Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On field mushrooms

Tall trees and mushrooms - http://morrie2.wordpress.com/2010/05/13/identifying-a-field-mushroom/ - has an excellent post on ID of field mushrooms of the various Agaricus species. We had some in supper tonight (and have been eating them fairly steadily, and I have a large fried and frozen supply, and about 2kg (wet) - or about 300 grams dry in the pantry cupboard. Having read up extensively, and talked to and show specimens to locals, I made up a cheat sheet for myself -- I recommend the Tall Trees and Mushrooms guide for more detail and pics, but for print-and-take-with-you... here is my personal cheat sheet. Understand this clearly: Eating wild mushrooms is dangerous passtime, and you do it at your own risk. Some can kill you, and some can have serious consequences. I'm not responsible for your decisions, you are. Remember: if in doubt - throw it out. Always ask locals advice and try to find someone who has real expertise to guide you.

My friend Morrie2 over at Tall Trees and Mushrooms (who knows more about this subject than I ever will) reckoned most of these sensible - except the first, as he reckons that would exclude a lot. Well, I live in a place of big paddocks, so it works for me. This advice (and it advice NOT a safe guarantee) applies here. I don't know about the rest of the world.

1)location - is open grassland/field - at least 10 metres from trees. Don't even look under trees or anywhere near rotting wood. (I know this cuts out a lot of edible mushrooms and a lot of area. At this stage my idea is over-cautious is best. We have lots of big paddocks here.) if it is growing in a cowpat, or moss or rotten wood leave it. You want grass around it.

2) how big is the mushroom, and what colour is it? If it is smaller than 5 cm cap ignore it. If the colour is anything other than a shade of mushroom-white (white with overlays of grey or brown) ignore it. (this hopefully takes out the galerinas.) And definitely ignore green shades (especially with white gills - Amanita phalloides - deadly - which shouldn't be growing out here anyway)

3) clear grass around the base of the mushroom to see if it has a volva. If it has leave it!!!! (Amanitas have volvas and A phalloides is deadly and shouldn't be growing out here anyway. But never take chances.)

4)Is the cap dry? good. If shiny/sticky, leave it.

5) Turn it over. Do gills go down the stem? - reject - if not: What color are the gills? If white or yellow or orange reject. If pink keep and see if they turn brown, if brown, then

5) Smell it. If it smells mushroom/anise-mushroom, good. If 'chemically' reject.

6) then check for an annulus (it must have one), check if the stem snaps cleanly from the cap, check if it peels easily.

7)back home check spore print - it should be brown.

8) cut and check staining. If yellow, discard. Pink or no stain is fine.

9) cook. If it smells chemically when cooking (indian ink/phenol) don't eat it. Eat one small slice. KEEP the rest of the mushroom unsliced, for ID if necessary. Do not eat any other sorts of mushroom. Wait 24 hours (at least) before eating more. If you get sick in any way - take the mushroom and yourself post haste to medical assistance.

Which all seems a great deal of hassle for some mushrooms - but they are very delicious and can be abundant and free. But be careful and read up and learn to recognise the toxic sp. (they don't look that like the edible field mushrooms, but people still make mistakes.)


  1. Odd thought -- here in Japan, we have cultivated mushrooms in the markets all the time. I wouldn't recommend the ones that are grown on wood -- I've seen a show talking about the stacking, inoculation, circulation, and all, and it sounded like a lot of work. But one variety seems to be grown on a mat or something? At least, from the way the blocks are sold in the store, that's what it looks like? How hard is it to cultivate your own?

  2. When we would go to Florida for Spring Break my friends were infatuated with the type of mushroom that grew in the cowpats. In fact, they'd bring back bags and bags to sell to others who fancied that particular mushroom.

    I'll stick to the morel, thank you. Or those found hiding under plastic. ;)

  3. Mike I wouldn't mind having a go at _cultivating_ the mushrooms that grow on wood. I just don't know enough to be happy just gathing them. Maybe eventually I will. Things like chicken-of-the-woods and oyster mushrooms and the rather odd looking jews ear are very distinctive. I know in Japan you can buy plugs of IIRC Shiitake mycelia. I've no knowledge at all about culivation though.

  4. Quilly - you've read my books - do you really think my imagination NEEDS or even could cope with hallucigens?:-) I stay a million miles from anything that have that sort of effect. Poison as far as I am concerned. Two asprin is as far toward any form of drug as I will reluctantly venture. People want advice on that sort of thing - I am not a good source. I do however look forward to tasting morel one day.
    BTW That Backwoods Home site is a serious distraction. Good site. And I went and had a look in the new heater's manual - turns out that slow combustion - which is what these stoves are designed for (use less fuel more efficiently) - means a cool flue which is when creosote condenses and builds up. That's why in South Africa where it's big fat open fires it's much less likely, and I hadn't come across the problem. I had read about chimney sweeps in Europe but I thought it was so the fire burned better! Ignorance is bliss so why wasn't I supremely happy?

  5. See, the only mushrooms I've been game to collect from the wild have been pine mushrooms, which are actually introduced, and grow under (surprise) pine trees. Which are all over the little town where I grew up in the Blue Mountains.

    I rather inadvertently found them during a visit home a few years back and - not without trepidation but with some confidence - picked a large box of huge, unblemished, clean mushrooms, and took them home (to Sydney, at the time).

    I was told "if a garlic clove turns black when you cook it with them then they're poisonous". I promptly burnt the garlic clove I put in with them, decided it was all cobblers and there were no other mushrooms that looked anything like pine mushrooms, and cooked them up with garlic, thyme and cream.

    They were utterly delicious.

    I wouldn't be game to pick anything else unless I had someone else with me who would also die when eating whatever we picked :)

    btw, in response to your grumbly comment on the Eat Australia blog, I've completely resurrected it and am now over-posting. Just so you know :) (and because I'm not a spammer, I'm not even putting the URL in this comment).

  6. infoaddict - I am sorry I came across as grumbly (grin) too accurate sometimes. I can be a grumpy old man. Was this the one about seafood? Eat Australia is a good site and I have no problem with it being cross-referenced here.

    Pine mushrooms - with hollow stems and an orange ring? AKA pine rings? or a bolete? (I HATE common names when it comes to trying to id edibles. bluefish, tailor, shad, elf... all the same fish)

    The Agaricus field mushrooms really aren't hard to ID.

  7. I was just amazed at the amount of arrangement, rearrangement, get the shade and the light right, now move them again, and so on that was shown behind getting a crop off the wood. Of course, this fellow had a large area set up for it. Might be simpler if you weren't trying for commercial quantities.
    Grow-your-own mushrooms seems as if it would be reasonable, but I have no knowledge.
    Hum, I would offer to bring you some if I ever get down that way, but I'm imagining the border folks finding mushrooms in the baggage. I'll bet they wouldn't be happy.

  8. Mike - PLEASE don't. 1) they'd fine you. 2)I don't want to be the guy that accidentally introduces anything. 3)Pete's ant alcohol probably already has me listed as a reciever of dubious goods!

    It's a step we'll get to investigating. Just... needs a place on the list.

  9. Dave,
    I often inspire the wrath of SHMBO because I simply refuse to take anything...even aspirin...unless it is life or death. I've found that my own imagination is a serious enough drug to deal with. For good or for ill.

    That's why it is the few that are allowed to alter, for even a while, the fantasy in my head.

    Thanks for throwing some new characters in there...I seriously think there is a sequel (in fact I am fervently hoping for)to Dragon's Ring. All that is for later.

    Meanwhile, Have you thought of the East Side of Flinders? It seems that, from my cursory look, that it would have the sorts of estuaries that crabs would like.

    I imagine that there is a completely different biosphere on the East side as opposed to the West. The East side seems boggy and marshy and that calls out to my Scotts-Irish genes....FOOD!

    I mean foraging around rocks has it's certain call; estuaries abound with yummies.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong because I come from the area with the most abundant sea life in the world. On the Gripping Hand...how better to learn about alien existence?

    Sorry to write so much. My fingers feel like they want to talk. :)

  10. Quilly the east is flatter and wetter - but a lot of those 'estuaries' are saline lakes cut off from the sea. Good for ducks, not much else. The east coast is also a LOT rougher sea conditions - which is not a deal breaker for me, just a factor. It's also unfortuntely prime farm land - a lot of it, and not cheap, and tends to BIG properties. Beyond our means :-(. But it's not off the list -- right now we'll take a serious look at any area besides in the two main towns. I suspect finances will dictate a place back in the hills not at the beach or on the east side - stoney and not too fertile. But there is quite a lot of game there and you just can't be that far from the sea on Flinders.