Wild Mushroom Hunting is Here: Story, Pictures, Tips

By Taylor Reid Mushroom hunting season is upon us in most of the country. Here in Michigan, we are in prime time. With a wet fall, many of the best eating mushrooms in the woods are beginning to emerge. I am an avid mushroom hunter, but less serious than many. I basically look for a few particular edible mushrooms that I like, and don’t spend hours trying to decipher whether my finds are going to make me sick or not. This has not always been the case, but I’m busy these days, and stick to what I know.. Here are a couple of things I found on a hunt yesterday:

Grifola frondosa (hen of the woods) found 10/5/10 - darker color

Grifola (hen of the woods found 10/5/10 - light colored, with a quarter placed in the middle to show size

Grifola frondosa (hen of the woods) is probably my favorite mushroom of all. It has a mild yet extremely pleasant taste. And it’s usually big (see picture with the quarter in it), meaning that if you find one, you generally have a meal. It also has a number of important medicinal properties, including anti-tumor effects, lowering blood pressure, boosting immunity, and several other desirable things according to published medical reports. It can be lighter or darker colored (see pictures). Grifola is also hard to mistake for anything else, which makes it a good mushroom for armatures. It grows only at the base of oak trees, and there’s really nothing else that really looks like it. the species name, 'frondosa' refers to the 'fronds' or leaf-like aspect of it's fruiting structure (see close up picture).

A close up of Grifola showing its 'fronds'

I also found some puffballs yesterday (see picture).

Small puffballs growing on a log

These are another good armature mushroom find. Make sure you cut them open to see that they are not a primordial form of another mushroom.  They should be uniform inside. If they show signs of being primordial forms of other mushrooms – beware, because some of these can be deadly.

These puffballs ae done (see the hole at the top where the spores have blown out)

Also, when you cut them open, they should be white inside. There is a mildly poisonous puffball called Scleroderma, which has a dark center. And you don’t want to eat them once they have already released their spores – in which case they will not only be dark inside, but will often have a hole on the top (see picture).

Grifolas fried on low heat for 45 minutes

I like to fry Grifola’s up until they are crispy (see picture). And unlike vegetables, the beneficial properties of mushrooms tend to be concentrated, not broken down the longer they are cooked. I fry them on high heat for 10 min in olive oil and/or butter with some salt (to take the moisture out), then once the water cooks off, I turn it down to low and fry them for about 45 min, or until they are crisp. Then they can be added to a stir fry, a soup, a salad, or just eaten like potato chips (delicious). If you happen to be in Michigan, there are several organized mushroom hunts upcoming: ISLAND will be hosting an event on October 10th (click HERE and scroll down for details). And the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club will be hosting a number of forays throughout the state over the next couple of months (click HERE for details) Disclaimer: Anyone hunting mushrooms should do so with caution and be sure they know what they are doing before they eat anything they find. We recommend mushroom hunting with someone who is experienced, and keying out all mushrooms using established texts (see our Mushroom Production Page for recommended texts) before even trying anything. As a general rule, ‘if in doubt, throw it out’. (for more mushroom hunting tips click 'read more').

Mushroom hunting tips:

1) Tell someone where you are going, and bring a cell phone, a compass, and maybe a map (some people even carry a whistle). It’s really easy to get lost, especially once you start finding stuff and concentrating on the forest floor rather than on where you are going. And if you fall down and hurt yourself out in the middle of nowhere, you could really be in trouble.

2) Other gear: long pants are recommended if you want to get off the beaten path (which is often necessary) because you tend to run into briers, poison ivy, and if you’re like me, sticks, logs, and rocks (see ‘mushroom hunters shin’ picture below). Hiking boots are also important. It’s east to twist an ankle, I’ve done it many times. Also, Bring a basket, or at least a mesh bag so that as you collect you are spreading spores throughout the woods. And if you find the ‘mother load’ your pockets aren’t going to do the trick. And take a camera along, one that isn’t to bulky or expensive, in case you fall. And please send me your mushroom pictures (beginningfarmers@gmail.com).

3) Try different ecosystems. Mixed hardwood forests are often best, but sometimes great things can be found in the pines. Fallen logs are often excellent as well.

4) Take notes when you find something good including the date, place, and conditions. Often you can find the same stuff again if you remember where and when you got them (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve kicked myself for not doing this – and no, my shin damage is not from kicking myself).

5) Find a group to go with. The more people that go out, the more you will find, and the more you can share your knowledge and booty.

7 Comments on Wild Mushroom Hunting is Here: Story, Pictures, Tips

  1. I’m jealous!

  2. Me, too! Hope the hunting went well. Mushrooms are all over the farmer’s markets here these days. It feels a bit like cheating.

  3. We’ve found some mushrooms growing in one of our mulch patches. They are medium ball sized with a tan to grey color and when they grow and open, there’s a small hole in the top of the cap. I can’t find these anywhere. Can you help?

    • Pretty sure they are stinkhorns. They are not pathogenic (won’t cause plant disease). Like most mushrooms they may even have beneficial properties for the soil and plants. Don’t worry about them.

  4. 1st timer, very intrigued, A quick question, if fall is hunting time what has (REALLY) come out in droves in my little new garden area? Tan ish gold, dime to half dollar sized caps and there like Everywhere!/?? I happen to love mushroms so it’s not really stressing me er nothing but I’m curious there all over the place (really) I’ll try to get u a pik I’m near saugatuck mi, (( could they be dangerous?)) thanks for the time. hope to send pics soon have a great day R

    • Robert,
      They’re probably just feeding on decaying organic matter. I’d have to see at least a picture, and probably the mushroom itself to know what it is. But really, mushrooms are almost never pests in gardens. In fact they are usually associated with beneficial fungi (mycorrhizae or something that is helping to convert organic matter into a useable form).
      I doubt they’re edible, and you should never eat a mushroom unless you can identify it for sure. But I wouldn’t worry about it.

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