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scarecrow

Wild Mushrooms - Safe to touch?

On my next woodland walk, I am considering a spot of mushroom hunting.

Obviously the question of identification is an important one, I'd prefer not to poison my family in the process!

But how to (positively) identify them?

I could take a book along with me and attempt identification on the spot, but I suspect this may be problematic, both in taking a book along with me (as well as dogs and kids) and the time it may take to be sure of a positive ID.

Another option is to take a digital camera along. I could then take snaps and allow myself the time to identify them at leisure when I get back, returning to pick the chosen specimens. The only problem being that two trips are required (but not the end of the world).

Thirdly I could collect a harvest of musrooms and identify them from the actual specimen. However, I am not sure if there are some species of mushroom which are not only poisonous to eat, but poisonous to touch (excluding the hand to mouth element for the moment).

Any advice Question
Behemoth

Pick- take home - identify (visual, smell and spore tests) - eat or bin.

I usually spread some newpaper over the table and wash my hands after as a precaution, more to keep the OH happy than any nervouceness on my part.

A good book for home is the Roger Philips guide to mushrooms, very detailed and probably more info that you need. others will be able to advise on a field guide.

I've found that the best way seems to be to get good at recognising what you can eat and steer clear of what you're uncertain about. Also, remember where you found stuff cos it will tend to be there again next year.

Have you seen Cab's article on edible fungi?
scarecrow

should different specimens be kept seperate between collection and identification, or can I throw them all in the same basket?
cab

Scarecrow, there aren't any mushrooms that you will find in the woods taht are going to poison you by merely touching them. If that were true, I'd be dead hundreds of times over Laughing

If you're fairly new at this, you can't do any better than actually having the specimen there in your hand. Pictures are never as good. And if you really want to take a specimen home to help you ID it, then do so, but I'd reccomend keeping old paper bags or carrier bags to put unknown specimens in. What might look like a really firm, tough mushroom on the ground may well disintegrate to little bits in your basket, and the very last thing you want is a nice basket full of tasty Agaricus and Boletus covered in the detritus of a broken up panther cap, death cap or destroying angel!

I'd reccomend that a beginner is best off sticking to a few easy species; unfortunately, you've picked a bugger of a time of year to get into this sort of thing. Only a few species of edible mushroom are really common at this time of year. The best ones are probably blewits and oyster mushrooms, although you may also find winter chanterelles. Have a look at the two articles that cover this:

http://www.downsizer.net/Projects/Wild_Food/Top_Ten_Wild_Foods_to_Gather_in_Winter/

http://www.downsizer.net/Projects/Wild_Food/Top_Ten_Wild_Mushrooms_for_the_Beginner/

The Roger Phillips book that's already been reccomended is a cracker for good identification; I'd also reccomend just as highly the classic book 'Food for Free' by Richard Mabey. Phillips tells you how to identify down to the species level, Mabey tells you when you really don't have to.
scarecrow

Thanks Cab, I just wondered whether any give off any poisonous substances which might get absorbed through the skin.

I've not really 'picked' a time to get into this, I just had a thought that my woodland walks with the dogs could be more productive than just exercise!.

I've seen those articles and I've also looked ata few websites too.

Wish me Luck!
cab

Scarecrow, good luck!
jema

scarecrow wrote:
Thanks Cab, I just wondered whether any give off any poisonous substances which might get absorbed through the skin.

I've not really 'picked' a time to get into this, I just had a thought that my woodland walks with the dogs could be more productive than just exercise!.

I've seen those articles and I've also looked ata few websites too.

Wish me Luck!


I gather that even the poisonous ones can be safely tasted on the tongue and spat out. All part of the id process.

jema
scarecrow

I tell u what, I'll send all the poisonous ones to you to taste for me Jema!

Downsizer.net's official poisonous mushroom taster! Laughing
cab

jema wrote:


I gather that even the poisonous ones can be safely tasted on the tongue and spat out. All part of the id process.



Most of them. But you want to make sure it's not one of the -really- nasty ones first. Tasting can be a way to distinguish exactly what species you have, but you can usually make sure that it ain't poisonous first.
jema

Phillips say:

Quote:


nibble a bit and break it up on the tip of your tongue...spit out the remains and completely clear your mouth; if done carefully even the most poisonous species can be tasted in this way....


jema
cab

Even so, do -you- want to taste a destroying angel? The kind of toxins in those guys are so very severe that even a small part of the cap can be lethal; in principle it's safe to taste and spit, but look up the effects of poisoning by some of the really nasty amanitas in the same book and you'll not fancy it either. Best to avoid tasting the nastiest ones alltogether, which isn't a problem because they're not too hard to spot.
jema

Cab wrote:
Even so, do -you- want to taste a destroying angel? The kind of toxins in those guys are so very severe that even a small part of the cap can be lethal; in principle it's safe to taste and spit, but look up the effects of poisoning by some of the really nasty amanitas in the same book and you'll not fancy it either. Best to avoid tasting the nastiest ones alltogether, which isn't a problem because they're not too hard to spot.


Personally no chance Very Happy

jema
3mariners

I'd be interested to no if Cab agrees, but from my limited experience, there are actually very few good eating mushrooms, by that I mean big, tatsty and 'meaty' enough to bother with.

I was advised by my local Iti. mush guru to recognise a few quality examples and stick to those e.g. st Geoges, field, chanterelle (as opposed to falsies), hedgehog, blewits, types of puff ball, ceps, funnel caps et al.

I've seen and been tempted to pick many small varieties but not bothered simply because of the potential quantity required and the flavour.
jema

3mariners wrote:
I'd be interested to no if Cab agrees, but from my limited experience, there are actually very few good eating mushrooms, by that I mean big, tatsty and 'meaty' enough to bother with.

I was advised by my local Iti. mush guru to recognise a few quality examples and stick to those e.g. st Geoges, field, chanterelle (as opposed to falsies), hedgehog, blewits, types of puff ball, ceps, funnel caps et al.

I've seen and been tempted to pick many small varieties but not bothered simply because of the potential quantity required and the flavour.



This has been my impression as well.

jema
Bugs

Scarecrow, I know it's just an idea at the moment, but I'd highly recommend next year tracking down some organised forays...Wildlife Trust is a reasonable starting point..

If you want I'll try to dig up a post we did on River Cottage a couple of months ago about the various places to find outings. Nothing like an early start eh? Though there might just possibly be some spring/summer ones.

(From a still wary fungiphobe...I did try a bit of Treacodactyl's Jew's Ear the other night...but I spat it out...I can happily poison my own liver over Christmas!)
scarecrow

There is a local group nearby who do various activities in the woods (no not that type of activities). I'm sure they'd do mushroom gathering.

The only problem is I think I will have moved house by then.
cab

3mariners wrote:
I'd be interested to no if Cab agrees, but from my limited experience, there are actually very few good eating mushrooms, by that I mean big, tatsty and 'meaty' enough to bother with.

I was advised by my local Iti. mush guru to recognise a few quality examples and stick to those e.g. st Geoges, field, chanterelle (as opposed to falsies), hedgehog, blewits, types of puff ball, ceps, funnel caps et al.

I've seen and been tempted to pick many small varieties but not bothered simply because of the potential quantity required and the flavour.


This is the kind of topic that divides mushroomers!

There are basically three cultures of mushrooming. Southern European, Eastern European, and North Western European/New World.

In Southern Europe, most pickers will stick to a few species that are big, tasty, easy to identify, and abundant. And there's no debating whether they're good, they're all marvellous mushrooms. So go out with an Italian, or someone of Italian descent, and most likely they'll be eyeing up all the spots where you're likely to see ceps (and their relatives), chanterelles, maybe puffballs, and morels.

In Eastern Europe, they eat all manner of things. Mushrooms are picked as a major foodstuff, and the culinary culture is one of hoarding things away for winter. So they pick all manner of things that we'd mostly leave, and they tend to scare feck out of the Southern Europeans. Some, such as the wooly milk cap, can't even been eaten till they're ensilaged.

Western Europe has a differen culture; it's more experimental, more about picking lots of different sorts of things and experimenting to see what is best, but it is far from being a 'survival' cuisine, or a way of ekeing out a low income like it traditionally can be in Eastern Europe. The guide books and recipe books from Britain and the United States tend to have more mushroom species, but less recipes, if that makes sense, than Southern Europe, but they tend to be less concerned with salting, drying and otherwise preserving than Eastern Europe.

I'm definitely in the Western School! I pick a wide variety of mushrooms, and for me the joy is in best expliting what can be found. I pick a lot of the larger, meaty mushrooms (the familiar boletus, species of agaricus, St. Georges, puffballs, some of the funnel caps, etc), but I also get quite excited by some of the less meaty ones (fairy ring champignons, anise caps, amethyst deceivers, russulas, etc). They may not pack the same meatiness, but the intensity of flavour can be stunning. The fairy ring mushrooms, for example (Marasmius oreades) is abundant, but small, and has a stunning almondy flavour quite unlike any other mushroom. It dries superbly either for use on its own or blended with other mushrooms. Similarly, amethyst deceivers (Laccaria amethysta) has a colour that remains throgh gentle cooking; it might not be all that flavoursome, but added with, say, some boletus it adds some extra 'mushroomy' intensity, and it makes the dish look far better.

There are some little ones I can't see the point of; the common funnel cap, for example. All of the smaller, edible species of ink cap. But unless I'd tried them out, I'd never have come to that opinion.

On a final note, I don't agree that there are only a few big, meaty species! There are ten or more big, tasty species of Agaricus alone, three species of blewit, heaven knows how many Boletus, a whole load of puffballs, not to mention Pluteus, Volvariella, Pleurotus, Macrolepiota and a whole raft of other genera!
McLay455

I have been gathering fungi for most of my life, and after 50+ years, still only eat about 15 species
These are (in order of favourite to least favourite)

Cantherellus Cibarius -- the Chanterelle
Cantherellus Pallens(ferruginascens) - the pale chanterelle
Boletus edulis -- the Cep or penny bun bolete
Leccinum versipelle -- the orange birch bolete
Agaricus
arvensis
macrosporus
augustus
campestris
bitorquis
silvaticus
Tricholoma Gambosum -- St Georges mushroom
Lepiota Procera -- the parasol
Hygrocybe praetensis -- Meadow Wax Cap
Pleurotus ostreatis -- The Oyster

There are a few others I would eat,but havent found yet.
cab

McLay455 wrote:

There are a few others I would eat,but havent found yet.


Gosh... If I restricted myself to such a few, some weeks I'd not pick anything at all around here!

Have you never come across any likely looking Russula, Pluteus, Volvariella or even Chicken of the Woods? There are a lot of common and rather tasty mushrooms that you're missing out on.
jema

Welcome back Cab, that was a long break!

jema
Behemoth

Cab wrote:

Have you never come across any likely looking Russula, Pluteus, Volvariella or even Chicken of the Woods? There are a lot of common and rather tasty mushrooms that you're missing out on.


Are any of the the Russula worth it? There's loads around here but Philips put me off.
deerstalker

Considering what I do, I spend a lot of time in the woods and fields.

Although I would like to know more, I really don't see that many mushrooms!

The books tell me such things as found on chalk soils or under beech.

Cab, your list is impressive, but you don't say what part of world you come from, or how far you have to travel?

I have only really started looking since early last summer but haven't seen that much.

Am I looking in the wrong direction or is the soil geology that important?
jema

Deerstalker wrote:
Considering what I do, I spend a lot of time in the woods and fields.

Although I would like to know more, I really don't see that many mushrooms!

The books tell me such things as found on chalk soils or under beech.

Cab, your list is impressive, but you don't say what part of world you come from, or how far you have to travel?

I have only really started looking since early last summer but haven't seen that much.

Am I looking in the wrong direction or is the soil geology that important?



How are your observational skills? I recall being in a graval pit with a fossil collector who was finding Cephalopods by the bucket load Rolling Eyes My eyesight with my glasses on is good, but I was having a hopeless time finding them Confused

jema
Behemoth

Without sounding too deep, youve got to change your focal plane!

Start focussing on the ground six feet around you and you'll see'em. Eyes up, scanning the path and the middle distance and you'll miss them.
cab

jema wrote:
Welcome back Cab, that was a long break!

jema


It was... I really ought to have mentioned, but I was all ahoo over Christmas.
cab

Behemoth wrote:

Are any of the the Russula worth it? There's loads around here but Philips put me off.


Most definitely! The charcoal burner is a superb edible species, as is the yellow swamp russula. Many of the common russulas are tasty, but fragile.

Typically, if I come across a non-red russula, I test a tiny sample on my tongue. If it doesn't burn, taste soapy or horrible, then it goes (gently!) into the basket.
cab

Deerstalker wrote:
Considering what I do, I spend a lot of time in the woods and fields.

Although I would like to know more, I really don't see that many mushrooms!

The books tell me such things as found on chalk soils or under beech.

Cab, your list is impressive, but you don't say what part of world you come from, or how far you have to travel?

I have only really started looking since early last summer but haven't seen that much.

Am I looking in the wrong direction or is the soil geology that important?


Soil geology matters. But most places will yield you -something- edible.

The best advice is to keep your eyes down, looking out for markers that might indicare mushroom growth. Rings on the grass or in the undergrowth, bare patches, oddly coloured patches. Be aware of the smells; sometimes you can have a good find by smell. And low down-ish as well as forward-ish.

Most of my foraging is done in some really scrubby local woodland- in a really small patch too! I also find a lot of mushrooms on the local housing estates in North Camridge. It's probably the worst place I've lived for mushrooming (dry, poor soil and naff geology for it), but it's still not all that bad. Occasionally (once a year maybe) we head as far afield as Thetford, also picked a few mushrooms in Epping last year.
deerstalker

Eyesight and observation are pretty good on the whole. I don't wear glasses and observation is a key part of what I do.

Just don't seem to come across very many. Maybe it's because I'm keeping an eye out whilst doing other things rather than going on specific mushroom forays? Confused
Behemoth

[quote="Cab
Typically, if I come across a non-red russula, I test a tiny sample on my tongue. If it doesn't burn, taste soapy or horrible, then it goes (gently!) into the basket.[/quote]

So a wood full of red ones isn't much good then Sad
cab

Behemoth wrote:

So a wood full of red ones isn't much good then Sad


Well, you want to avoid the sickener and the beechwood sickener, but some other reddish russulas are edible. I'd not bother, though, as even the best of the other red ones that I've sampled has been a bit dull.
cab

Deerstalker wrote:

Just don't seem to come across very many. Maybe it's because I'm keeping an eye out whilst doing other things rather than going on specific mushroom forays? Confused


Could also be the terrain. If you're going through dense undergrowth you rarely see anything growing. Tell us more about your foraging grounds and maybe someone can give you some more constructive advice?
Treacodactyl

Deerstalker wrote:
Maybe it's because I'm keeping an eye out whilst doing other things rather than going on specific mushroom forays? Confused


Strange, one of the reasons I'm interested in Deer, apart from venison, is that we've seen quite a few deer while foraging for fungi, so I'd like to know more about them.

Being a beginner I would say we have more luck on acid soil, under mixed pine, birch and other broad leaf trees. Especially at the edges of paths and rides in the woods.

Mind you, some places we go we will not see a single fungi in fields and woods but we go down one path and there are a large amount of different types.
deerstalker

Most of the ground I cover is open grazing, hedges and oak woodland. The soil covers carboniferous sandstone and shale.

One area where there seem to be quite a few mushrooms, is the lower Swansea valley (mixed birch and conifer). The ground is however, contaminated with heavy metals from the industrial revolution! Shocked

Check out the Lower Swansea Valley Project and tell me if you think they are safe to eat!

http://www.swanseaheritage.net/themes/industry/swanval.asp
cab

DS, the oak woodland should be ideal. If we get a moist summer you should find plenty there, as you also should around the edges of grazing land.

Mushrooms aren't normally badly contaminated even if picked from along roadsides, but I quite see why you'd want to avoid them if they're from somewhere specifically contaminated with heavy metals!
dougal

Cab wrote:
... Mushrooms aren't normally badly contaminated even if picked from along roadsides, but I quite see why you'd want to avoid them if they're from somewhere specifically contaminated with heavy metals!

I suppose I'm an "Italian-style" gatherer by your classification!
However, I've had the impression that mushrooms, generally, were particularly effective at gathering heavy metals - this may have come from Chernobyl-effects news...
Accordingly, I've resisted picking at roadsides, which I believe to be still fairly lead-rich.

Is there an authoritative source for information on this?
A brief bit of Googling suggested that the Boletes, especially, were noted as bioaccumulators of heavy metals...

I've also wondered if there was evidence that fungi might concentrate any other nasties, agrochemical residues for example, which I've seen cited as a reason for not foraging on Golf Courses - is there anything authoritative?


BTW, I think the Collins guide "How to Identify Edible Mushrooms" is a useful companion to Phillips. Its illustrations complement Phillips' photos, and by concentrating on easy edibles and those they could be confused with, as well as the specific section on things to avoid, it makes the subject much less initially daunting!
Treacodactyl

dougal wrote:
BTW, I think the Collins guide "How to Identify Edible Mushrooms" is a useful companion to Phillips. Its illustrations complement Phillips' photos, and by concentrating on easy edibles and those they could be confused with, as well as the section on things to avoid, it makes the subject much less initially daunting!


Do you know the author, as a Collins book has been recommended to me on a few organised forays but I think it's out of print.
dougal

I suspect this is the current edition:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/000219984X/ref=pd_sim_b_dp_1/202-5928969-4128601

(Mine is softcover, and not where I thought it was!)
The cover looks different -
But the description of the contents (scroll down past the offer pairing it with Phillips) does fit exactly!
Treacodactyl

I don't think it was the one I thought, although I've found the more books I have the easier it is to identify some fungi. I take one with me and anything that we are unsure of we keep separate from the identified ones until we get home.
cab

dougal wrote:

I suppose I'm an "Italian-style" gatherer by your classification!
However, I've had the impression that mushrooms, generally, were particularly effective at gathering heavy metals - this may have come from Chernobyl-effects news...
Accordingly, I've resisted picking at roadsides, which I believe to be still fairly lead-rich.

Is there an authoritative source for information on this?
A brief bit of Googling suggested that the Boletes, especially, were noted as bioaccumulators of heavy metals...


There was a report compiled by MAFF a year or three ago:

http://archive.food.gov.uk/maff/archive/food/infsheet/2000/no199/199multi.htm

The view I've formed from reading that and other things over the years is that yes, there's a chance that mushrooms could be a bit contaminated, but that unless you're picking from a busy road or some suchlike there's nothing really to be too worried about.

Quote:
I've also wondered if there was evidence that fungi might concentrate any other nasties, agrochemical residues for example, which I've seen cited as a reason for not foraging on Golf Courses - is there anything authoritative?


I pick from golfcourses. I don't know whether it's a good idea, but it seems to me that most 'rough' areas of golf courses are not subject to intensive treatment.

Mushroom mycelium really is good at accumulating metal ions if there is a really high concentration around; off the top of my head, I can't think of a means by which they'd be better at accumulating other agrochemicals than most plants (other than that many are saprophytic, so they'll concentrate things by being trphically higher up than plants, I guess).

Quote:

BTW, I think the Collins guide "How to Identify Edible Mushrooms" is a useful companion to Phillips. Its illustrations complement Phillips' photos, and by concentrating on easy edibles and those they could be confused with, as well as the specific section on things to avoid, it makes the subject much less initially daunting!


It isn't a bad tome; I've never found the diagrams in it to be much good, but the text is most useful.
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