Lynn's Favourite Urban Fungi for Relative Beginners
These are easy to identify fungal species which are often found in towns and cities and which I do like to eat occasionally. They must always be cooked before eating. They each have very specific identifying characteristics.
Jelly ears / Wood ears (Auricula auricularae-judaea)
Chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphorus)
Shaggy ink cap (Coprinus comatus)
Chanterelle (Cantharellus spp.)
Of course there are many other species which are edible and you may find and like to investigate.
(Not for eating but to investigate for medicine making)
Storage containers for your hunt
Storage containers should provide physical support to prevent crushing or bruising. Also choose one that retains moisture while still letting the mushrooms breathe, as the cells remain alive sometime after you pick them. Your best bet is a light, wide-bottomed basket. These four are great options too:
- Waxed paper
- waxed-paper bags
- aluminum foil
- plastic tackle or utility boxes with divided compartments.
When wrapping in waxed paper or foil, carry packets in a light, rigid, shallow container to allow for easy access. Mushroom baskets such as this one are available online for purchase.
It is a good idea to also bring along a cooler or ice chest in the car to keep the mushrooms cool once you’ve returned. Leaving the mushrooms in these conditions can quickly lead to spoilage.
At home, keep mushrooms refrigerated just like if you bought them at the store. Tackle boxes work well here to keep them compartmentalized.
Knives can be useful
A knife can be useful when you’re cutting the mushrooms away from tree trunks and scraping them clean before adding to the storage container. They make specially designed knives for mushroom hunting like this one that has a curved blade, folds like a pocket knife, and has a little useful brush at the end of the handle for cleaning debris.
Mushroom hunting attire
Since a lot of areas that are searched are densely forested in the fall, it is a good idea to bring along appropriate rain gear, such as waterproof boots and a light raincoat. A walking stick can be useful for navigating the terrain but also clearing away debris where mushrooms can be hiding. Lastly, a light day-pack with food, snacks, a flashlight, a compass/map, or GPS are all strongly recommended.
What to do with the mushrooms you found
Once you harvest the mushrooms, there are numerous ways to store them. Before deciding how to store your harvest, it’s important to choose the best-looking mushrooms. Make sure they are not too old, and are thoroughly cleaned from any bugs or debris. If you want to eat them fresh, clean them when you are ready to use and, before that, store them in brown paper bags to soak up the moisture they will emit over time. They can be enjoyed 2-3 days after harvesting, and many will last upwards of one week.
Wild mushrooms can also be dehydrated and stored in air-tight containers, or ground up to be used later in soups or stocks. To dry in warm climates, slice the mushrooms and lay on muslin trays in the sun or hang them on strings . Dehydrators also work well and prevent the whole room from being pervaded by a mushroomy smell.
Another option is to freeze the mushrooms (after cooking them), but this isn’t recommended for many varieties. The better choice is to make up the mushroom dish fresh and then freeze it. Finally, salting mushrooms works well to preserve fresh, clean mushrooms. All you need is one part salt to three parts mushrooms, layering and salting the mushrooms in a sterilized jar. Mushrooms can also be pickled in either oil or good vinegar in a good-sealed jar.
1. Chicken of the woods
Chicken-of-the-woods is one of the most easily identifiable fungi found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. It emerges from either standing or downed trees in clusters and produces large, yellow-orange fruiting bodies. The immature Chicken-of-the-woods is delicate and edible, and then becomes woody and leathery as it ages. They can be spotted high up in living hardwood trees like oak in the early summer to autumn. Here is a video showing Chicken-of-the-woods identification and lookalikes. When I first found a Chicken of the Woods in Park Frankendael, I was shocked by the bright colour. That's a good thing! It also took me over a week to feel confident enough to try it. That is also a good thing as this was my first time and I wanted to be 110% certain for safety. When the ID was assured, I harvested some with a sharp knife, cooked some in casseroles and saved the rest as cooking-ready strips, in the freezer. Absolutely delicious! The mushroom returns almost every year to the same mature tree, sometimes I spot it before the flies do, othertimes not.
Jelly ears - see page 126 in River Cottage
Scaly wood mushroom
https://www.foragingcoursecompany.co.uk/foraging-guide-scaly-wood-mushroomlovely Definite mushroomy odour. Found in mixed woodland. Quite large and they stand out. Alone or in small clusters. Distinctive brown scales on paler cap.
Shaggy ink cap (Coprinus comatus)
Photos from camp October 2019, Veluwe
Use for ink and to eat.
Find every year when in deep Beech woods.
Poisonous look a like: Omphalotus