Mushroom Walk with Colleen Hulett

Posted by Marina Milette-Morin on September 23, 2020 · 9 mins read

🔎 General Mushroom Hunting Notes

  • There are three main categories of mushrooms: Gilled, Polypore, and Hydnoid (teeth).
  • Small, typical-looking brown mushrooms that grow from the ground are not typically edible.
  • When mushroom hunting, be sure to bring paper bags or wax paper to separate the mushrooms. Do not store an assortment of mushrooms together, in case you mix them up or later realize that they were not what you initially identified them as.
  • Mushrooms should be picked young, as some will become home to maggots as they get older.
  • You should eat what you find on the same day you harvest it. If you can’t, store in a bag, in a bowl of ice water, in the fridge, for up to 3 days.
  • When eating something you harvested in the wild, always keep one separate. If something goes wrong and you get sick, bring this leftover mushroom to the hospital with you.
  • You can die from swallowing the wrong mushroom, but not from tasting it. Putting a piece in your mouth, then spitting it out and rinsing your mouth with water is an important method of identification.
  • If you find wood with strange white lines or patches, these are mushrooms waiting to happen! Mark down the location and come back to visit after a rainfall.
  • The best time to hunt for mushrooms is a couple of days after it rains.
  • If you find a mushroom that you want, harvest it immediately. If you give it a couple more days to grow, something else in the forest will eat it before you do.
  • Search for disturbed areas with lots of dead logs with the bark still on. If you find dead logs, but all stripped of bark, then you probably won’t find many mushrooms.
  • Birch trees are excellent mushroom hosts
  • When trying to identify a cluster of mushrooms, look for two very close together, one growing above the other. The bottom mushroom is likely to contain a spore print on its cap of the one growing above it.
  • Perennial polypores have rings on their top sides, similar to trees.
  • Mushrooms can be “planted” either through pieces of mushroom, or through spore prints. The spores on a spore print can be viable for up to three years.

📔 Specific Mushrooms

Oyster Mushrooms

Stacked Oyster mushrooms on a tree trunk
Oyster mushrooms perfect for harvesting, could even be harvested earlier

Identification

  • Can be found on standing trees or downed logs of hardwood
  • Colour should be white, the browner they get the less suitable they are for eating
  • Wavy edge, little to no stem (younger ones may appear to have more stem)
  • Smells like licorice

Similar Varieties

  • Angel Wing Mushroom (Pleurocybella porrigens)
    • Considered poisonous (deadly)
    • Grows on dead coniferous logs
    • Not as thick or beige/brown as oyster mushrooms
  • Red-banded polypore also smells like licorice

Enoki Velvet Foot

Top of a Velvet Foot mushroom
Bottom of a Velvet Foot mushroom

Identification

  • Can be found nearly year-round, even in February
  • Should be orange, with a slightly velvety stem
  • When they’re young, should be gooey. Can still be a little gooey when perfect for harvesting
  • Don’t harvest before stem is velvety to the touch
  • Grows in colonies
  • Turns red and entirely velvety when old

Similar Varieties

  • Galerina marginata: categorized as a “little brown mushroom” that should not be eaten (poisonous). When young, these mushrooms have a cap “ring” on their stem.

Puffball

Two small puffball mushrooms growing out of pine needles on the ground
This photo was taken the weekend before on a hike at Calabogie. Puffballs can also be much larger and smoother than this.

Identification

  • Should be entirely white, no brown or black spots
  • Brown puffballs are either too old, or poisonous.
  • Before consumption, cut each mushroom in half to ensure there are no brown or black spots. It should be 100% white all the way through. If you find a small black spot in the centre, it’s no good.

Similar Varieties

  • Some Amanita species can look similar at a young age.

Chicken of the Woods

And old chicken-of-the-woods colony. The colours are drab and the mushrooms are wilting.
This colony was from last year, very old and not suitable for eating.

Identification

  • Grows on trees
  • Large colonies
  • Top should be orange, underside should be white or yellow
  • Will likely grow back year after year in the same spot

Similar Varieties

  • Jack-O-Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearius): similar-looking but has gills. Poisonous, but easy to distinguish.
  • Velvet-top fungus (Phaeolus schweinitzii): similar-looking, but tough and hard. Not edible, but not poisonous.
  • Hen of the Woods: not visually similar, but has a similar name. Also edible.

Turkey Tail

A young turkey tail mushroom
Older turkey tail mushrooms and potential look-alikes

Identification

  • White
  • Tiny, barely-visible pores
  • Should be soft and pliable when harvested
  • Dry in the sun spore-side up
  • Used as a tea, not a food

Similar Varieties

  • Similar look-alikes have much larger, more distinct pores and striped tops

White Cheese Polypore

Top of an older White Cheese Polypore
Bottom of an older White Cheese Polypore

Identification

  • Looks like mushy white cheese when young
  • Not edible, but very common

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