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Jack O' Lantern


honey.jpg (91308 bytes)Wild Food Forum
Questions and Answers

Answers by Roy Reehil
and
David Fischer

Send E-mail to mushroom at theforagerpress.com to submit your question (replace at with @.) To find a specific topic or mushroom use the "Edit Menu" "Find" command in most browsers. Please note that not every question and answer will get posted.

Menu of some of the topics covered:
Morels | Maitake | False Morels
Early Morels | General Mushrooming
Sulphur shelf | Boletes | Bugs
Nutritional breakdown for mushrooms
Stinkhorns | Pheasant's Back
Why Forage?

In the picture above: Honey Mushrooms, Armillaria mellea


On the topic of Morels:

Morels in the Central VT Area, Thu, 08 Apr 2004

Hi, have enjoyed your very informative site on one of my great passions. I do have a couple of quick questions for you and would love it if you could find the time to
respond.

1) I have never heard of the smaller "grey" morels as being toxic. I've eaten them for years and have found them to be better tasting than the bigger "yellows". On your site, you warn that may cause an upset stomach, etc. Have I been wrong in eating the greys all these years? Or did I misread?

2) I grew up in Minnesota and had a lot of success with various repeat spots. Since, I have moved to South FLA. I always miss the hunt in the spring. This year, a good friend of mine wants me to visit him in New Haven, VT in mid-May. I have been trying to find out if morels grow as they do in the midwest in that area. That would seem to be the right time for that north of a climate. I always started looking "when the lilacs bloom", and with that latitude, mid May would seem perfect.
Any ideas?

Thanks for your time, Eric

Glad to hear from you Eric.

morelmini.jpg (9716 bytes)Small "grey" morels - as long as they are true morels are fantastic edibles. I'm not sure where you got the idea that they were not so I went back to my main article on morels and made a few additions regarding color: "Don't be misled by the common names of these mushrooms referring to colors, particularly Morchella esculenta, the "Yellow" morel. It appears in a wide variety of colors, from light gray to dark gray, light tan to golden brown, pale yellow to yellow to dark brown. The shape of the cap can vary as well, from tall slender and pointed to short squat and round. Some mycologists argue that there are different species or sub-species in this group but if you find a mushroom in the Spring with a honey combed, pitted cap you have a pretty sure indicator that you have a morel, whatever the taxonomic name is."

Perhaps your "grey" morel reference is to what I call the "Early Morels," mushrooms from the genera Gyromitra, Verpa and Helvella, which may contain traces of the toxic compounds known as  hydrazines. We have some great field guides available in the bookstore if you want to learn more. As always with wild mushrooms, when in doubt throw them out!!!!

I think your premise about Vermont morels in mid-May is probably well founded. Any Vermonters out there want to coment? Best of luck up there and let us know how you do.

Happy hunting,
Roy Reehil


Dear Forager,

I was pleased to come across your internet article on morels. It was most informative as I've discovered a few in a wooded area at my home. The specimens in my yard
have just popped up and are no more than two inches tall. Should I wait a while to see if they get larger before harvesting? Also, should I not disturb them this year in the
hopes that they'll produce more in coming years? Thanks for your response.

Steven, Neillsville, Wisconsin USA

Steven,

morel-bill-s.jpg (49311 bytes)Thanks for writing. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. I am also lucky to have morels appear in my yard occasionally and one year I was able to empirically test out how long they grow and how big they get. I watched and watered it like a house plant. It got to be about a foot high and grew for almost two weeks before it started to show signs of old age. The big morel my friend Bill is holding in this picture is the very mushroom.  So, I would say as long as they don't look like they're getting buggy - grow them. The main fungal mass is underground and perennial (the mushroom is a reproductive device to disperse spores) so, picking the mushrooms won't hurt at all. The mushrooms may be an indication that one of the trees nearby is dead or dying. Grow the mushrooms - pick and eat when ready, unless you use weed killer or pesticides in the area.
You are lucky!
All the best
Roy Reehil

Thanks for the reply. I'll tend to my few little morels another week before the harvest.

All the best,
Steven


From: Paloma

We have suddenly started sprouting what appear to be morels in a shaded lawn area under a very old apple tree in our suburban yard. (Evanston, IL just north of Chicago) They range in size from approximately 6 inches tall(cap and stem to the ground) X 2.5 inches in diameter and are a light tan color on the outer cap. I have three questions:

1) These look exactly like the photos of morels I have seen and if they are morels I would love to eat them, but are there any distinguishing characteristics which would warn me not to eat them. If they are morels, at what size should they be cultivated?

First, identify them ABSOLUTELY. Be completely comfortable with your identification or talk to someone who knows for sure. Second, do you use any chemicals on your lawn and do you want to consume concentrations of them? After you answer those questions you'll know what to do. Picking them depends on the weather, bugs, etc. Pick them when it seems right. You can water them.

2) Are they likely to return next year? or can I cultivate them in any way?

Maybe yes, maybe no. The real question is "will they fruit next year?" they'll still be underground, mushrooms above or not. You can try to make them fruit but my suggestions are a little dramatic (at least for the neighbors.) Stress the tree, burn the tree, chop it down, and/or dig big, deep holes in your lawn then fill them back up (and I'm not kidding.)

3) Does this indicate that my apple tree is dying?

It could be an indicator. Look at the tree...
I hope this helps! Learn your morels, and now you have a reason not to use chemicals on your lawn. You'll save money too!

Roy

Here's Dave Fischer's response to the same questions (much more scientific I might add.)

1) These look exactly like the photos of morels I have seen and if they are
morels I would love to eat them, but are there any distinguishing
characteristics which would warn me not to eat them. If they are morels, at
what size should they be cultivated?

For information on proper identification, see the treatment on these springtime delicacies from "Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America: A Field-to-Kitchen Guide"... Pay particular attention to the "Similar Species" section. Presuming that you mean "collected" or "picked" rather than "cultivated," that's a toughie. If they are (a) less than 2" tall and you can get back there within one week or (b) less than 1" tall and you can get back there within 2 weeks, I would advise you to let them grow---provided the forecast is reasonable, and that they appear in good condition. At my more accessible morel patches, I have watched morels grow over a period of two weeks from "infants" half an inch tall to giants over a foot in height.

2) Are they likely to return next year? or can I cultivate them in any way?

Morels *usually* return to the same place for several years in succession. Cultivating morels is a tricky business. For more information, I recommend you contact Paul Stamets' Fungi Perfecti: http://www.fungi.com

3) Does this indicate that my apple tree is dying?

Probably. The prevailing opinion is that the morel mycelium is mycorrhizal with various trees; when those trees begin dying, the stress triggers the mycelium to produce morels to produce spores to perpetuate the genetic lineage.

--Dave Fischer


black morelHi Roy,
My husband and I are "newbees" when it comes to shrooming. We took our 4 teens camping last summer, while the 2 girls were interested in wildflowers and birds, I needed to be creative with the guys. That is when I decided to interest them in finding different kinds of mushrooms.
In doing so, my husband and I have become fascinated with them. Reading books like crazy. This year is our first for really searching for morels.We actually found 11 small blacks in northern jersey while hiking. My reason for writing is that your site was the only one I could
find fairly close to NJ.  I was hoping the forum would let people like me know if anyone is finding morels in the mid atlantic region yet, or even if you can find them in this area... central jersey.
Just wanted to know.

Christine

Christine
Thanks for the note.

They are there, Morels in Central Jersey that is... just don't expect anyone to tell you where. That's the fun/hard part.
Usually 1-2 weeks after black morels
- (Black Morel pictured above)


Here's an inquiry with an unhappy ending!

Hiya Laura!
you wrote:
Yes, I went out cruising for morels and found two hotspots - one of them was by a railroad track and the interesting thing was that the morels were growing out of (i.e. in between) VERY LARGE pieces of gravel - I took some photos, it's pretty amazing - no dirt to be seen for yards, just a floor of rocks.

LAURA: you don't want to hear this, but, impossible as this may seem... DO NOT EAT THOSE RAILROAD-TRACK MORELS. Railroad rights-of-way, like power line ROWs, are typically kept clear of vegetation with the aid of liberal doses of inorganic chemical herbicides. On top of that, who knows what leaks in "moderate" amounts from all those liquid chemical tanks whose occasional derailments force evacuations. I can only repeat, DO NOT EAT THOSE RAILROAD-TRACK MORELS. I beg you. Read "Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America," chapter 4 (p. 17), "The Mycophagist's Ten Commandments," #6...

"Don't pick mushrooms from contaminated habitats. These include polluted areas, chemically treated lawns, ornamental trees, and places close to highways, lanfills, toxic waste sites, crop fields, power lines, railroads, buildings, industrial areas, or firebreaks. Contaminants may accumulate in wild mushrooms."

Cheers! --Dave

To: Xerula (AKA Dave Fischer)

damndamndamn - this RR track thing. You see, I have mixed ALL of my morels from the past few days together. There are SOME I might be able to tell are from the RR tracks, but.......tell me more. What exactly do they use on the side of the tracks? Don't you think the heavy gravel is the method they use to precent vegetative growth? Is it the same as a pesticide, or something much more intense? What's the worst that could happen? There were houses all along the tracks as well (well, across the road, perhaps 100 feet away). Would they still use these chemicals? I did notice the RR track morels were grayer than the ones I picked earlier in the woods. I REALLY would like to not have to throw out ALL of my findings! Thanks for the advice though - i sure learned a lesson....
Laura
P.S. These were growing anywhere from 8 feet to 20 feet from the tracks - some in the gravel, some on the grassy/weedy/dead elmy embankment.

To: Laura

I don't know exactly what they use on the RR tracks, except that they are naughty inorganic chemical herbicides. Comparing herbicides to pesticides is a moot point... it depends on the specific chemical agents involved. And yes, the railroads use the heavy gravel for several reasons, including erosion prevention and inhibition of growth of plants, but they also routinely use plenty of herbicides, for it is economically impossible to have people "weeding" along railroad tracks and relatively inexpensive to send through an herbicide-misting car. And no, nearby houses do *not* stop them from using herbicides; the houses are never close enough to justify that.
An interesting thing is that the morels are probably there in large part *because* of the pesticides... morels grow from the roots of dead trees and other plants (e.g. dead/dying apple trees, elm trees, etc.
The worst that could happen, Laura, is that you could become hypersensitive ("allergic") to a whole range of chemicals (chemical hypersensitivity syndrome---you know, like those people who are affected by common everyday chemicals such as synthetic fibers in clothes, carpets, upholstery etc. NOT a pretty picture, and an immediate reaction severe enough to be life-threatening is not impossible. A "better-case-scenario" could be a mere rash, nausea, headaches etc. READ THE FOURTH PARAGRAPH ON P. 144 of "Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America"...

"Scientific research has produced evidence that mushrooms concentrate heavy metals present in rain, air and soil as environmental contaminants."

IN FACT, some fungi are actually now being used to decontaminate areas such as abandoned copper strip mines.
Laura, I know this is awful news, and I *hate* to be the bearer of it... on the other hand, I am glad I got to you before you ate them! I am VERY sorry you mixed the railroad morels with the others... all I can say is, "If in doubt, throw it out!" And even 20 feet away from the tracks is *not*, in my qualified opinion, far enough away.
Poor poor Laura! Well... like you said... consider this a lesson learned. Study those 10 commandments! (I hate to sound like a preacher!)
--Dave


Morel Links:
Morel Homepage | Morel Recipe | The biggest Morel I ever saw | A new species of Morel


False Morels

From: Louis, May 8

On May 7 I found three False Morels---specifically, Gyromitra esculenta---growing on very sandy soil near pines and white birch. This was in Schenectady.

1) Based on this, about how long until the first morels appear in my area?

2) Are Black Morels commonly found in the same habitats as Gyromitra esculenta?
-----------------------------------------
Louis,

Good questions. I've kept track of the dates that I've found Gyromitra esculenta and Black Morels for the last three years... I was just waiting for you to ask this! If the weather remains damp Half-free morels (Morchella semilibera) should be popping up now with black morels (Morchella elata). Yellow morels (Morchella esculenta) will generally be 5-15 days behind. Hope it stays warm and wet! G. esculenta is a timing indicator yes... but as a location indicator, I'm less sure. The sandy soil sounds good but the trees don't. Look for hillsides nearby... with old apples, elms, poplars, ash trees, and cottonwoods.

Happy Hunting!
Roy


On the subject of Gyromitra, Verpa and other "Early Morels"

Anyone finding any Verpas yet? Verpa Bohemica should be coming up in Seattle in about 2 weeks, so they must be coming up somewhere by now.
I do not eat this mushroom, and my wife has renamed them "acher makers" in honor of the stomach ache they gave her, and has changed their scientific name to Verpa Yucky. However, I need some slides of this wrinkled fungus, so I shall be hunting them this year.

-Jim , BFD


Rich wrote:

I live in Northcentral Washington state, and have collected "Early Morels" ("Verpa's"), the "Edible Morel" (Morchella esculenta's), and the "Narrow-capped Morel" (Morchella augusticeps), for years and years...with my parents and brothers and sister. I have a book called: "The Savory Wild Mushroom" by Margaret McKenny copyrighted 1962, that refers to most of the edible mushrooms of this area. The other day at work, a coworker and I were talking about gathering morels, and she mentioned being told by another source, to be careful not to get any "False Morels" mixed in with her collection, because they were deadly poison, and looked very mush like the "good" ones. Well, I commented that I have never heard of a "poisonous morel" or a correctly-identified "False morel". BTW, our family has ate these morels for years, as I stated, with no ill effects...love them.. Are there any of these "poisonous morels, or false morels" anywhere to be found? If so are there any good "Color Photos" of them on the web or any books on such?

Thank You...
-=Rich=-
Wenatchee, Wa.
--------------------
My response to Rich,

g-esculanta.jpg (93935 bytes)The "early Morels" you describe other then any in the genus Morchella are mushrooms of the genus Verpa and Gyromitra. Though you and your family have eaten some of these mushrooms for many years without incident, you may want to reconsider future consumption.
In older texts Verpa bohemica and V. conica are listed as edible. Newer texts however list Verpa bohemica (the Wrinkled Thimble Cap) as poisonous and best avoided. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps and a loss of muscle coordination.
The other so-called "early Morels" are of the genus Gyromitra. Gyromitra esculenta
(pictured right) and G. infula contain the toxin Gyromitrin, AKA: monomethylhydrazine. Other related species including G. gigas, G. korfii and the genera Verpa and Helvella may also contain traces of hydrazines.
Believe it or not monomethylhydrazine is a key component of rocket fuel. Eating mushrooms containing hydrazines raw has caused many documented fatalities (mostly in Europe.) Cooking and/or drying can remove the volatile Gyromitrin poison, hence people have eaten these mushrooms for years with no ill effects.
BUT... cooking Gyromitra esculenta can release enough toxin into the air that sampling the aroma of your saut pan can also lead to severe poisoning or even death.
BEST BET WITH GYROMITRA, VERPA AND HELVELLA:
Don't bother with any of them!
Cooking may not remove all of the toxin and this could result in liver damage over a period of years.
Your identification of Morchella augusticeps leads me to believe that any field guides you may have are out of date. To be safe, get some newer field guides on American mushrooms (see note below.) Then, get to know all of these easy to identify spring fungi. In the future you may want to stick to the genus Morchella (the "real Morels"!) ...very safe, and very delicious.
Happy hunting and stay healthy!

Notes:
I recommend Mushrooms Demystified - by David Arora or The Audubon Society field guide to North American Mushrooms for color plates of all above listed species. There are photos of Gyromitra esculenta on the Morel Page on this site.


From: Lisa May 3rd

verpa.jpg (93105 bytes)Yesterday my friend and I found a ton of what we thought were morels, although I did not think they looked quite like the ones I had found last year. My friend asked someone who said they were called "caps" and that her family ate them although one son had gotten ill. Well while he was in the process of cooking them up, I got online for more information. I discovered that what we picked were Verpa bohemica (pictured right) or Early Morels. So I started printing the information all the while worrying that my friend was dead. I called him as soon as I got off line just as he was sitting down to a plate of sauted mushrooms. I convinced him not to eat them. So, did I save his life? I told him that he owes me big time!!! Just exactly what would happen to a person who consumed this species????
Thanks,

Lisa

-----------------------------------------
Good Job Lisa!

Your friend might have enjoyed a delicious meal but, if he was allergic to the toxins in those mushrooms it might have been his last. Chances are though, that you simply saved him from a nasty upset stomach. In any case you did the right thing.
Did you save his life? Maybe...
Does he owe you big time? Absolutely!
I had an old friend who when asked "how can I repay you?" always responded that "money will do!"
Other old wisdom: The mycophagist's credo should always be strictly adhered to...
when in doubt, throw it out!


From: Chan

Found black morels on Easter weekend, earliest I have found them in over 6 yrs. of hunting. We here are avid hunters in the woods of S.W. Pa., and we usually have a good season. Most of what we find are under poplar, apple, and wild cherry but some have been found under pine. From now to end of May we will be "shrooming" to our hearts content. My buddy Stu sez it's a pressure thing, the way they grow, that they get as big as they're going to in a very short time and that a small one if left alone will not become larger with time, and indeed will probably rot, get picked by someone else, or get eaten by a wild turkey if left alone. Anyone with any thoughts on this?
Closing thoughts:
THEY'RE EVERYWHERE !!! and nowhere.
Try saying " WHOOP!" when you find one. It helps.
Sometimes you have to get real "small" to find 'em.


Sulfur shelf or Chicken Mushroom

From: Jia Li

Several months ago, my sister suddenly became enthusiastic about wild mushroom hunting. She told me that many of her friends from Europe hunted mushrooms regularly and that she often joined them. So on a regular fall day we scoured the forest floor in a park near my house for chanterelles. Instead of finding chanterelles, we came upon two beautiful mushrooms. A giant orange mushroom with yellow frilled petals lay at the foot of a decaying tree while a much smaller white spotted yellow mushroom grew a few feet away. Even though we suspected the orange mushroom of being a chicken mushroom we did not harvest it since my sister and I were both inexperienced in identifying mushrooms. As for the yellow mushroom, it looked too pretty to be edible. When we visited a book shop later that day, amazingly an identical photograph of the chicken mushroom was on the cover of Petersons Field Guide. Then we read that it was categorized as choice for edibility. The other mushroom, hoever, was in the amanita family. I'm glad we didn't touch that one. So we ran back to the woods and harvested the chicken mushroom which turned out to be two feet in diameter and about four pounds! My sister brought it to her workplace where there were many mushroom enthusiasts. Someone cooked it at they all ate it the next day. I asked them how it tasted. The unanimous response was, "Chicken!" That's what sparked my interest and ever since, I've been noting all the mushrooms that are in my park.


On Boletes

From Jayne

I find edible boletes (which I don't eat) with slugs and insect infestation. I almost never find them in good condition. Any suggestions (location is Adirondacks) or is this just not-good luck with boletes.

Thank you , Jayne.

Hi Jayne,

PorchiniObviously the bugs and slugs are mushroom hunters too! When the weather is warm it's all about serendipity... meaning finding the mushrooms right when they pop. My best advice is to keep looking,
esecially after a couple of cold nights in a row or the first fall frosts. Boletes that are popping during the cold spell will often be totally free of infestations because the cold kills or slows the bugs down. The best collections of King Boletes (Boletus edulis) have been right after frosts or near frosts - and right about this time of year (Mid Sept.) I never worry about slugs because they're on the outside and
I just remove them.

Happy Hunting!


From: Sid Lanier

Some of the best tasting mushrooms I have ever had came in a little package labeled Dried Yellow Boletus. They were actually very yellow, unlike the usual dried porcini. They had a wonderful aroma, and were unexcelled in a risotto or a sauce for steak, etc. My question is: Does anyone know which boletus species this "yellow boletus" of commerce might be? I found them several years ago in a gourmet food store, but have not seen them recently. They were packaged by Urbani? or Ubena?...something like that. If I knew the species I could pick my own, and dry them. Thanks.

Sid,

Sounds like Boletus ornatipes. Look it up in a field guide. It's usually listed as good but not choice as some specimens can be bitter, but perhaps that's what you like!
I've had them and they're Okay fresh. I never dried any.
Good luck

Roy


13.jpg (97426 bytes)Stinkhorns

From Joelle,

I need some help please regarding some mushrooms that are growing in my front yard. The mushrooms are extremely smelly. The very site of them makes my neighbors and I want to throw up. I also think they are causing my husbands headaches. The mushrooms are shaped like (and this is the only way to describe them) penis's. They are even pushing through the pavement . Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Joelle

Hi Joelle

You have a batch of Stink Horns. They won't last long but smell awfull while they're around. You could chop them off with a shovel and bury them if they really bug you. Most of the smell is at the sticky top of the mushroom. Clothspins might work too!
Good luck!


General Mushrooming

Hi.
I am going to work in US for several years, and I know that I'll miss my hobby of mushroom collecting.
Do you have any information if North-American mushrooms are similar to European? (Russian). I think that in New England area this should be the case, since its climate is much similar to Moscow region.
Do you now any good particular place there, where I can confirm my observation?

Sincerely,
Davran.

Davran,

There are tons of mushrooms in the Northeast forests and little competition. Mushrooming is not nearly as popular here as it is at home
for you. Having said that, your best bet for finding SAFE U.S. EDIBLES is to hook up with a mushroom club in the area that you'll be staying.
Here's a list:
http://www.mykoweb.com/na_mycos.html
Otherwise get a good field guide. The mushrooms you picked at home could have dangerous look alikes here.
Stay healthy, when in doubt, throw it out!
Good luck,

Roy.


From: Vladimir Jaffe

I used to be an avid mushroom hunter since I was about 10 years old when I was living behind the Iron Curtain near Moscow.

Ever since I emigrated to the United States some 8 years ago I never had a chance to exercise my lifelong obsession with mushroom picking.

Could anyone advise where mushrooms, especially Boletus Edulis, could be found in large enough quantities anywhere within a 2-3 hour drive from New York City?

I will greatly appreciate any advise.

Sincerely,
Vlad

Vlad,

I've had good luck finding Boletus edulis (AKA: Porcini or Cep) in groves of Norway Spruce anytime from late July to October.
Also, there are several NYC area mycological societies and mushroom clubs (courtesy of Myko Web):

Long Island Mycological Club
34 Heights Road
Northport, NY 11768

Mid Hudson Mycological Association
1846 Route 32
Modena, NY 12548

New York Mycological Society
140 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011

New Jersey Mycological Association
19 Oak Avenue
Denville, NJ 07834

What do you think out there? Can anybody from the NY area help Vlad? Send email so we don't let that concrete jungle keep Vlad from his lifelong obsession!


From: Ken Leonard

I'm interested in a nutritional component breakdown for various kinds of mushrooms, both wild and cultivated.
-----------------------------------------
From Alan Bessette and David Fischer's "Edible Mushrooms of North America" (pg. 4):
"The common cultivated button mushroom has only 30 calories per 100 grams, mostly in the form of protein!" "...fats and carbohydrate levels are negligible, and they contain no cholesterol." "Almost no information is available on the nutritional value of various kinds of wild mushrooms. We can only presume that there is some variation from species to species. As a rule, though, mushrooms are composed of about 90% water. They contribute some protein; B, C and D vitamins; and several minerals.

I know it's not much but that's all I have. Anybody out there have more info?


pheasantback.jpg (13409 bytes)
John's Picture

I am having a terrible time finding a reference to this mushroom, photo enclosed, an Oyster? I found 40lbs growing on a group of dead Jack pines? Please help, location Southcentral Wisconsin

Thanks,
John
_________________________

John,

Looks like you have Polyporous squamosus, the "Pheasant's Back" AKA Dryad's saddle.It's on page 123 of Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America. It should have a white pore surface on the bottom and when you break a piece off it should have a faint odor of watermellon.
Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America is a great book for this type of identification. Comprehensive but not overly scientific with recipes at the end.
You can check it out here: http://theforagerpress.com/bookstore/emona.htm
I forgot to mention. Although the mushroom is edible, you should not go by my visual only ID. Find a local eyewitness expert before ever consuming!!!!!!! If there's any doubt-- throw it out.

Hope that helps. Best of luck
-Roy


Happy Hunting!
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