Hi! Hi! I love your blog a lot <3
I was wondering: do all the mushrooms you eat taste the same? Or are some more "spongy" than others? Are some spicey? How do you know that the mushrooms you eat are 100% THAT mushroom and not a closely-the-same-but-toxic-or-worse mushroom? Im sorry if that was an overwhelming question, haha! You dont have to answer if you dont want to, but you HAVE to know that I LOVE your blog! 💙
My very first ask! 😱😍 Thank you so much for brightening my little night! It's not a problem at all, and not-at-all overwhelming!
This answer might be though....
1. The mushrooms do not all taste the same! Some taste meatier--more savory (like chicken of the woods, or maitake--or what I call tree-chicken and tree-bacon respectively); some taste almost more like crab (Hericium)--this one can be a bit spongy; some taste a little peppery (black trumpet); some taste very earthy and a little smoky (old man of the woods)--but I might have just burnt that last one 😂. Sorry, Old Man: it will probably happen again.
2. Some mushrooms are great to forage because there aren't any mushrooms that look like that mushroom and are toxic. Like shaggy mane, giant puffball, or black trumpets (below).
I mean, you might confuse this with a blue chanterelle or pig's ear, I guess, in which case you have erred deliciously (Oh man I really want an apron with a picture of a black goat that says err deliciously on it now 😂--sorry, distractable)
Clyde Christensen talks about the "fool proof four," meaning fairly common mushrooms that are pretty safe for beginning foragers because it's really difficult to confuse them with something toxic (his are giant puffball, morels, chicken of the woods (below), and shaggy mane I think?).
Then, you have mushroms that might be confused with something toxic, just because something exists in your region which looks something like it and is toxic. Like, enoki mushrooms (something I'm on the look out for now) look like deadly galerina--a mushroom with the same amatoxin as the destroying angel which (if the name didn't give it away) can kill you.
But, even though they look very similar, there are reliable differences--like their spore print. If you remove the cap of an enoki, and leave it on a piece of paper, foil, or glass for a few hours, it will drop a white spore print. Deadly galerina drop a sort of rusty brown.
Some mushrooms are very rude and can't be distinguished from their toxic look-alikes with a spore print. Lots of white gilled mushrooms drop a white spore print, including some that you can eat and some that you can eat but only once.
But there's always something that distinguishes them, whether it's the shape of the base, the way the gills are attached to the stem (or not), the color, their environment, the texture, the color it turns when you cut into into it--and the more of these distinguishing features you know, the more confident you'll be that you have the right mushroom.
But, first time I forage something I cook up a small piece and eat it, wait 12 hours or so, meditate on the transience of life and my own mortality (kidding...mostly), and get really paranoid about any of my bodily sensations for a while 😂....Also bc you never know when you're going to have a sensitivity to something, even when it is the correct mushroom. I mean, kiwi is edible but I don't have a good time when I eat it. Though with those shaggy manes I found today I did not do that bc if I'd waited that long they'd be goo. I have yet to experience any ill effect from a mushroom, but if I do I will be in for a slightly less bad time than if I'd eaten a whole bunch of it at once.
But you get to know mushrooms, and trust yourself and your own ID and the waiting thing doesn't feel necessary any more. There are so many mushrooms and it can be pretty overwhelming. When I first started learning to formally identify mushrooms, I was so sure I would never eat something I'd foraged myself. I just didn't have confidence in myself...but I unintentionally cultivated that confidence when I was just having fun looking at and reading about mushrooms.
It's not at all an exaggeration to say that this hobby has been wonderful for my mental health, especially my anxiety....and I mean like, often-can't-leave-the-house and won't-answer-the-phone anxiety.
Learning mushrooms is a bit like moving to a new city or even country, if you're very new. There's all these streets and stores and people you don't know. But you start exploring bit by bit, maybe doing some research beforehand. Or you see something interesting, go "What that??" and research it after. And each time you learn one little area, you develop an eye (and nose) for what's most relevant and the vocabulary you need, and learning becomes easier and easier.
This metaphor got away from me. You don't do it all at once is my point. 😂
I take mushrooms one at a time, learn everything I can about that species, and then they start to feel familiar and almost sort of friendly. And I pass them on a hike and wave and say, "Hey Strobilomyces strobilaceus, how you doing, how's the spores?"
And then they don't say anything because they're a fungus. And then sometimes I take them home and eat them because they're also an edible fungus 💙
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