Thursday, January 12, 2017

Three Safety Tips for Beginning Mushroom Hunters

Professor Aurelio Galli serves as associate director for research strategy at Vanderbilt University's Brain Institute. When he is not teaching classes or contributing to research, Aurelio Galli enjoys spending time in the great outdoors. He is an avid mushroom hunter, and routinely cooks with the wild mushrooms he picks.

Wild mushrooms are delicious, and available in abundance throughout much of North America. With a little knowledge and preparation, it can be easy to forage for fresh, wild mushrooms. If you are a beginning mycophagist, consider the following tips. Remember that safety is paramount, and it is never wise to eat wild mushrooms without a confirmed identification.

1. If possible, take an accomplished mushroom hunter along on your first trip out. An experienced guide will be the most familiar with edible mushrooms and potential dangers in a given region.

2. Rely on pictures from a local guide book, not from the internet. Experts say many common photos of mushrooms on search engines are labeled incorrectly, which could cause an unfortunate mistake. A region-specific guide book will have accurate and relevant photos and diagrams.

3. Do not rely on physical appearance alone. When identifying a mushroom, it is important to verify that the stem, spore print, and the location it is growing in match. This is especially critical for beginners who are learning to separate morels from false morels.