Staying Safe

The key to healthy consumption of wild mushrooms: proper identification.

Unfortunately, there are no simple rules of thumb that distinguish edible from inedible or poisonous mushrooms. You just have to learn to carefully identify them, with the help of experienced mushroom hunters and field guides.

And there is no point in experimenting on mushrooms you find in the wild. The vast majority of mushrooms are inedible, or will upset your stomach, or will seriously poison you. The choice edibles have been identified, thanks to people much braver than us.

Also, wild mushrooms can concentrate environmental poisons such as pesticides or heavy metals. Avoid collecting mushrooms in lawns, parks, orchards or roadsides unless you know how the land has been treated.

Once you know that a particular mushroom is considered edible, go easy the first time. Some people have unpleasant reactions to even choice edibles.

So if you have not eaten a particular kind before, cook and sample a small portion, to make sure you’re OK with it. If you have guests, we suggest preparing mushrooms as a side dish, so everyone gets to choose for themselves whether to sample them.

If you need emergency information about a possible mushroom poisoning, please immediately contact your local Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.