For years I’ve stumpled upon prolific patches of wild oyster mushrooms growing in the woods while hiking, but every time I did they were usually pretty water logged and teaming with little black beetles, never in a state where collecting them ended up with something I felt any interest in eating once I got it back to the house…I’ve seen them in the middle of the summer all the way until early December this year, and it’s usually available year round these days in stores like Whole Foods.
Possible Angel Wing Mushroom Poisonings
I’d also read about some possible oyster mushroom related poisonings in Japan a few years back, which led me to be a bit less interested in trying to collect anything oyster mushroom related for awhile…
Apparently those poisonings were thought to be a specific type of oyster mushrooms known as Angels Wings. On the other hand, I’ve also read accounts of people having eaten Angel Wing mushrooms their whole lives without incident, and indeed the people poisoned in the Japan incident seemed to have been quite accustomed to gathering and eating them…my guess is that there was some unknown factor involved that we don’t yet know about, but that’s just a guess.
Everywhere I look I see Oyster Mushrooms!
Recently though, while hiking with my dogs around the lake behind where I’m staying, I noticed this patch of mushrooms growing in a tree where I had seen similar flushes of mushrooms grow over the past 2 years of hiking this location.
I always thought when I passed them, maybe those are a type of oyster mushroom, but I was never interested enough to actually confirm that. This year, I took a sample home and took spore prints, and also got a little help from the fine folks over at wildmushroomhunting.org to help confirm my find.
Oyster mushrooms are considered by many to be a choice edible, and are easily purchased online or at grocery stores with decent produce sections these days. You can also buy some pretty decent Oyster Mushroom Grow Kit
that I’ve seen online that seem pretty foolproof and like they’re a great way to become familiar with what the mushroom looks like up close without having any fear that you might be mis-identifying your oyster mushrooms
How to Identify Oyster Mushrooms
At first, trying to identify oyster mushrooms can seem a bit confusing as there are several variations of oyster mushrooms that you are likely to encounter depending on your location and the time of year. One characteristic to look for in an oyster mushrooms is that the gills run down the stem.
Oyster mushrooms have very basic, stubby stems which are sometimes hard to even notice. If you look closely at this area, and you are indeed looking at an Oyster mushroom, you should notice that the gills actually run down the stem. Here the gills would be described as being “decurrent.” The gills should be a bit close together, and broad in shape running all the way down the mushroom to and along the stubby stem if present, or else up to the edge of the tree almost. The color of the gills can be grey to yellowish from what I have collected.
The cap size and color can vary a bit, and that’s one of the reasons I shied away from trying to identifying and enjoy these popular wild edible mushrooms initially, but they’re actually pretty easy to identify really. Oyster mushrooms can be white, grey,tan, dark brown even…they can also appear in a variety of sizes as you can see on the pictures I’ve posted along with this article. Notice the range of cap size in the picture to the right even, everything from a few inches up to 4-5 inches there, and can fan out to about 8 inches at times.
Take Spore Prints When
Identifying Wild Mushrooms
It might make the casual mushroom hunter feel a bit geeked out to take a spore print from a wild mushroom. Just the act of stooping down and picking a mushroom up is odd for some people to let themselves do, not to mention carrying it all the way back to your car, and driving home with it in the passenger seat!
But if you’ve already gotten over the social stigmas surrounding the idea of wild mushroom hunting, and have a bunch on your kitchen table for identifying and possible consumption, then it’s a good idea to start learning to take spore prints of the mushrooms you gather. Spore prints will give you additional identifying data which can help distinguish from a edible mushrooms sometimes poisonous look-a-likes.
I like to take spore prints on both black and white paper usually. That way whether the spores are light or dark, at least on side of the paper will take a nice print that you can use to help identify what you gathered. Sometimes you’ll see something in the black paper
print, and then something else in the white paper print that you didn’t notice in the black print. Take a good look at both sides. Spore prints can sometimes come out quite striking in appearance. The one I took for these Oyster mushrooms actually ended up reminding me of the nose, mouth and beard of Santa Claus!
Santa’s Beard in the Spore Print?! LOL
Besides it’s resemblance to Santa, what we’re really noticing here is the color of the spore print. It’s a bit difficult to tell via the picture I took, but the color of the spore print when I first observed it by eye was a light purple tinted grey…when I looked up what color Oyster mushrooms spores should be, bingo…lilac to light grey. That alone made me pretty sure that what my eyes where telling me where oyster mushrooms, were indeed oyster mushrooms.
Oyster Mushrooms Are A Choice Edible!
Congratulations, if you’ve found oyster mushrooms then you’ve got yourself a choice edible on your hands. I find them to have a pleasant, light woodsy odor. There are a number of ways to cook oyster mushrooms, but as with any wild edible mushroom I gather, I first like to cook it with just a little butter, a little olive oil, and then just a pinch of salt. These basic ingredients usually help bring out the natural taste of the wild edible mushroom you’ve gathered and identified.
It bears repeating though, please never consume any wild mushroom without being beyond certain you have identified 100% correctly. I find having someone with experience confirm what I’ve gone through the process of identifying lends me the extra confidence I need before I’m willing to put a wild mushroom in my stomach. If in doubt throw it out!
G.tsugae – A Mushroom Mega Medicine!
Here in NJ, the Hemlock Varnish Shelf mushroom has been referred to as the “local variety” of the world famous Reishi mushroom, which has been used medicinally for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat a wide array of conditions, including asthma, anti-inflammatory diseases, and is even being studied by modern science to treat several forms of cancer. Apparently, Hemlock Varnish Shelf mushrooms are one of the more potent species of Reishi mushrooms at inhibiting the proliferation of human breast cancer cells. (PMID: 17034284)
G.tsugae - An Easy to Spot Mushroom
The Hemlock Varnish Shelf mushroom, in my experience, seems to be relatively common, at least in northwestern NJ. G. tsugae is pretty easy to spot due to its striking almost brick red color, at times with rings of bright yellow forming a ring around the edge during its earlier stages of growth. The older they get, the darker red they appear. My dried out samples that I left to dry over the summer are now a dark,almost merlot colored red. You can often find these mushrooms growing out of decaying stumps or logs of hemlock, fir and pine trees. I’ve seen them growing out of the ground where old roots where buried, and I’ve seen them forming prolific shelves that can go pretty far up a tree. Lucky for me, I found a lot of ones closer to the ground and easy to take pictures of and collect a few to take home and study.
Dry G. tsugae Out for Future Use
When collecting Hemlock Varnish Shelf mushrooms (or Reishi), if you plan on drying them out for future use, it is wise to cut the mushroom into strips to dry out while it is still soft. If you let the whole mushroom dry out, you will find (as I have) that the mushroom when dried becomes very hard and as a result difficult to cut for use. Most often reishi mushrooms would be used as a tea, or else be made into an alcohol extract, either of which work best when using small, broken down bits (ground down is even better) to aid the extraction process.
G.tsugae – One of Nature’s Many Medicinals
Ganoderma tsugae is a very promising mushroom with a wide scope of potential medicinal uses that are being studied in many big name hospitals and universities, but isn’t it amazing that you can go for a hike in your local woods and find some?We forget how many of our pharmaceutical drugs were derived from nature in the first place. The more I learn about my environment and the plants and mushrooms growing all around me, I am amazed at just how many of them have verifiable medicinal or nutritional value. Nature truly is a cornucopia when you open your eyes to it!
Thanks to the folks over at WildMushroomHunting.org for the help telling the difference between these and regular reishi mushrooms!Read More
Shaggy Mane mushrooms are really neat mushrooms to come across in the wild, not to mention a choice edible! Their appearance is unique. They always remind me of some sort of alien creature’s egg when I see them. Shaggy Manes have caps that are about 1-2″ wide once they get past the egg shaped stage and the cap starts to unfurl into the classic umbrella like shape. The cap itself is white and covered with little, feathery like scales that turn a reddish brown at the tips. The gills are free from the stalk, which runs from 2.5-8″ tall. The gills become an inky mess over time or when disturbed. The sport print is black. I’ve found them growing in the same spot for 3 years running now, and also once surprisingly in a somewhat city like neighborhood I drove through that seemed to have them growing all over the place. I’ve always found them in the early to mid Fall in the North Eastern USA.
**some info borrowed and double checked from National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (National Audubon Society Field Guides)
These things are such a treat to find! They taste awesome and are easy to identify. Once they reach the size of a volleyball, there really isn’t much else it could be. Although it is wise to cut the mushroom in half and look for signs of emerging gills as several Amanita mushrooms, including some of the deadly poisonous ones, form a large ball like structure before they unfurl into a more typically recognized mushrooms shape.
The texture of the Giant Puffball when cut open, if it is still young enough and worthwhile to collect and eat, should be a nice, white and fluffy texture that resembles marshmallows or perhaps angel food cake. I’ll be frying these bad boys up in slice of bread sized slices, dipped in some egg and bread crumbs fried in olive oil.
Some people refer to this wild edible mushroom as the fillet mignonette of the mushrooms world. It really is a delicious find, and I am happy the rains have brought me this gift.
As an aside, isn’t it crazy how much the one on the left looks like a face or a skull?!?! Maybe I could get a wild edible Eastern Cauliflower mushroom and implant it to be the brain of the large wild edible Giant Puffball mushoom’s skull! lol
Despite the rainclouds being stingy the past couple weeks and everything being close to bone dry at all the local hiking trails, I still ended up finding lots of mushroom, and taking some pretty cool mushroom pictures during my hike into the woods with my dogs today.
I’ll do my best to try to give correct identifications for these, but I am trying to identify them using the mushroom pictures I took only…please keep in mind that the information I post throughout this blog is merely my best educated guess, and should in no way be used as your only guide to try to identify any wild mushrooms.
Considering I didn’t bring any of the mushrooms home with me to properly identify by taking spore prints, performing reagent tests, using since things have been so dry lately, and no real rain to speak of, I didn’t plan on finding any wild edible mushrooms and left my mushroom collecting basket back at home. But that’s why I love taking mushroom pictures! It’s almost like I still collected a bunch of wild mushrooms to bring home to identify.
The key is to make sure you take enough pictures from different angles and of the entire mushroom to give yourself as much of a chance to see as many distinguishing charactersitics of the wild mushroom you are trying to identify as possible.
REMEMBER: Never rely on a mushroom picture by itself to identify any wild mushroom that you plan to consume, no matter who is identifying the mushroom in question! But don’t be afraid to study your mushroom pictures and start to train your eyes to find the at times minute details that will help you properly identify some of the more difficult to identify mushrooms, especially with Boletes which I often find myself stumped trying to identify. Despite that, Boletes are a pretty safe in general to collect and consume.
The general rule of thumb is any boletes without red pores, and without pores that are yellow and stain blue are most likely going to be safe to consume, although there’s plenty of chance the mushroom will still be bitter or if you are lucky just plain old tasteless and slimy.
Still, it’s best to not put your health on the line by blindly trusting in a rule of thumb that might be right only most of the time and not 100% of the time. Be patient and wait until the day you are beyond a doubt certain. You’ll be surprised at how tempted you might feel sometimes when you have been searching for a particular wild edible mushroom for ages without luck and then find some specimen that is maybe it but you’re not sure…today you can pretty much find any wild edible mushroom to buy online if you’re that curious and can’t wait. Don’t take any foolish risks.
Instead, just be thrilled for the opportunity to take some more mushroom pictures, and be glad for the chance to add to your mushroom picture collection. There’s no rush. If you’re that hungry, eat a snickers and leave the unidentified mushrooms to the compost heap!
Be wise and live to identify another mushroom on another day, for as they say there are bold mushroom hunters, and old mushroom hunters, but very few bold old mushroom hunters!Read More
Or at least it was for the past few days for me. I’ve been lucky enough to find several pretty prolific patches of Black Trumpet chanterelles this season. Another name for black trumpets is Horns of Plenty…they ain’t kidding!
I haven’t had as much luck this year with regular old chanterelles, although I have seen signs of them several times in spots I have found them before, although no jackpot sized collections so far this year. I have brought home enough for dinner on a few occasions this summer so far though. Not too shabby.
The fact that I haven’t found any wild edible mushrooms in a few of my more prolific spots this season has me thinking I need to delve deeper into the woods for new spots. I believe there are new mushroom hunters haunting the same spots I go mushroom hunting these days though. I keep finding tell tale signs such as mushrooms uprooted, tipped over and sliced with a knife or stick to test for bruising. It’s really kept me motivated to get out often, and to not fear the rain. It’s a dog eat mushroom world out there…err wait, no those chanterelles aren’t for my dog. Those are mine! Hopefully it rains a bunch soon so a new flush of tasty wild edible mushrooms sprout up from the forest floor.
These were easy to cook up and super tasty too! Basically just throw a few pats of butter, a few dabs of olive oil, a bit of garlic and the mushrooms in a pan and stir fry them on medium high for about 8-10 minutes, or until desired tenderness. Sometimes with chanterelles, if they are freshy and full of water, it helps to throw them in a dry pan and steam the water out of them, and then add in your add your oil and garlic so it soaks up in the mushroom pretty well. Once in a while I will add a dash of lemon while the mushrooms are cooking to liven up the taste. Chanterelles have a great, rich flavor and are one of my favorite wild edible mushrooms to cook and eat. Pictured above is a wild edible mushroom fry from last summer that had smooth chanterelles, black trumpet chanterelles, and cinnabar chanterelles! The triumvirate of wild edible mushrooms! It was delicious and I am really hoping it rains soon so I can collect a bunch for this season’s supper table!
I’ll be posting more pictures of chanterelles soon, along with tips on where to find these choice wild edible mushrooms and how to identify them. Stay tuned!