Mushrooms are some of the most misunderstood organisms on earth. They are part of the fungal kingdom, neither plant nor animal, but sharing some traits of each. The visible part of mushrooms is their fruiting body. Think of the entire organism like a giant, buried apple tree. All of the roots and branches are underground, and the only part we see above ground are the “apples.” These strange fruits inspire loathing in some cultures and love in other cultures, both with good reason. The right mushrooms can make a delicious meal, worthy of fine restaurants. The wrong mushrooms, however, can be your last meal, or they can put you on the fast track for a liver transplant. Use even more caution when harvesting this organism for food, than when harvesting plants.
DO verify 100% positive identification of the mushroom, including the location and season of growth.
DON’T use the mushroom if there is any shadow of doubt in your mind concerning the identity.
DO cook your mushrooms. Many edible mushrooms are safer if they are cooked, rather than raw.
DON’T eat raw mushrooms (or even taste them raw) or consume them with alcohol. The poisons in some mushrooms can create more damage if they are mixed with alcohol. Don’t even cook the mushrooms in wine or other alcohol.
DO cut or bruise the mushroom, and watch for any color change in the flesh. Color changes can be part of the identification process, along with a close examination of the mushroom’s structures and odor.
DON’T use mushrooms that are growing out of season. This is one of the global factors in mushroom poisoning cases. Never eat a mushroom looks that right, but it was growing at the wrong time of year.
DO be aware that some verified edible mushrooms may still cause digestive upset or illness in sensitive individuals.
DON’T eat anything with volva and stem rings (annulus) unless you’d bet your life they are not Amanitas.
DO use caution with mushrooms that have a scaly or bumpy texture to the surface of their cap. More than 50% of these are dangerous.
These tips and many more survival tips are in MacWelch’s books: Prepare For Anything – the Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual – and How To Survive Anything
Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch
And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.