Mushroom hunting in the woods can be a fun and rewarding experience if you know what to look for. There are many popular edible mushrooms in the woods, such as morels, hen-of-the-woods and boletes, among others. However, some mushrooms have poisonous lookalike,s so when in doubt, it's best to throw it out.
Puffball mushrooms are round in shape and can be white, grey or tan in colour. Puffballs can be found in woods, pastures, yards, near dead trees and around desolate areas in the late summer or fall months. To accurately determine if the mushroom is indeed a puffball mushroom, it should be sliced open. The inside of the mushroom should be completely white and plain-looking. There should also be no sign of emerging gills or a stalk.
The shaggy mane mushroom is a large, delicate mushroom that has an elongated white cap with bushy, brown, upturned scales and whitish gills. It can be found in yards, pastures and wood chips in the spring, summer and fall months. As the shaggy mane ages, its gills and cap breakdown into a black liquid leaving behind only the tall stalk which is usually between 4 inches and 6 inches in height. The shaggy mane mushroom should be picked before its cap disintegrates into a black ink and should be eaten the same day it is picked.
Coral fungi are mostly tan, whitish, yellowish, pinkish and, sometimes purplish, in colour. The coral fungi resembles ocean coral with its branching stems which can reach up to 8 inches in height. They can be found in wooded areas, on decomposing trees or growing on the ground in the summer and fall months. Coral fungi may have a laxative effect when eaten if it bruises easily when handled, has a squishy base or a harsh taste.
Morel mushrooms have pits and ridges and resemble a spongy honeycomb and are brown, yellow or black in colour. The top of the cap connects to its whitish stem and they range in size from 2 inches to 12 inches in height. Morels can be found in damp wooded areas as well as river bottoms in the spring and early summer months. Morels have a poisonous lookalike, called false morels, which have a brain-like top instead of a pitted top like true morels. Morels should be checked for insects and washed with care before eaten.
The bearded tooth is a mushroom that closely resembles a furry, white, animal paw when it is young and turns yellow as it ages. It can be anywhere from 4 inches to 12 inches in diameter and is found on logs, trees or stumps in the summer and fall months. The bearded tooth tastes the best when it is young and white in colour.
Oyster mushrooms are oyster-shaped, white-, ivory- or tan-coloured mushrooms that can be found year-round on trees or logs. These mushrooms range in size from 2 inches to 8 inches in diameter are usually found in clusters. While the oyster mushroom has quite a few lookalikes, none of them are poisonous.
Chanterelles are trumpet-shaped mushrooms that are brownish-black, yellow or orange in colour. They range in size from 1 inch to 6 inches in height and 1/2 inch to 6 inches in width. Chanterelles can be found on the ground in forested areas in the summer and fall months. These mushrooms have a poisonous lookalike called the Jacko'-lantern. Verify that the mushroom has dull edges and intertwined ridges as opposed to the knifelike gills of the Jacko'-lantern mushroom. Chanterelle mushrooms are known for their fruity flavour.
Boletes have a spongy appearance underneath their cap and are either brownish or reddish-brown in colour. Boletes can get as large as 10 inches in height and 10 inches in width and can usually be found in wooded areas in the summer and fall months. Boletes that are orange or red in colour should be avoided as they are poisonous.
Sulphur shelf mushrooms are orange-red or salmon in colour with a light, yellow pore surface underneath and no stem. The sulphur shelf can be found growing on trees or fallen logs in wooded areas in the summer and fall months. While this mushroom is safe to eat, it may cause an allergic reaction in some people. This mushroom also has the reputation for tasting like chicken when cooked.
The hen-of-the-woods mushroom is greyish-brown in colour with a white pore surface and multiple overlapping caps. These mushrooms can be found growing in wooded areas at the base of trees or on logs in the summer and fall months. They can grow as large as 45.4kg. and typically sprout up in the same place annually.