Diary of an amateur mushroom forager

by Forager on November 30, 2010

Obsession [noun] – an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on one’s mind.

I am prone to phases of intense obsession. The infuriating elusive bird that is STILL periodically waking me up at 5am has launched a small obsessive phase of compulsive bird spotting. My obsessions seem to keen my senses into hyperdrive and awaken my inate Kalahari bushman skills – I cannot tell you the number of times I have stopped someone mid sentence, or stopped dead mid stride when I hear this particular bird call. I am compelled to drop everything and run in the direction of the bird call in a desperate bid to visualise and identify it. Sadly, much to the Co-pilot’s amusement, I now involuntarily point and snarl at birds whilst barking names like wattle bird, magpie lark and the ultimate offender, the bleeding noisy miner. Hopefully, for my own sanity, this is a passing obsession.

Obsession is also an apt description of the mushroom foraging madness that has utterly consumed me. Ever since my mushroom foraging expeditions in Oberon earlier this year, my curiosity about mushrooms hasn’t waned but grown by many orders of magnitude. Since autumn I’ve bought a few more mushroom field guides which have provided many late nights of fascinating bedtime reading. The mystery surrounding mushrooms is part of their tantalising allure that begs you to devour all the information there is on the subject. If there was a course in practical field mycology I’d enrol in a heartbeat. The Co-pilot experiences this obsession by proxy – he often gets nudged just as he is drifting off to sleep only to have some pictures thrust in his face with excited exclamations and fervent page tapping. I’ve pored through the guides from end to end marvelling at the many different species and willing autumn to make its lazy return to Sydney.

Thankfully springtime in Sydney is an unpredictable season. Blisteringly hot days punctuated with endless periods of drenching rain and cold blasts of arctic weather have created a little bubble of artificial autumnal conditions – perfect mushroom conditions. Whilst driving past some pine trees on our way home, my forager sense tingled (I liken my perceived sixth sense to Spiderman’s “Spidey sense”, only mine is a lot more useless and infinitely less impressive). I spotted something in my periphery vision nestled amongst pine needles and exclaimed “shaggy parasols!” so loudly the Co-pilot initially thought we’d hit a pedestrian. Hastily explaining that no-one was hurt and it wasn’t an unusual choice of profanities, I scrambled out and raced into the undergrowth to investigate.

Brown shaggy caps half hidden under pine needles

Brown shaggy mushroom caps half hidden under pine needles

Mushroom cluster

Mushroom cluster with specimens at different stages

There is some sort of primal joy that is unleashed when a forager hunts down mushrooms. Delight greeted my eyes as an abundance of large mushrooms were just nudging their broad white caps through the pine needles. They were white with brown scaly caps and slender white stems. They certainly looked like the shaggy parasols stored in my memory bank, and if they were then I’d just stumbled on the motherload!

Immature mushroom

Immature stage of the mystery mushroom

Mature mushrooms

Mature stage of the mystery mushroom

Older mushrooms

Older specimens of the mystery mushroom with upturned concave cap

But, the first rule of mushroom foraging must be obeyed: if you can’t identify them, you can’t eat them! So I carefully collected a selection of the mushrooms at different growth stages for further in-depth analysis and identification.

Once home I carefully laid out all mushrooms and went about systematically identifying them. The following pictorial process is an amalgamation of the identification processes recommended by the 4 mushroom guidebooks in my possession. It is of course, not intended as a definitive guide to mushroom identification, but merely a brief speculative analysis by one amateur forager.

First – a little basic introduction to the subject matter is required. The mushroom belongs to the Fungi kingdom, is not a plant (a different kingdom) and represents the fruiting body of a cotton wool-like mycelium mass. The sole purpose of this fruiting body is to help the fungi reproduce, thus, it is a reproductive organ – apologies to those that thought they’d never eat a reproductive organ! Sometimes if the fungi associates with certain environments (like saffron milkcaps and pine trees or truffles with oak trees), then they are said to have formed mycorrhizal association. The most common fungi we recognise and associate with the term “mushroom” are fungi with gills – as per the common cultivated button mushroom. But there are lots of different fungi shapes from capped fungi with tubes instead of gills (e.g. the well known porcini or ceps, the respective Italian and French terms); to more exotic shapes like puffballs, brackets, cages, cups, coral and more. Our understanding of the fungi world is truly shallow and limited. There are undoubtedly countless specimens that haven’t been identified and categorised and in Australia, where the foraging movement is not as progressive and established as Europe, there are even fewer resources available for identifying Australian fungi specimens. The best we can do is use a mix of Australian and European guides and extrapolate.

My first point of call is arrange the mushrooms in order of maturity as analysing maturity stages can yield important clues. It is also useful to collect the entire mushroom including the stem base  as it can aid in identification. Some mushrooms have a cap-like sheath or cup at the base called a “volva“. Some guides recommend cutting the mushroom at the base when foraging and collecting as it is supposed to promote new mushroom growth. This is misguided – once cut, the mycorrhizal connection is cut off and a new mushroom won’t grow from the stem like a new shoot. It might grow nearby – but that is the magical work of spores and the mycelial network. Cutting off the base will insure your nice mushroom specimens won’t be sullied with dirt but may mean you miss vital identification clues in the stem base.  It sounds extreme, but it may mean the difference between an edible and a poisonous species.

Mushroom fruiting body stages

Life cycle stages of the mushroom fruiting body

Immature “button” stage:

Immature stage

Specimens at the immature stage

Immature stage closeup

A closeup of the little mushroom

At the immature stage the mushroom is a tight bud, white in colour with a white stem and a prominent bulbous stem base. It looks like a volva at first glance, but lacks the sheath – it is merely a bulbous stem base. The closeup reveals that even at the stage the cap is beginning to peel to create the scales seen at later stages of maturity. This stage can aid in identification as sometimes the button will show features that are lost with age and can be a differentiating factor to similar species.

Adolescent stage:

Mature button stage

The mature button or adolescent stage

The guides I had didn’t describe the stages of maturity as much detail as I would’ve liked so I’ll term this mature button stage the “adolescent” stage. In this picture we can see that although the mushroom is still quite small and far from maturity, the cap is already “shaggy” and the “veil” is just beginning to lift away from the cap to reveal the perfect, unadulterated alabaster white gills hiding beneath. I love that the veil is named so – such an apt, descriptive and romantic name. The veil is also an important identifier as in some species this will go on to form a “ring” or “skirt” on the stem.

Mature stage:

Mature stage mushroom

The mature stage of the mushroom will provide most of the identification clues

The mature stage is the most important and will provide most of the clues for identification. The series of photos below highlight these features but in short, it’s important to note all the distinguishing features of the cap, the stem and in particular the gills – or whatever the underside of the cap looks like.

Cap:

Shaggy scaled cap

Cap features: White shaggy cap with brown scales; 60 - 170mm in diameter

Gills:

Straight cream gills

Gill features: gills are straight, creamy/white and free from (not adjoined to) the stem

Stem:

Stem ring

Stem features: White stem, 25 - 30mm diameter; up to 150mm length; large static stem ring

Bulbous stem base

Stem features: prominent bulbous stem base, but no volva

Mature size:

Mushroom size

Size: A decently large size when compared to my palm

Older mushrooms:

In older mushroom specimens, the cap turned from concave to convex with the cap lifting and flattening.

Older mushroom

Older mushrooms feature a flattened or upturned concave cap

Mushroom dissection:

Performing a cutaway dissection can also provide differentiation. The cutaway allows the structure of the gills to be confirmed on whether they are free (not attached or touching the stem) or adnate/adnexed (touching the stem). It could also, as in this case, show evidence of colour change or staining when the flesh is bruised. In this case, the flesh bruised red although not immediately and quite subtly.

Cutaway section

The cutaway section of the mushroom shows free gills (gills that don't touch the stem) and evidence of some staining

Red staining

The mushroom flesh stains red on cutting or bruising

As it is good practice to take field notes, here is a scan of my original field notes taken on site. Complete with a few mistakes that I later cleared up when I referenced my mushroom guides. These notes are a really useful way to provide a summary that will help you with the identification process.

Field notes

Mushroom identification field notes

Many mushroom guide books use spore colour as a major differentiating level in identification keys, so I dutifully performed a spore print. This is done by taking the caps off a mushroom, placing it on paper and covering it overnight with a bowl. I used a half black and half white sheet in case the spores were difficult to see. I also used an older and a younger specimen in case that affected the amount of spores dropped.

Spore print process

The spore print process

Spore print result

And the next morning - voila! We have a spore print result

White spores

And the verdict is: white spores!

White spores! Not surprising I guess since the gills hadn’t discoloured from white appreciably, but spore colour isn’t always obvious from the gill colour. And for the record, the younger specimen didn’t produce any spores – they’re dropped by mature specimens.

And finally, it was time for the part I was most anticipating – the dramatic reveal! Had I stumbled upon my own supply of delicious edible wild parasol mushrooms? Or were they something infinitely more sinister with colourful names like Death Cap, Funeral Bell or Coffin Web Cap warning me of the fatal dangers that lurk behind its innocent façade.

I consulted my 4 mushroom guides:

  • Mushrooms (River Cottage Handbook number 1), by John Wright, Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Mushrooms, by Thomas Læssøe, Dorling Kindersley
  • Field Guide to Australian Fungi, by Bruce Fuhrer, Bloomings Books
  • A Field Guide to the Common Genera of Gilled Fungi in Australia, Cole et. al., Inkata Press
Mushroom guidebooks

A few of my mushroom guidebooks I consult

And.. *cue electronic readout sound bite*

Nothing. I couldn’t definitively identify them. Using the information collated between all 4 guides the closest I could get was that they belonged to the genus Macrolepiota and was some form of “Parasol“.  But I’d figured out as much without even consulting a guide. It wasn’t a “Smooth Parasol” as the cap was clearly shaggy; it wasn’t a “Parasol Mushroom” as it didn’t have snakeskin like scales on the stem and exhibited red staining; and the young white specimens ruled out being a “Shaggy Parasol” as younger specimens of that species were brown. It also didn’t have the long thin stem that many of the Lepiota or Macrolepiota specimens seemed to have. So perhaps I identified them incorrectly and they actually belong to the Amanita family. It was a frustrating process imbued with more questions than answers and without a handy mycologist to consult, an anti-climatic and unfulfilling outcome.

As much as I hated to, I threw the specimens away as I couldn’t identify them – no delicious wild mushroom dinner for this amateur forager. Knowing that a few of the more toxic mushroom specimens can cause severe liver damage was just one motivating factor. If there are any mycologists or budding foragers out there who can identify this specimen – please, any advice would be appreciated!

Unfortunately, mine was not by any means a unique or unusual experience as there are many undescribed mushroom species. In Thomas Læssøe’s book, he estimates that of the estimated 1.5 million species of fungi, only about 4.4% have been described. The unknown world of fungi is indeed a vast sea with unknown horizons.

Despite the disappointment, I’m still addicted to mushroom foraging. My vision has been permanently peeled back and I find myself both consciously and subconsciously surveying the ground in the vague hope that I find something of interest. And sometimes, the persistent searching pays off!

Amongst the pine needles where I found the parasols were some earthstars – a type of fungi called “gasteroids“, which quite frankly sounds like a painful medical condition.

earthstars

Earthstars!

Peeping earthstars

Earthstars peeping out from beneath pine needles

These appeared to be “arching earthstars” or Geastrum fornicatum. At maturity, these little guys split their outer layers into the star shaped base and arch up to release their spores to the elements. Unfortunately for me, these were also inedible.

And with so much rain, mushrooms were popping up everywhere. The impressive mushrooms below miraculously appeared in my parents’ backyard. I don’t remember ever having seen these growing up, but my dog sitting by my side sheepishly wagging her tail whilst surveying the mushrooms could be a clue. I went about identifying these too and at first glance, they looked much like the parasols I found amongst the pine needles.

backyard parasols

These innocent backyard parasols look promising

On closer inspection, these mushrooms were definitely different to the first batch I’d found. The flesh didn’t stain red on bruising and the gills in older specimens were tinged a mossy green hue. Unfortunately these weren’t edible parasols at all, these were the infamous False Parasols, Chlorophyllum molybdites, which are toxic, cause severe gastrointestinal upsets and apparently are the most commonly ingested poisonous mushroom in North America. A timely reminder that amateur foragers need to exercise extreme caution – a hasty forager who doesn’t notice the  presence of green spores and lack of red staining would be in for a royally severe gastrointestinal disturbance.

backyard parasol analysis

Unfortunately these backyard parasols appear to be specimens of Chlorophyllum Molybdites - a toxic mushroom

And finally, to finish off my foraging finds, there were these impressive mushrooms. Again associated with pine trees, these large bright white mushrooms were hard to miss.

Juvenile mega mushrooms

Mystery mega mushroom - at the immature button stage

These specimens were mainly white and emerged from the soil as shy, squat little buttons shaped like flying saucers. Curiously, the buttons were slightly rust red on their caps and I found that they were very sensitive to bruising, changing to red with even the most minimal impact.

Baby pins

The baby pins or button stage of the mega mushroom

With age, the cap grows and splits to reveal an almost fluffy spongy white layer and a thick, sturdy stem emerges. The surface covering of the stem appears to split with growth to form a distinctive ring. Although still at the adolescent stage, this mushroom has already reached an impressive 10cm cap diameter!

Mega mushroom up close

A close up of the adolescent form of the mega mushroom

This was only an adolescent as nearby lay the mature form. A behemoth mega mushroom measuring an impressive 25cm in cap diameter stood like an abandoned umbrella speared into the earth. Both cap and stem had turned a dirty speckled brown with age and the stem was more befitting on a tree trunk than a mushroom.

Behemoth mushroom

A behemoth mushroom specimen! This one measured about 25cm in cap diameter!

So what was this mushroom’s identity? Was it edible? To be honest, I’m not sure – it was so majestic that I didn’t want to unearth it to do the rest of the analysis. I was more than content to let it be and allow other passers-by to marvel at its size.

I was hoping to secure one of the immature specimens once they’d had some time to grow to maturity, but on my return I was saddened to see that someone had kicked over and uprooted the mushrooms. They lay there scattered around a crime scene, sun-dried and decomposing, the spiky pine needle fingers reaching out to reclaim the magical fruiting bodies and draw them back into the earth.

This post took me much longer than a normal one to compile and a phenomenal amount of reading, researching, and head scratching was done to get to this completed post, and even so, I’m still dubious on whether I’ve gotten the correct facts. As there was no positive outcome and no meal of delicious wild mushrooms to celebrate my foraging success, I deliberated on whether I should actually write this post. The Co-pilot was of the opinion that as there was no resolution, I should wait till I found an edible mushroom before I published the post. But that’s not portraying the foraging experience accurately. There’s no guaranteed tasty meal at the end of a forage – at least not for amateurs like myself, but the culinary reward is icing on the cake – the foraging, finding and discovery detective process is the main reward for me. Mushroom foraging is like hunting, for urbanites. It’s dangerously addictive and I encourage you to take it up.

But for the sake of closure – a request to any mycologists reading, any ideas on what the specimens featured in this post are?

A final word of warning: if you are considering mushroom foraging, buy a few guide books to guide and consult and exercise caution. If you can’t identify it, you can’t eat it!

Edit:

I should have added in my recommendations on which of the 4 books to get!

The first book I bought was John Wright’s River Cottage handbookwhich is both at once a very light, entertaining and engaging introduction to the world of mushroom foraging whilst providing a very handy and simple identification key. The only downside is that the mushrooms he describes are British! Similarly, Thomas Læssøe’s book mainly describes European species, but is so comprehensive, informative and easy to use that I would highly recommend it as a first point of call.

Guides on Australian Fungi are few and far between but getting one is a good idea – however, if I’d started with the Australian guide alone, I would undoubtedly have lost interest in mushroom foraging. Bruce Fuhrer’s book is designed for mycologists not foragers (not amateurs at least), doesn’t provide identification keys, doesn’t list information on edibility and only lists by the Latin name – I use this book for cross referencing once I think I know the species/genus. He also contributes to Mary Cole’s book, and I find this book more useful for mushroom identification – but as the title suggests identification is restricted to a small group of fungi.

There’s no definitive answer on which book to get as all guides all recommend having many books to reference. John Wright mentions that he has 15 books that he references – and he runs foraging courses! With my limited experience, I’d suggest the same thing as I always seem to reference all 4 books and supplement findings with internet searches – if I had more books, I’d probably use them all.

Hope that helps! Happy foraging!

Additional edit: I now suspect that large unidentified white mushroom at the end of the post is Amanita thiersii, or at least, is related to it.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anna @ Morsels & Musings November 30, 2010 at 10:22 pm

this is a great resource! thanks for putting in all the detailed work and sharing it with everyone, even if that means sharing the mushroom supplies too.

2 Sarynkay December 1, 2010 at 8:42 am

Wow!! This was such an exciting and interesting read. I love mushrooms and your posta definitely gave me a better understanding. Happy mushroom foraging!!
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3 L-bean December 1, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Love your post :) It’s been elevated to the position of favourite post.

Your Batman and Robin style profanity brought a tear to my eye. I woke Spamtaro up because my shuddering body, as I was trying to suppress my laughter, shook the bed.

Besides, Spamtaro and I are always staring at mushrooms that we pass by wondering if maybe, perhaps, we could possibly eat it without dying? A random European TV cook broke the rule down to: “stem bruises green = bad”. Though nothing has bruised green, the part of our brain repsonsible for survival of the species is still telling us “don’t eat it, it will hurt”.

4 penny aka jeroxie December 1, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Great work on this. I will definitely look into mushroom foraging next year. Missed out this year. Have to grab one of those books for light reading first. Which will you recommend for beginner?
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5 Adrian in Food Rehab December 1, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Great read here Trina- so detailed and has definitely taught me alot about the various mushroom varieties. I will be sure to make sure I pick the right mushrooms to avoid being poisioned!!!! LOL
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6 mademoiselle délicieuse December 1, 2010 at 8:16 pm

It sounds like a great deal of fun, where food love, foraging and detective work cross paths. Looking forward to hearing more of your foraging adventures!
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7 Christine@Christine's Recipes December 2, 2010 at 10:38 am

It’s an informative post on mushroom foraging I’ve ever read. I just see those mushrooms packed in supermarkets, not knowing much about how they grow, which kinds are safe to eat except the ones I often see in markets. Would definitely learn much from your post. :)
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8 Maria@TheGourmetChallenge December 2, 2010 at 11:07 am

I’m seriously impressed. For the last 2 years I’ve missed out on mushroom hunting guided by experts. And I too have tried to identify my own wild mushroom hunt, but every time I’m too scared to actually go through with it. I can completely understand your mushroom foraging obsession. Its like finding little nuggets of gold…..that you can eat!!
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9 OohLookBel December 2, 2010 at 11:48 am

I spent ages reading this post; it’s completely fascinating and really drew me in (you can use that quote on the cover of your book, if you like!). Best of luck with your future identifications.
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10 Sara (Belly Rumbles) December 2, 2010 at 12:34 pm

What a fantastic post, very informative and passionate.

Mushroom hunting is something I really want to have a go at, but I am not sure if I would trust my identification skills, even with books at hand.
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11 Marcel December 3, 2010 at 8:29 am

Great post!
I feel compelled to remark on L-Bean’s comment, however. A green bruising stem does not indicate a mushroom’s toxicity! For example, the three most deadly fungi, all members of the Amanita genus, will not bruise green, yet they will kill you in 90%+ cases. There is no single test to determine a mushroom’s edibility. The only way to know for sure is proper identification, which includes environment, macroscopic characteristics, a spore print and in some cases, microscopic examination of spores. This either comes from years of hunting with people who, in turn, have years of experience, or with very careful and slow taxonomic work with a microscope and fungi guide books. And even then, be careful!
I know you weren’t being reckless L-Bean, but I just wanted to get a word in before someone else decided to take a gamble! I understand that you were just quoting a tv chef (I wonder how many people ended up in hospital as a result of his ‘sage’ advice?), and you’ve been suitably cautious and sceptical.
I’ve been mushroom picking since birth, and my family’s been doing it for generations and generations. Fungi identification is my hobby and I spend hours and hours every week looking at different species, and I still keep my edibles to a list of maybe four or five types.
Good work forager; enjoy your new hobby!

12 Lorraine Not Quite Nigella December 4, 2010 at 12:23 am

European friends have told me that they used to forage for mushrooms when young and growing up but they knew exactly which ones to eat and not- information that I think a lot of us don’t have here!
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13 Conor @ Hold the Beef December 6, 2010 at 12:30 am

So disappointing after all your exhaustive efforts that you couldn’t chow down on them! So impressed by your scientific approach, though of course this is no surprise coming from you :)

“Shaggy parasols” is going to be my new expression. I am adopting it henceforth.
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14 Tori @ eat-tori December 7, 2010 at 4:47 am

Such beautiful pictures! Ever since I read about what happened to Nicholas Evans, I’ve been so hesitant- a cautionary tale of some who weren’t nearly as careful as you! Congrats on a great post

15 Bonnibella December 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I am amazed that books about mushroom can be so engaging enough to wake up the co-pilot in the middle of the night! I love your obsession but I would call it passion. Your test analysis is so on parr with your past career as a chemist. Forage on! I would love to see more post about your finds on mushrooms and hopefully a meal will come out of it soon.
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16 Arwen from Hoglet K December 8, 2010 at 2:42 am

You’ve been so very thorough that I’m quite sad that you couldn’t eat your mushies in the end. I love the spore print. It is at once scientific and beautiful.
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17 Ellie (Almost Bourdain) December 9, 2010 at 10:17 am

Sounds like you had lots of fun. I am dreaming of a mushroom forage trip in Italy….keep dreaming.
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18 Thanh December 11, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I like the idea of mushroom foraging too but don’t know where to start. I think the golden rule of not eating anything you can’t identify is a must. I think I also have an equally useless Spidey type sense….for desserts.

19 Maria @ Scandifoodie December 13, 2010 at 9:05 am

I used to go foraging for berries and mushrooms every autumn in Finland. I really miss it!
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20 Ryan March 31, 2011 at 8:54 pm

I found these in m backyard which are look to be of the same species as your unidentified mushrooms.
http://img405.imageshack.us/i/20110331163419.jpg/
http://img860.imageshack.us/i/20110331163403.jpg/

What do you think? They have white gills and white flesh, quite squat and stalk is thick.

21 Forager April 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Hey Anna – My pleasure! There are more than enough mushrooms to go around – the only issue is finding something edible – and trust me I’m trying!

Hey Sarynkay – Thank you! Sounds like you’re a mushroom lover too!

Hey L-bean – Ah yes, definitely not good advice. As you (now) know, saffron milkcaps stain green and they’re fine to eat, if a little tasteless. There are no hard and fast rules for mushroom foraging unfortunately, besides the golden rule – you must identify it first!

Hey Penny – I edited the post for recommendations – and since this post I’ve amassed a few more pretty titles which I’ll post about soon!

Hey Adrian – Yes – we definitely want safe and happy foraging! No poisoning! The death cap is responsible for many human deaths, and there is no known antidote for the poison either.

Hey mademoiselle delicieuse – It is plenty of fun and your description is more than apt – it is absolutely fascinating to investigate a mysterious fungi with the potential promise of a free foraged meal too. Very addictive!

Hey Christine – Well, those store bought ones are actually a great way to start learning about mushrooms. Pick up and button mushroom and refer to this post next time – you won’t find a base on it, but there’ll be ring, veil, stem, cap features you can familiarise yourself to. A great place to start.

Hey Maria – A fellow obsessed forager! I think our caution is a good thing though. Don’t want to inadvertently discover a new poisonous species!

Hey OohLookBel – Aw, thank you. Took me ages to research and write too so I’m glad someone is finding it entertaining! My work here is done.

Hey Sara – That cautious approach will serve you well in mushroom foraging. Although, truth be told, there is a strong part of me that really wants to eat those unidentified one after putting in so much research effort!

Hey Marcel – Absolutely agree! I lack the chemical tool tests and a microscope for the full gamut of tests, but before embarking on this foraging journey, I had no idea there would be so much identification required. How naive of me! It only takes a little reminder about how potent some of those poisons are though to ensure I stay a vigiliant forager!
Your very short list of edibles is disappointing to hear though. *sigh* Stupid ubiquitous inedible poisonous mushrooms.

Hey Lorraine – Yep, been hearing the same thing from European friends and new foraging contacts. Although even then, reliance on experience is a bit sketchy. I’ve read about mushroom police raids in France and experienced mushroom foragers were unwittingly selling poisonous mushrooms in markets.

Hey Conor – I know, not getting to eat those mushrooms was a serious let down. Shaggy parasols to them.

Hey Tori – Gasp! I know. Very very sobering reality check. Thankfully he survived! Just!

Hey Bonnibella – I am a bit of a nerd but they are seriously fascinating to me. Those books are like the instruction manual for a secret world!

Hey Arwen – Ah, that’s true, I hadn’t thought about it as art! Perhaps I’ll create some spore print art one day :)

Hey Ellie – That is definitely one of my ultimate fantasies too – truffle hunting and foraging with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall!

Hey Thanh – Everybody has their vices. At least you’ll have more successes (hopefully) with your spidey sense!

Hey Maria – I bet! It’s so much more established over in Europe! Can’t wait to try over there myself!

Hey Ryan – Wow, they do actually look a lot like my mystery ones! But, if you have time, try to do a spore print from a mature specimen and see if the spore print is green. If it is, it could be Chlorophyllum Molybdites and is poisonous (not life threatening, organ failure levels I hear, but not great!). They could even be Amanita smithiana – and they are definitely poisonous and not something you’d want to eat!

22 Andrew April 4, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Good thing you didn’t decide to give that Parasol-like mushroom a nibble – it looks awfully like a Macrolepiota venenata (poisonous). I checked my German mushroom field guides and it ticks the boxes right down to turning a wine-colour when cut. The cap looks like a parasol but the stem is too thick and short (and no snakeskin scales like you said). The giveaway though, as a German friend taught me, is the ring around the stem. Parasols have a double ring(?) (I’m no mycologist!) that slides freely up and down the stem, whereas your guy has a fixed, single ring. They also smell amazing – like hazelnuts. They taste even better (throw away the stem and cook them like a schnitzel in stacks of butter!) but I haven’t managed to find one in Australia yet. Let me know if you find one!

23 Forager April 4, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Hey Andrew – well spotted! It does look like Macrolepiota venenata! Although, I didn’t think they smelt of hazelnuts. And you know what the most frustrating thing about knowing that now (other than knowing I can’t eat it) – I checked that species name against my 10 mushroom books and none even mention that species! Thanks for letting me know! What would I do without the web? :)

24 Andrew April 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm

No worries! BTW, Parasols smells like hazelnuts – not M. venenata.

25 Andrew April 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm

One final thing – check out http://www.pilzepilze.de/galerie/v/Lateinisch/
for lots of beautiful photos of mushrooms. None of your culprit though!

26 Nate April 6, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Hey hows it going?

I rekon the first guess was right – shaggy parasols (Macrolepiota rhacodes).

http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/ancient/wild-food-entry.php?term=Parasol%20Mushroom.

Still wouldn’t eat them … :)

27 Forager April 6, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Hey Andrew – Thanks for that link – what a gorgeous photo gallery! I recognise that one called ustilago – they serve that white corn fungus in fine dining restaurants in Europe right? I spent ages poring through those photos – amazing. Thanks again!

Hey Nate – I originally ruled out Macrolepiota rhacodes because the younger species of that are brown and the ones I found were very much white. Perhaps though that is a minor Australian version? Either way, you’re right, not game enough to eat it! Thanks for the comment though!

28 Lara April 22, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Interesting to read about your forays. My french husband often finds edible fungi in eucalypt forests in the Sydney area, specifically a small version of the chanterelles. They are small and bright orange and look toxic but are great in an omelette. The white shaggy mushrooms towards the beginning of this blog are lepiotes, he says, and edible. We have found them and eaten them in France. We haven’t found mushrooms at Oberon…….yet, it was too dry.

29 Forager April 23, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Hey Lara – Really? Orange chanterelles in Sydney Eucalypt forests? I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled the next time I’m in the forest. Thanks for the tip! Amazing to find so many active foragers via my blog! I suspect those mushrooms are Lepiotes, but I can’t nail their identifying features down to any specific species so too cautious to eat them… As for Oberon, I’ve seen pine mushrooms in Blackheath at the beginning of April and heard from others that the mushrooms in Oberon have actually started, but there has been extensive logging there and the mushrooms haven’t had a chance to grow. When did you last check in Oberon? It might be worth trying again.

30 NSF April 23, 2012 at 11:53 am

Forager, I too think you might have rhacodes, but nowadays they aren’t lepiota, they’ve been reclassified as Chlorophyllum rhacodes. This happens all the time in the fungal world, as arguments get settled, or new techniques are employed to separate them.

I’ve found some similar to yours (well, kind of) you can see them here: http://ediblemushroom.net/index.php/topic,117.msg354.html#msg354

As you can see, mine are more about a broken pileus than yours, but this can be brought about just by growing conditions (think about cracked cap shiitake versus smooth shiitake, commercial growers cause this through timely blasts of warm fresh air)

I just spent a weekend hunting in NSW and I too found tiny native chanterelles (Cantherellus concinnus) along with more saffron milk caps than I could pick.

Swing by the http//www.ediblemushroom.net forum for any help you need with IDs, although I think you are going about it more thoroughly than most already! Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your methods.

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