If you're a fan of mushrooms, you probably already understand that they're mostly fungi -- and certain fungi should never enter our systems. So if you're going foraging for a tasty addition to your dinner, it's essential to identify the many types of mushrooms and which of them are safe for consumption.
Cultivated initially on mounds of horse manure in 18th-century France, the button mushroom was once brown until a Pennsylvania farmer in 1926 discovered a few of these robust white caps in his mushroom bed. Button mushrooms are best enjoyed so long as the bottom lip of the cap that hides the gills isn't broken. For even better taste, try draining your buttons in a colander for about 15 minutes before cooking.
Autumn is when oyster mushroom's are harvested to put in grocery stores, as they begin to form after the first rainfall of the season. Because oyster mushrooms participate in saprotrophic nutrition, meaning they feed off decaying organic matter, you may come across these mushrooms on dying trees, where they are picked and sold at a local grocery store. The caps of the oyster mushroom are flared out and carry a licorice-like scent.Oyster mushrooms are a delicious and versatile food that can be used in a variety of dishes such as pasta sauces, stir-fry recipes or as a cooked side for a steak. It's worth noting that the caps of oyster mushrooms are quite thin, so only add them in towards the end of the cooking process so they aren't burned.
If you're out in nature, you'll come across plenty of mushrooms -- and while some are fine to eat, others are rather toxic. Boletaceae is among one of the more commonly known wild mushrooms that are edible, and only a select few of them are poisonous. They have a fresh taste and are known to have a long shelf life of several years when sliced and dried. In terms of boletus mushrooms to avoid, a poisonous boletus boasts red or deep orange pores.
Puffballs are a peculiar species of mushroom. They typically lack a stalk, some have sterile bases and others have long stems. They also fill with spores as they mature, turning the interior of the specimen brown. The best way to tell if a puffball is good to eat is to cut right down the middle -- if the inside is pure white as opposed to brown or yellow, the mushroom is safe to eat.
The lobster mushroom, or sometimes referred to as the "body snatchers mushroom," is a mushroom that takes control of fruiting fungi, a process that ultimately alters the appearance of the mushroom. Lobster mushrooms reproduce by turning other mushrooms into reproductive organs for them to utilize on their own. This process turns otherwise inedible wild mushrooms into consumable mushrooms.
While this is a good start to knowing which wild mushrooms are fit for consumption and which ones are not, it's important to take great care when dealing with wild mushrooms. The opinions of an expert should always be sought after before eating any old mushroom.
Morel mushrooms are one of the most in-demand wild mushrooms, and, although they can come in a wide range of sizes and a few different colors, they are easily identifiable by their honeycomb-like exterior. They have a unique meaty texture and nutty flavor that makes them a popular addition to pasta dishes or a delicious sautéed side. However, beware of "false morels," that resemble these delicacies. To determine true morels from false morels, slice the mushrooms in half and look for the many identifiers -- if the mushroom is hollow, the bottom of the cap is attached to the stem and the cap is full of ridges and pits, you have a true, safe morel.