What you need to know about finding mushrooms in the wild

People who go hiking like to follow trails into the woods and up and down hills and mountains. The exercise is invigorating and the flora and fauna are a big part of the attraction. Knowledgeable hikers learn more about the plants and animals they encounter in the great outdoors and off the beaten path. Sharp-eyed hikers go mushroom hunting so they can harvest the fungi and take them back home.

Shop this article: National Audubon Society “Field Guide to North American Mushrooms,” Dulees Mushroom Knife with Brush and Sheath and Morel Mushroom Store My Lucky Shrooming Bag

Where do mushrooms grow?

Different types of edible mushrooms grow on living and dead trees, decomposing leaves, rotting logs, manure and more. The best growing environments for wild mushrooms are cool, moist and shady places rich with decaying plant matter, especially forest floors.

Possible effects of eating wild mushrooms

There are 10,000 species of mushrooms. Only a few dozen are poisonous, and the danger is that they are easily confused with edible mushrooms.

  • Illness: Powerful poisons in some mushrooms cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and cramps.
  • Death: Deadly poisons attack your liver and kidneys, causing them to fail.
  • Manic behaviors: Some cause over-the-top energy, moods and actions. Eating them causes delusions, delirium and convulsions.
  • Hallucinations: Psychoactive mushrooms can cause visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory hallucinations. Sensations may be bewildering and unreal.
  • Good to eat: Only about a dozen mushroom varieties are commonly found in grocery stores and restaurants. Can you accurately identify them in the wild where there are no labels on packages?
  • Some taste awful: Even edible wild mushrooms go bad. Dark spots, wrinkles, dry patches and slime are only some of the signs of edible mushrooms going bad, and the clues depend on which types of mushrooms you pick.

Buy a field guide

Get a wild mushroom field guide. Look for guides that have lots of pictures, are a size that is easy to take with you hiking and are made to stand up to rain and harsh outdoor conditions.

Be picky

  • Learn to identify a few species that can’t be mistaken for anything else and limit yourself to collecting only them.
  • Identify as many kinds as you can using your field guide and keep a log.

Join a club

Mushroom hunters may have a chapter near you. Members will range from experts to beginners and there is always someone willing to help you. Some sponsor group walks. Check to see if there is a club in your area.

What to buy for collecting mushrooms

Field guides

Best National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms

National Audubon Society “Field Guide to North American Mushrooms”

This is the most comprehensive field guide available for mushrooms found across North America and the perfect companion for any mushroom hunting expedition. The more than 700 full-color identification photographs are organized visually by color and shape.

Best Mushrooming without Fear- The Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms

“Mushrooming without Fear: The Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms”

This guide focuses only on mushrooms that are not only safe to eat but taste good, too. Each is identified with color photos and checklists and includes information on handling, storage and cooking. Use it to learn the eight rules of mushroom gathering, presented in simple, straightforward language.

Foraging knives

Best Dulees Mushroom Knife with Brush and Sheath

Dulees Mushroom Knife with Brush and Sheath

You can use this advanced mushroom hunting knife for morels, porcini,  truffles and chanterelle mushrooms. The carbon steel blade folds into the curved wooden handle with a pig bristle brush at the end to remove dirt and grime and the whole thing fits nicely in the belt sheath.

Best Yuntis Folding Mushroom Truffles Camping Knife

Yuntis Folding Mushroom Truffles Camping Knife

The 6.7-inch stainless steel blade folds for easy carrying. The hard natural brown wood handles have a stainless steel bolster and a silk-screened ruler on the side for taking quick measurements. There is a stiff brush at one end and a swivel hook at the other.

Best Opinel #8 Stainless Steel Folding Mushroom Knife

Opinel Stainless Steel Folding Mushroom Knife

Pick, remove, dust and clean your mushrooms with this curved stainless steel blade that folds into a varnished beechwood handle. The knife locks open or closed for added safety. Fully opened, it is 7.25 inches long.

Storage bags

Best Morel Mushroom Store My Lucky Shrooming Bag

Morel Mushroom Store My Lucky Shrooming Bag

This tough mesh bag is made of the same open-weave material used by scuba divers and allows the mushrooms to breathe. The bottom is solid for extra strength, the strap is comfortable, adjustable and can be used as a hand or over-the-shoulder bag. It’s even got an extra pocket on the outside.

Best Asenie Waxed Canvas Collapsible Foraging Pouch

Asenie Waxed Canvas Collapsible Foraging Pouch

The outer layer is made of soft polyurethane leather, topstitched for strength and durability and the inner bag is made of sturdy waxed canvas. The bag has a drawstring closure, comes with a belt loop and buckle and holds 2 pounds of collectible items.

All-in-one field kits

Best Generic Folding Mushroom Knife with Foraging Bag Kit

Generic Folding Mushroom Knife with Foraging Bag Kit

This kit has it all. You get a knife with a 2.8-inch stainless steel blade with natural wood handle, stiff brush, swivel hook and tungsten carbide and ceramic blade sharpener on a keychain. It all comes packaged in a drawstring bag that is also a bag for gathering mushrooms.

Best Sagaform Mushroom Foraging Set

Sagaform Mushroom Foraging Set

This sturdy canvas foraging bag has an open mesh bottom and three breathable inner compartment dividers. It has a pocket on the side for the included folding mushroom knife with a walnut wood handle, brush and ruler.

Home grow kits

Once you’ve been bitten by the mushroom bug, you might want to grow some of your own.

Best Back to the Roots Mushroom Mini Farm Grow Kit

Back to the Roots Mushroom Mini Farm Grow Kit

You can harvest and eat your own completely organic gourmet oyster mushrooms in only 10 days. All you need to do is open the grow panel, soak the package overnight and mist it twice a day. Each crop produces three to four servings of mushrooms and each box can grow two crops.

Best North Spore Lions Mane Mushroom Spray & Grow Kit

North Spore Lion’s Mane Mushroom Spray & Grow Kit

Each 4-pound kit should produce 1-1.5 pounds of plump, dense, shaggy mushroom clusters with your first harvest, usually within 10 to 14 days. Each subsequent harvest will be slightly smaller. Kits are all-natural, organic and non-GMO.

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