Tips On Wild Mushroom Collecting That May Save Your Life!
We all know that when true disaster strikes that obtaining food and water supplies are going to be the number one priority. Hey, we need shelter it’s true, but it’s no good being warm and comfortable if you’re starving to death!
Foraging for food is obviously a vital skill-set to learn, and wild mushrooms can provide a plentiful and nourishing source. But great care is needed when collecting them, it’s all too easy to accidentally pick up something that looks good, but turns out to be dangerous, or even deadly.
So check out these tips on wild mushroom collecting BEFORE the SHTF!
Mushroom collecting is one of the most widespread activities in a movement to discover local sources for food that is growing in popularity nationwide.
For people who enjoy foraging for food in the wild, there are plenty of mushrooms to choose from — several thousand fleshy species in North America. Of these many different kinds of mushrooms, almost all are “edible” but too fibrous or insignificant to consume. That still leaves a considerable portion of mushrooms as consumable and either “fair, good, or choice.” While the numbers vary and are debatable, only about 250 are considered significantly poisonous.
While those numbers put the odds of picking an edible rather than a nonedible mushroom heavily in the favor of foragers, experienced mushroom growers are quick to point out that foraging for mushrooms should never be thought of as a game of chance. “Don’t guess,” advises Tradd Cotter, who has been cultivating mushrooms for more than 20 years and recently located a fungi research lab and growing operation on his Mushroom Mountain woodland in Liberty, South Carolina.
The consequences of making a wrong guess or a misidentification about whether a mushroom is edible can be severe, sometimes requiring a liver transplant or even resulting in death. There were 6,429 cases of people eating poisonous mushrooms and two deaths from toxic mushrooms in 2011, the last year for which data is available, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers in Alexandria, Virginia.
green-spored parasol mushroomsOne of the dangers of collecting mushrooms in the wild, Cotter said, is that of toxic look-alikes — poisonous mushrooms that resemble edible ones. He pointed to the green-spored parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites, at right) as a classic example. “This is the most commonly consumed poisonous mushroom in North America,” he said. “When it’s young, it looks like the white button mushroom seen in grocery store produce sections.” It can also be confused with the edible shaggy parasol. The green-spored parasol is widely spread in lawns across eastern North America and California, generally appearing after rains in the summer and fall.
Two highly desirable and popular edible mushrooms also have toxic look-alikes, Cotter said. “Morel mushrooms (Morchella species) can be confused with the toxic false morels (Gyromitra, Helvella and Verpa species) and chanterelle mushrooms (Cantharellus species) can be mistaken for jack-o’-lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus olearius).”
Cotter thinks that one of the problems with mistaking edible for non-edible mushrooms is the beginner’s symptom of “knowing just enough to be dangerous.” Morels and false morels are a case in point, he said, pointing out that looks can be deceiving.
morelsWhile morels and false morels do have distinct differences in appearances (see the description below), Cotter pointed out that “they fruit at the same time, they both have a dimpled appearance and both are partially hollow inside.” However, he added, “the false morel is even brainlike inside while a true morel is perfectly and symmetrically hollow.” (A true morel is shown at right.)
The issue with beginners, he said, is that many of them are so eager to harvest wild mushrooms that when they find anything remotely close to a desirable mushroom like a morel that they tend to fill in the blanks with what they want to see rather than what is actually there. “In other words,” he said, “what they do is take a simple rule but don’t apply all the steps necessary to make a positive identification. Then, they compound that error by not following up and checking with a local club or expert before consuming a mushroom they collected for the first time.”
“Also,” he said, “many beginners reference common names online and click ‘images’ on their search engine, where many mushrooms are misidentified. This is the biggest complaint by far I have with misleading information online. Anyone can post false information.”
Social media sites are a particular problem, he added. When searching for mushrooms online, Cotter suggested that foragers stick to high-quality and referenced sites. When searching for mushrooms in the wild, he said inexperienced foragers should search for mushrooms alongside an experienced and trusted mycologist whenever possible…. Read More
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