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I packed my drawing gear and a mushroom basket and ventured out to the enchanted mushroom forest this morning. It’s been such a poor season for mushrooms I didn’t expect to find much, perhaps a couple lobsters and hedgehogs – but instead I found lots of different boletes.

There were quite a few mushrooms in the forest, but as is often the case with boletes, many of them were wormy or past their expiry date. Still I filled my basket, then sat down to make a couple drawings in the forest. By the time I cleaned up the mushrooms at home, I was left with a nice bowl of slice boletes, ready to be fried up. The photos show some of the variety I saw in the forest today…..


  1. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    Mushrooms are pretty easy if you have some discipline. Well ok maybe you need quite a bit of discipline. The mushroom deal works like this:
    -in Ontario there are about 2,000 different species of mushrooms
    -about 10% or around 200 species are considered poisonous which means some might kill you dead and some might give you quite a belly ache
    =about 80% are considered not edible. Might be because they taste horrible. are so tough and woody you couldnt chew them, or maybe they are so small no one would bother with them or maybe they have some texture issue like perhaps they are really slimy
    -that leaves about 200 species that are considered edible. Just because something is edible doesnt mean anybody is going to eat it. Some edibles taste pretty bad. Some you wont eat but you might dry them, grind them to dust and make a medicinal tea . There are probably about 3 dozen tasty edible mushroom species in Ontario.

    The trick is to learn to positively identify some of those 3 dozen. When I say positively I mean you can identify it correctly 1000 times out of 1000 tries. The problem is that when folks think of mushrooms they think of those things they buy at the store. A stem, a cap, and underneath the cap some gills, those sort of floppy thingies. There are about 1500 species that fit that description and honestly they can be pretty tough to distinguish from each other without a lot of study. The really surprising thing about the tasty edibles is that of the 3 dozen tasty species almost none of them fit that description with stem, cap, and gills. Even more interesting is that virtually all of the dangerous mushrooms DO fit that description. So at the beginning you can simply ignore anything with that cap, stem and gills set up and you will have eliminated about 95% of the problems with finding good edibles, sweet. When you eliminate the stuff that looks like mushrooms you are left with unusual or weird looking things. These weird things tend to be pretty unique and mostly do not have dangerous look alikes so once you learn to identify them you can be pretty confident about your identification.

    Having said all that the very best way to learn which of the weird ones are both safe and tasty is to have someone who knows what they are doing teach you, one weird mushroom at a time. Best way to make that happen is to join a mushroom club and go on 8-10 organized forays with the group and ask and learn as you go. This is about 100x better than buying 100 books. Do you really want to eat weird looking fungus that doesnt even look like typical mushrooms? The simple answer is that the very best edibles fall into that group and here are some examples and if you are actually interested you can use google images to look at some pictures to see what I mean

    -chicken of the woods. absolutely delicious. If someone shows you a chicken of the woods and explains how to identify it then you will have an easy one to identify. The great thing about chicken of the woods is that when you find some you find a LOT, often 2 or 3 grocery bags full

    -morels. These might be the tastiest of all mushrooms and if a real person shows you how to positively id one then you will never make a mistake.

    -bear’s heat tooth mushrooms. One of my favorites even though they look really weird

    -chanterelles oh my

    -lobster mushrooms, really easy to identify, really tasty

    -oyster mushroom complex is pretty easy, they are very tasty and generally when you find some you will find quite a lot of them.

    -giant puffball 3-5 pounds of tastiness fried in butter yummm and there are quite a few others which are tasty and common and you will never have to be faced with the problem of distinguishing one thing that looks like a mushroom from something else that looks like a mushroom. You just have to find a club or an individual who will take you into the woods for a few lessons. Start slowly. Learn 2-3 species each year. At the end of 3 seasons you will know 8-9 species well and that will be enough to let you walk in the woods on most days and bring home supper. At the end of 5 years you will be able to ID about half of the truly tasty edibles Actually at the end of 5 years you will be closer to 25 species because you will see more mushrooms and develop some identification skills. Just remember to always be certain. There are old mushroom pickers and there are bold mushroom pickers but there are no old bold mushroom pickers.

  2. I envy you your expertise. I have a hobbit’s passion for mushrooms, but no such ability to distinguish them in the wild.

    • Here’s the thing about identifying mushrooms. If you think you have to identify them all, you’re lost. Instead, start by learning one or two and go out looking for them. Once you’ve got those down, learn another one or two and so on and so on. Many of the best edibles are very distinctive, and there are enough of them to keep me happy. At this point, I can reliably identify a good variety (including some of the nastiest mushrooms around), but I started with chanterelles, then lobsters and puffballs and just slowly built my knowledge. It helps if you someone who knows the ropes can take you out to the woods and get you started.

    • Salvelinas Fontinalis, who commented on this thread, is my brother. When it comes to mushrooms, he knows what he is talking about. In fact it was Salvelinas who got me started foraging.

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