It’s mushroom hunting season and you may be thinking that you’ll give it a go. Read this first and then if you’re still gung-ho, forage with my blessings. Rule #1 – Learn the BC poisonous mushrooms first! As a start, Check out our FREE Foraging for Beginners 3-Part Video Series here.
There are 10,000+ species of mushrooms in BC, only a handful of these can be fatal if ingested, another group will make you barfy (more if you are like me a ‘canary in a coal mine’ type), 30+ mushrooms are on my ‘choice’ edibles list (lots that you will never see in the stores), but most mushrooms are innocuous. Within the 30 edibles, there are mushrooms like chanterelles (Cantharellus) and oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus) that are very easy to identify, stick to those! Mushroom foraging is like an adult treasure hunt. It’s so exciting finding buckets of wild mushroom that cost $30/lb in the grocery store, that it’s easy to get ‘experimental’. Here are some tips to keep you safe.
Tips for first time hunters
- Get a guide book and go on a mushroom foraging tour if you live near Vancouver
- When in doubt, throw it out!
- Get to know a mushroom for a year before you eat it. You wouldn’t marry a guy after a first date, would you?
- When you are 100% sure of that chanterelle you’re holding, then take a small piece, cook it and eat it. Wait for a week and make sure you are not allergic to it or have mis-identified it. Then you can be confident next year when you see those orange beauties popping up in the same area that you can eat them.
- Make sure you see the mushroom you are identifying in multiple stages of growth to help you with identification.
- Colour of the mushroom can vary widely due to environment, soil pH etc. So use your eyes with a grain of salt. Your nose is frequently a better gauge for culinary mushrooms.
- Stick to the easier edibles to ID first – hedgehogs, oysters, chanterelles
- Eat small portions of mushrooms or you risk aquiring a sensitivity to them
- Always cook your mushrooms. Though there are some that you can eat raw, some are toxic if you don’t cook them (like morels)
- A small % of people are sensitive to wild mushrooms and can get indigestion even with edibles that you may have no problem with. Warn your guests that this is a risk before serving them your bounty and keep your friends longer.
- Know your Amanitas…
The wicked AMANITA family
- Causes 95% of all fatalities – avoid these amanitoxins and you are near guaranteed to avoid the worst case scenario
- Some amanitas are edible… I avoid all amanitas just to be very, very safe.
- Can look like a white puffball (edible) in it’s ‘baby’ mushroom stage. Don’t eat puffballs if you’re worried about confusing them. Easy!
- The Death Cap (Amanita Phalloides) and Destroying Angel (Amanita Virosa/Ocreata/Verna/Bisporigera) are two mushrooms in this group that can kill you. Great names, eh? Destroying angels are not found in BC.
- Amanita smithiana (has been known to have a tapering base occasionally), pantherina and silvicola are other amanitas that are toxic and some have been confused for matsutake (pine) mushrooms which are a choice edible.
- Has gills, a ring and a volva (sack or bulb at the base of the stem) – this occasionally isn’t visible if it decays
- Both are mostly white with the Death Cap having a dull yellow to olive green cap.
- Can have a mild, even sweet, flavour, anise scent… don’t always trust your nose.
Other common BC poisonous mushrooms found in and around Vancouver …
- Blue Staining Boletes – Some are poisonous, a few are edible – for experienced mushroomers only
- False Chanterelles – Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca – gills are very thin and completely unlike chanterelle gills
- Amanita muscaria – Cap: Red or yellow with white warts (the Alice in Wonderland mushroom)
- Amanita rubescens/franchetii – Just avoid the Amanita family is my rule of thumb.
- Pleurocybella porrigens – Angel wings are an issue if you have pre-existing kidney disease and are already receiving dialysis treatment… not a worry for most people.
- Galerina Family mushrooms! Bad dudes. Galerina marginata or autumnalis can be confused with edible Honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea)
- Sulphur Tufts – Naematoloma frasciculare can be confused with edible Conifer tufts (Naematoloma capnoides)
- Tricholoma equestre/flavovirens – Man on horseback is edible, but some people have been known to be allergic to it.
- False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta)- Can cause death, it’s like ingesting rocket fuel.
- Webcaps – Cortinarius orellanus
- Leccinum spp. (Scaber Boletes) – I avoid this family even though there are edibles within it.
- Morchella family mushrooms eaten raw can cause stomach issues.
- Alcoholic Inky caps – Coprinus atramentarius – Inky Cap Family – Only causes stomach upsets if you drink alcohol up to 5 days after eating them! Non-fatal, but can be confused with edible Shaggy manes.
- Please comment if there are BC mushrooms I am missing so I can add them to the list
- You can handle poisonous mushrooms (even the death cap) with no ill effects, just wash your hands after to be extra cautious.
Please use caution when hunting for edible mushrooms. This is just a rough guide which is no substitute for going out with an experienced wildcrafter. Most mushrooms aren’t deadly poisonous, but it’s no fun getting sick and not worth the risk! Come with us on a mushroom tour to start you off on the right foot. Or check out our online foraging program at www.foraging101.com
David Arora’s – All that the rain promises and more is a great handbook to give you more information on specific Pacific Northwest mushrooms.