Question: The past several weeks of rain have resulted in hundreds of mushrooms appearing throughout our garden. Can you provide any information on which ones might be edible and which ones are toxic?

Answer: Some edible mushrooms are very similar in appearance to poisonous kinds and may grow in the same habitat. Edible mushrooms are known to be safe to eat because they have been eaten frequently with no ill effects. Poisonous mushrooms are known because someone ate them and became ill or died. There is no test or characteristic to distinguish edible from poisonous mushrooms. Before eating any mushroom you will need to identify with certainty those species proven to be edible. At the same time, you should also learn to identify some of the common poisonous mushrooms, especially those that are similar in appearance to edible kinds.

Question: Over the years we have heard of these sure fired ways to determine which mushrooms are edible. Are they accurate?

Answer: Let's start with some of the more common expressions. Poisonous mushrooms tarnish a silver spoon. False. If it peels, you can eat it. False. All mushrooms growing on wood are edible. False. Mushrooms that squirrels or other animals eat are safe for humans. False. All white mushrooms are edible. False.

If you decide to go mushroom hunting, WSU horticulturists recommend the following:

First, be sure of your identification - eat only kinds known to be edible.

Do not eat mushrooms raw.

Eat only mushrooms in good condition.

Eat only a small amount the first time; even morels, generally considered to be excellent, may cause illness in some people.

Don't experiment. There is an old saying: "There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters!"

Question: Can you suggest some sources of information to help in mushroom identification?

Answer: The following books are excellent resources. Most contain photographs of mushrooms native to our coastal area. They may be available in local bookstores or in public libraries.

"Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America," by Kent and Vera McKnight which provides descriptions and color illustrations of 500 species; "Mushrooms of North America," by O.K. Miller which describes over 400 species with 292 color photographs;

"Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms," by Gary Lincoff with 756 color photographs and descriptions of all species; and

"The Mushroom Hunter's Field Guide," by A. H. Smith and Nancy Weber with 316 pages and 282 color photographs.

Question: We are worried that our dog may eat the mushrooms that have sprouted up in our garden. What is the best way to get rid of them? Is there any kind of spray we can use to prevent them?

Answer: There are no chemicals registered for preventing mushrooms. Where mushrooms are undesirable, frequent picking or mowing will remove them from sight and generally reduce their spread to other areas suitable for their growth. Dethatching will reduce the growth of mushrooms that feed on thatch in lawns.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For answers to local gardening questions, contact Master Gardener Rachel Gana at 642-8723 or e-mail her at: baiter1@pacifier.com.

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