Question: We have a lot of mushrooms showing up now that the fall rains have arrived. Are they safe to eat?

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 to edible kinds.

Question: Are "toadstools" edible?

Answer: The word "toadstool" is often used to indicate a poisonous mushroom. Since there is no way to distinguish between a so called "toadstool" and an edible mushroom, it is more accurate to speak of poisonous mushrooms or edible mushrooms.

Question: Have you 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 mushrooms in meadows and pastures are safe to eat." False

• "All white mushrooms are safe." False

• "Poisonous mushrooms can be detoxified by parboiling, drying or pickling." False

If you decide to go mushroom hunting, WSU horticulturalists 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 persons. 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. (A Peterson guide) Houghton Mifflin Co. 500 species described and illustrated in color. Another 500 discussed.

• "Mushrooms of North America," by O. K. Miler. E. P. Dutton and Co. Over 400 species described; 292 color photographs; illustrated glossary.

• Audubon Society "Field Guide to North American Mushrooms," by Gary Lincoff. Alfred A. Knopf. 926 p. 756 color photographs with descriptions of all species.

• "The Mushroom Hunter's Field Guide," by A. H. Smith and Nancy Weber. Univ. of Mich Press. 316 p. and 282 color photographs.

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