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Mushroom hunting

Mushroom hunting is the activity of searching for wild mushrooms, typically for human consumption. Mushroom hunters often view it as a sport - one in which the mushroom actually has a chance of winning if the person who eats it does a poor identification.

There are literally thousands of species that are regularly consumed by mushroom hunters. The king bolete is a popular delicacy. Sulphur shelf is often gathered because it occurs in bulk, recurs year after year, and has a wide variety of culinary uses. Chanterelles and morels are among the most popular types of mushrooms to gather, the latter being fairly hard to misidentify by anyone with practice. Only experts, however, collect from dangerous groups, such as amanita, which contain some of the most toxic mushrooms in existence.

Identification isn't the only element of mushroom hunting that takes practice - knowing where to search does as well. Most mushroom species are quite selective as to where they grow. Some will only grow at the base of a certain type of tree, for example. Finding a desired species that is known to grow in a certain region can be quite a challenge.

Table of contents
1 Safety Rules
2 Guidelines
3 Statistical data
4 Poisonous mushrooms commonly confused for edible ones

Safety Rules

A wide variety of safety rules for mushroom hunting exist; some of the most common include (in order of importance, from greatest to least):

  1. Never consume a mushroom of which a positive identification has not been made.
  2. Never try to convince anyone else to eat a mushroom that you have identified.
  3. An identification should be made with no less than size, color, gill connectivity, environment, a cross section, bruising color, odor, and a spore print.
  4. In no case should you eat a mushroom when something about the mushroom contradicts available information about what one suspects the mushroom is.
  5. Always attempt to use multiple sources for identification.
  6. Be able tell what distinguishes this mushroom from its closest sister species
  7. Until you can be considered an expert, stay away from all difficult to identify groups, such as amanita, cortinarius, and LBMs (Little Brown Mushrooms).
  8. Always identify each specimen during preparation. Deaths due to an inexperienced collector gathering a button-stage amanita in with edible mushrooms have occurred.
  9. Novices should start with more easily identifiable and less dangerous groups, such as boletes and bracket fungi.
  10. Only consume a small amount of the mushroom the first time. Certain types of popular mushrooms, such as Sulphur shelf, cause an allergic reaction in about half of the people who eat them. Your first taste should be just a taste (to see if you actually care for it), and your second should be about a teaspoon full. Space tastings far apart - poisoning from the highly deadly destroying angel doesn't even produce symptoms until ten hours after consumption and can take over a week to kill its victim.


Additionally, some other things that you should generally keep in mind:

  1. Try to harvest only young mushrooms. Older mushrooms are generally associated with an increase in allergic reactions, worse taste, worse texture, and increased incidence of insect infestations.
  2. If you want a more "mushroomy" taste, dry mushrooms before use.
  3. Some mushrooms must be used quickly after harvest, such as the inky cap.

Statistical data

To aid in knowing whether a mushroom is worth the time to identify it, statistician Wlodzislaw Duch analyzed 8,124 mushroom species with 22 symbolic attributes, each with up to 12 possibilities for those attributes. 51.8% were edible species; the rest were inedible or toxic. The following rules are the result.

  1. If the mushroom smells like almond, anise, or has no smell and if the mushroom's spore print is not green, then there is a 99.41% chance that the mushroom is edible.
  2. If the mushroom does not smell like almond, anise, or no smell, then there is a 98.52% chance that it is poisonous.
  3. If the mushroom has a green spore print, then there is a 99.41% chance that it is poisonous.
  4. If there is no odor, and the stalk below the surface is scaly, and the color of the stalk above the ring is brown, then there is a 99.90% chance that it is poisonous.
  5. If the habitat of the mushroom is "leaves", and the cap is white, then there is a 100% chance (given the dataset) of the mushroom being poisonous.
  6. If the gills are narrow, and the surface of the stalk above the ring is either silky or scaly, then it has a high chance of being poisonous.
  7. If the gills are narrow, and the population is clustered, then it has a high chance of being poisonous.

Nothing, however, is generally viewed as a replacement to the standard safety rules. Eating an unidentified mushroom with a 99.5% chance of success still leaves a 1 in 200 chance of poisoning yourself.

One common saying among mushroom hunters is: There are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.

Poisonous mushrooms commonly confused for edible ones

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See also: Mushroom descriptive fields