With all these wonderful mushrooms popping up all over the place, I thought I'd do a quick blog post about foraging for mushrooms safely. Mushrooms are one of the most rewarding parts of the foraging season, but when identifying them for the table, there can also be some significant risks. Doing the following will stand you in good stead for a positive ID.
𝙱𝚘𝚘𝚔𝚜 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙶𝚞𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚜 📚
It's a very good idea to head out with a small mushroom field guide to help you ID your finds. Something like a Collin's Guide is a good start, but others are available. Larger books, like Mushrooms by Roger Phillips, can be kept at home for further, more detailed study. There's a pinned post in the group with a list of books and guides that you may find useful. Books should be considered an ESSENTIAL item if you want to ID Mushrooms.
𝙸𝙳 𝙰𝚙𝚙𝚜 📱
Some foraging experts consider ID apps to be dangerous, as they can throw out inaccurate results. I personally believe that Ai Identification apps are becoming an increasingly prevalent part of modern life, and as the technology improves, they will be used more and more, particularly by the next generation of foragers. The way I see it, people will use apps whether more experienced foragers like it or not, so I feel that supporting safe use is preferable over advocating not using them at all. This is my personal view, and not necessarily the view of other experts you may follow.
If you do use an app to help with your ID's, then do so only as a STARTING POINT to narrow down your initial search. After you have a narrowed down list of possibilities provided by the app, you should then proceed to verify the ID's using more traditional methods (i.e. a book, field guide, or reputable online resource site, but preferably all of the above.). Follow the app's guidelines for taking good, high quality photographs, and NEVER RELY SOLELY ON AN APP for an ID. The idea is to INCORPORATE app use into your ID Process, and not to replace the use of books and guides!
𝙼𝚞𝚜𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖 𝙷𝚊𝚋𝚒𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚜 🌲🌳
Mushrooms grow everywhere, from parks and gardens, to woodlands, forests and moorlands. Some will grow in grassland (like Parasol, Horse and Field mushrooms), and others grow in association with certain types of trees. When trying to ID mushrooms (or asking in the group), it's important to take note of the habitat or nearby trees, as this can be a key identifying factor for the mushroom.
𝙷𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝙼𝚞𝚜𝚑𝚛𝚘𝚘𝚖𝚜 🤲👃
All UK mushrooms are perfectly safe to handle and sniff, including the deadly poisonous ones. Smell can also be a key ID indicator for some mushrooms (for aromas, such as aniseed or cucumber rind), so don't be afraid to give them a good sniff. Edibility of some mushrooms, particularly Russulas, can be ascertained via a "nibble and spit test", but this is an advanced technique for identifying specific types of mushroom, so isn't recommended unless you know exactly what you're doing.
𝙿𝚞𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚟𝚜 𝙲𝚞𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 🔪
Pulling or twisting mushrooms out of the ground or cutting them off at the base of the stem has been shown to have no bearing on the health of the underground mycelium network, so doing either is down to personal preference. When cutting mushrooms however, you may leave important parts of the mushroom for ID purposes in the ground (such as volvas / egg-sacs), so when identifying, pulling should be considered a better method of gathering to ensure the specimen is intact.
𝙸𝚖𝚙𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚝 𝙵𝚎𝚊𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝙸𝙳 👀🍄
When attempting to ID mushrooms you need to look at all the parts of the mushroom and compare these to those described in your field guide or book. This should include; The Cap (shape, size, texture, etc.), The Gills / Pores (spacing, structure, pattern, position in relation to the stem, veiled, etc.), The Stem / Stipe (texture, structure, thickness, scales, skirts, etc.), and The Base of the Stem (bulbous, rooted, encased in a sac, etc.). You should also check the colour of the flesh, any staining, particularly any colourful flushes when cut or damaged, and any interesting aromas. Spore print colour can also help with your ID. Bear in mind that it can be difficult to ID very young and very old specimens, so try to find healthy specimens in their prime for ID.
𝙷𝚎𝚕𝚙 𝚆𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝙸𝙳'𝚜 𝚒𝚗 𝚂𝚘𝚌𝚒𝚊𝚕 𝙼𝚎𝚍𝚒𝚊 𝙶𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚙𝚜 ✅
If you want assistance with an ID from Members of Facebook or other groups, it's really important that you provide as much information as possible about your mushroom find, including high quality photographs that clearly show the all parts of the mushroom. This must include images of the cap, the underside of the cap (showing gills / pores), the stem and base, and a cross section. It's also helpful to add something in the images to help with scale, like a coin or mobile phone. Feel free to add what you think it may be and why, and also include details of the habitat and any nearby trees. Treat ANY suggestions as precisely that - SUGGESTIONS, even from Admins or Group Experts.
When IDing something for the first time, I use a guide, then double-check that with a book and/or another guide, then triple-check that with information from at least two reputable online resource sites. I will also often ask other experienced foragers for their suggestions or help, too. Doing this helps me to be certain of what I've found, checked via a RANGE OF GOOD SOURCES.
The key here is that YOU have to be 100% certain of any ID, especially if you plan on eating the find. This is completely your responsibility, and the most important foraging rule of all. To be 100% certain, you should not have any doubts about the mushroom in question. If you are in any way unsure, absolutely DO NOT EAT IT! 😋🚫