Many Missouri mushrooms are edible, but proper identification is essential to avoid illness and even death. If you’re mushroom hunting — whether for ID or for the table — get guidance here.

ENJOY — BUT APPROACH WITH CAUTION! Mushrooms play extremely important roles in the ecosystem, and some are famously delicious. Some are also famously deadly.

Don’t eat a mushroom unless you’re certain it’s an edible species! Our mushrooming topics can help you find, collect, identify, and prepare edible mushrooms.

WHEN/WHERE CAN I FIND MUSHROOMS? Look for them from early spring (our coveted morels) to late fall (oysters and lion’s mane). Morels have a short, specific growing season of just several weeks in spring, while oyster mushrooms can be found from spring clear through to the beginning of winter — if weather conditions aren’t too harsh. Some species, such as oysters and deadly galerinas, are even known to push up through snow on fallen trees after a few above-freezing winter nights.

Some mushrooms grow only on dead or dying trees, and others grow only from soil. Knowing where a particular species grows, and when it typically appears, is crucial to correct identification. If you’re planning on eating wild mushrooms, nothing less than a 100 percent positive ID will do.

At the first signs of spring, some dedicated morel hunters start tracking soil temperatures, watching for the ground to warm to a consistent 53F before they make their first foray of the year. Others start morel hunting after the first week of night temperatures above 50F. But the single most important factor for any Missouri mushrooms to appear is adequate moisture. If there hasn’t been enough precipitation, or if the substrate (soil or a log) dries out, mushrooms refuse to emerge. A few days after a good soaking rain in any season is the time to grab your basket or camera and head into the woods. You’re nearly guaranteed to find some mushrooms! IS

THIS MUSHROOM EDIBLE? Short answer: there is no test to determine edible versus poisonous mushrooms. Ignore any advice such as “a poisonous mushroom will tarnish a silver spoon,” “if it bruises blue, it’s poisonous,” and so on. These are folk myths; they are completely untrue. Even seeing evidence of animals eating them won’t work here. The only way to tell if a mushroom is edible is by positive identification.

~ There’s more to this story in today’s Journal ~