Interesting Information about Wild Mushrooms

wild mushrooms

Picture by Alan Rockefeller

A friend recently commented that they don’t forage for wild mushrooms because many can kill. I respect that feeling and a great number of people feel the same way. However, there are some truths about wild mushrooms that many people don’t know or don’t understand.

Mushroom classifications

When it comes to edibility, it is helpful to classify wild mushrooms in one of five categories. The mushroom can be deadly poisonous, poisonous, inedible, edible and choice. A deadly poisonous mushroom is one that can kill when only a small amount is ingested. A poisonous mushroom can kill only if enough of the mushroom is eaten. Usually people don’t die from these, they just get sick to their stomachs. Inedible mushrooms won’t hurt you if you eat them, but they are similar to chewing on a cardboard box. They aren’t worth eating unless you are in a survival situation. Edible mushrooms aren’t always the best tasting, but they are still worth eating. Choice mushrooms are those that taste wonderful. Note that ‘choice’ a subjective classification.

Deadly poisonous and poisonous mushrooms

What surprises many people is that there are very few deadly poisonous mushrooms. Most are also unappetizing, either in looks or in smell. This is true of most poisonous mushrooms as well, and many inedible mushrooms have a disagreeable aroma or flavor. In other words, a person would probably need to be desperate if they ate these mushrooms.

The numbers are also worth looking that, though I won’t get precise. The reason for imprecision is because different sources will claim that certain mushrooms can be eaten and can’t be eaten. For instance, some sources claim that false morels are poisonous. Others say that they are edible. I’ve eaten them and had no ill effects, but I still won’t go as far as to call them edible. (Will I eat them again? Probably, but that is a different topic.)

Still, being generous, I’d say that less than one percent of wild mushrooms are deadly. About 4-5 percent are poisonous. About 60 percent are inedible. About one percent are choice and the rest are edible. It is pretty easy to see that most mushrooms won’t kill you if you eat them. In fact, not all that many will make a person sick.

Disclaimer

I’m not advocating a lack of caution. Wild mushrooms should be identified prior to consumption and if a person isn’t sure of what kind of mushroom it is, they probably shouldn’t eat the mushroom. Additionally, some people will be allergic to nearly anything. Just because I ate false morels and had no problems doesn’t mean that everyone else could eat them with impunity. I can also drink milk and eat cheese, but I know that many people are lactose intolerant. They could end up in the hospital if they drank a glass of milk or swallowed a chunk of cheese. That doesn’t make milk and cheese poisonous, it just means that not everyone can consume them. The point is that a wild mushroom that is considered totally safe can still be potentially deadly to a person who is allergic to that kind of wild mushroom.

The biggest point of all that it would be incorrect to think that most wild mushrooms are harmful to eat. I wanted to set the record straight, because there are really few deadly poisonous mushrooms out there. I encourage people to learn which wild mushrooms they can eat and to learn to recognize them when they see them. I’ve successfully introduced several people to identifying, collecting and eating a number of mushrooms, including morels, chanterelles, shaggy manes, corral mushrooms and others.

The mushrooms shown in the picture are widely accepted to be deadly poisonous.


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