may very well have worked with one particular type of mushroom in one particular environment (which is why they got started in the first place) but it's neither scientific nor reliable.

                        1. re: Nyleve

                          I cautioned it might not be foolproof... but it does work for a large variety of mushrooms (as I doubt there are few places in the world that have the varietal density of the Anahuac).

                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                            Must be amazing to pick in such an area. Where I live, the seasons are very short - a couple of weeks in spring for morels, then maybe 2 months total for fall mushrooms. I can't wait for spring!

                            1. re: Nyleve

                              Well the season isn't that long unfortunately... Mexico gets the bulk of its rain in the summer... and you start seeing certain mushrooms pop up by late June... usually there are usually 3 or 4 or so edible mushrooms in season every 2 to 4 weeks or so.. its really nice to see all the varieties come & go.

                              Some of my relatives in the highlands of Jalisco are expert pickers (by experience, not education)... and even know how to identify the types of mushrooms most in demand with hippies =)

                  2. If you are looking for an expert, I would suggest hooking up with Chris Matherly from Georgia. He founded the Morel Mushroom Hunting Club, and while the group does focus spcifically on morels, Matherly knows his shrooms and can help you find oyster musroom, matsutakes, lion's mane, chantrelles, and dozens more. He also sells a DVD guide to identifying 125 edible North American mushrooms. But if you want first-hand experince, maybe you should sign up for one of his weekend mushroom-hunting trips. I don't know where you live but he has them planned in Fla, Ga,
                    OKlahoma, Kentucky, Kansas/Missouri, the Sierra Nevadas, and Oregon.
                    I'm not a member of the club by the way, but my son is, and he has been picking morels for 3 years now. Last year he gathered I would say at least 40 pounds in the spring-and sold about 20 pounds to some well-known restaurants in our area.
                    Here is a public page from his website; folks email him photos of their latest finds and he also answers questions about them. I think you will enjoy it!!!


                    Oh, he will also be featured on Jan 22 on that cable show "Cash and Treasures" at 9 p.m. So you can see for yourself what he's all about.