Tag Archives: Ontario mushrooms

Ontario Mushrooms

I was just looking at the stats for this blog and I could not help but notice that many of the visitors here came looking for information about foraging for wild mushrooms or cooking wild mushrooms. There have been searches for edible mushrooms, poisonous mushrooms, and of course there have been the usual searches for King Bolete Map Ontario.

After a couple dry summers, we’ve had our share of rain this year and rain is a key ingredient in the fruiting of mushrooms, so perhaps that’s why all the interest. A persistent forager can do OK in Ontario forests. It isn’t spectacular the way it is on the west coast, but if you’re willing to put in the effort (and put up with the mosquitoes and deer flies), you can pick a modest basket of tasty edibles from time to time.

Some people think I’m out to discourage foragers because of a post I made here some time ago called “no edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario”. I thought I was having some harmless fun, but  some people thought I was seriously saying there are no edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario. One reader corrected me:  I am sorry to say, but I believe you are wrong friend. You see, I think your absolute statement of not one edible mushroom across all the forests and belts of SO is going a bit overboard. 

Another reader, who chose to just call himself Mr. Goat was more aggressive in censuring me:

You ignore his very partial list of commonly found edibles in Southern Ontario and decide to use passive aggressiveness (which you call humour) – hippy dippy (what exactly does that mean – probably some outdated cliche about drug users – I wonder how many prescriptions you take..) to imply that Kevin is wrong. So on the record, you are either very ignorant or egotistical. Possibly a good helping of both. Your neck of the woods may have nothing (in terms of mushrooms to eat) , and you may want to educate yourself before you rant and post definitive key words that could confuse those that have not yet had a proper grounding in the basics of mushroom identification. Shame on you.

This was a valuable lesson for me. I learned that the way a post is received may not always be the way it was intended, and I appreciate that Mr. Goat set me straight.

My advice to those of you who are thinking about taking to the woods to pick some dinner, is to do your homework and be very careful what you eat. On an average day in the woods, you are likely to find many more mushrooms that will make you sick  than tasty edibles. I know some people who simply won’t forage because they are afraid of being poisoned, but I’ve met other people who seem to have a devil-may-care attitude about it.

A field guide helps but many times a photo isn’t enough to make an identification. Lots of times I’ll find mushrooms I haven’t found before and I’ll try to make an identification, only to find that I  just can’t be sure. I’ve had some mushrooms appear in my backyard that I’m maybe 90% sure are blewitts. They’ve fruited twice. I’ve studied them. I’ve taken spore prints. I’ve photographed them and shown the photos to others who are more knowledgeable than I am. Still I couldn’t be sure. SO I DID NOT EAT THE MUSHROOMS.

There are lots of questions to ask. What is the texture like? Does it smell? Does it change colour if you bruise or cut it. Does it have gills? Pores? Teeth? What is the colour of the spores (learn to take a spore print). Is the cap dry or damp or slimy? If you break a piece off, does a latex-like substance exude? Look closely. Look at the details.

IMG_1784With experience, you learn to easily identify a number of tasty and safe mushrooms that are common in our area. If you have a friend who is willing to take you out to the woods for an identification lesson, that’s a great head start.

All I ask is that if you are not sure of your identification, don’t eat the mushrooms. Don’t say to yourself, “it sorta looks like this one in the book” and then take it home and eat it. There are a few mushrooms in Ontario that will kill you beyond doubt and they are not uncommon. Every year I find a few mushrooms I know are killers. There are many more which will simply cause some nasty gastro-intestinal distress. The saying among foragers is there are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.

If you pick mushrooms in the woods for consumption, please cook them. Some mushrooms are fine when cooked, but may give you an upset stomach uncooked. Others might be OK raw, but you don’t know what other forest critter has been crawling around your mushroom.

The next question is where to go. I recommend you find a forest near you and start looking. You have to start somewhere. No doubt some spots are better than others but the only way to find out is to get out in the woods and look. Last Sunday I visited 4 forests I had never been to before. A couple of them did not turn out to be very promising, but the other ones are places I’ll return to again.

Foraging….checking out some new spots

Today was an exploration day.  The dogs and I found ourselves in some interesting forests today, and as a bonus we found enough mushrooms for a couple dinners.

IMG_1788Mostly I found chanterelles. There were a few boletes around but they were mostly not in the best shape. IMG_1778IMG_1781In one forest we came across a creek. The dogs found it before I did and by the time I got there, they were already in the water.IMG_1770IMG_1775

The stump in the last picture was covered with small mushrooms. I have no idea what they might be. It was a striking image. IMG_1785

Chanterelle Omelet

IMG_1724First go to a forest and forage around until you gather a basket of primo chanterelles. If you find a few hedgehog and lobster mushrooms and an bolete or two, no problem. It’s all good.

Clean your mushrooms then saute them in a little vegetable oil. The mushrooms will release fluid and then take it up again. At that point they’ll start to colour up nicely.

Crack 3 eggs, add a splash of milk, and beat them for a minute with a fork. Add the eggs to the mushrooms. While the omelet cooks, grate a little hard cheese. I carefully chose the only hard cheese in the fridge. Use what you like. IMG_1725Sprinkle on a few hot chiles and grind some fresh pepper and add a pinch of salt.

IMG_1728Meanwhile, put some bread in the toaster. You’ll want some toast. Open a cool beer. Fold the omelet and slide it onto a plate. Serve with toast. You could chop up some chives or a little parsley and sprinkle it on top. If you squeeze a little ketchup on top, I won’t tell anyone.

Lobsters? Not yet.

Each year as the weather warms and people start thinking about foraging for wild mushrooms, 27th Street gets quite a few visits from people searching for this or that variety of mushroom. Over the past couple weeks for instance, there was quite a bit of activity from people thinking about getting outdoors to chase down some elusive morels (I went on one morel hunt and came back with a decent bag)

Today somebody landed here after searching Lobster Mushrooms Ontario. Lobsters – Hypomyces lactifluorum - are plentiful in some of Southern Ontario’s forests, but absent in others. However, we’re way too early to think about these beauties. Lobsters are summer mushrooms around here, not spring mushrooms. I usually start finding them sometime in July, but they really come into their own in August, and least in the forests in which I find them.

Among the places I find a lot of lobsters is a forest with trails that get a lot of use from hikers and bicycle riders. These tasty edibles like to grow close to the trail in this forest, so much so that when I go there, I simply walk the trail, grabbing mushrooms within plain sight.

Granted, they don’t look so appetizing. Often partially hidden in the forest duff, they appear to be contorted, dirty, and sometimes parts of them are bug-eaten. Only pick the firm, scarlett-coloured ones. Once they get a deeper red, they’re usually past their expiry date and should be avoided.

If you come across some lobsters this summer (presuming you can positively identify them – DON’T GUESS), you’ve found yourself a real treat. Clean them under running water. A toothbrush might work for this (so I keep thinking – I never actually use one). Slice the mushrooms into eighth-inch slices, then simply cut away anything that isn’t white or red.

I love eating these mushrooms because they maintain their firm texture through cooking and they’re really tasty too. As well, they’re common enough that even when I can’t find anything else, I can usually come home with enough lobster mushrooms for a couple dinners.

As for where to go to find some H. lactifluorum this summer, you’re on your own. The best thing to do is get out and explore some different forests, When you find something good, look around at the forest you’re in. What trees are there? Is it open or brushy? Start paying close attention, especially to the trees. Are you in an oak forest? Maple? Hemlock? What else is around?

Finally, I can’t stress enough, be careful with wild mushrooms. There are some nasty ones, including some deadly ones out there. Invest in a good field guide. Don’t ever eat any mushrooms you are not 100% sure of please.

A mushroom question

Somebody landed on this blog today after searching “Lactarius thyinos edibility”. The answer is that they’re delicious. They’re an orange milk cap – different from Lactarius deliciosus (the saffron milkcap) in that the thyinos don’t turn blue or green when bruised. They exude a bright orange liquid when you break off a piece. I found quite a few a couple years ago up in Muskoka, under some bushy cedars beside a lake. I cooked up about a dozen of the best specimens and they created an orangy sauce when cooked. I wish I knew a spot for these wonderful mushrooms close by.

Ah, but we still have plenty of winter to endure before the next mushroom season.

Shaggy Manes

The other day one of my colleagues spotted some shaggy manes growing on a lawn across the street from where I work. They are delicious mushrooms and there were lots of them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be able to use them that day, and shaggy manes are ephemeral. These are mushrooms that spread their spores using deliquescence. They dissolve themselves into black ink of their own creation.

I’m hoping there is going to be another flush of them one day soon. I’m ready to pop across the street on my lunch break to do a little harvesting.

A mycological adventure

A fellow named Jamie commented here at the land of milk & honey….he was interested in finding someone to lead a little mushroom walk at his cottage. I’m no pro-mycologist but I can identify a good number of tasty edibles and quite a few assorted other mushrooms, and it sounded like a fun idea. This morning I met him a the marina on his lake. Memphis and I hopped in his boat and off we went.

DSC04321We had exchanged a few emails during the week. He had found some blue mushrooms. Could they be blewitts? I suggested taking a spore print. Blewitts have pale pinkish-buff spore prints.

DSC04332Yikes – those mushrooms are not blewitts! Field guides can be dangerous things. You see a photo and a short description and it seems close to what you’ve found in the woods. Not so fast. There are look-alikes out there. You have to be certain if you plan to eat wild mushrooms. The field guide also lists the spore colour – if you aren’t certain of the ID, take a spore print.

DSC04326This one has everyone carefully combing the forest floor. Could it be a horn of plenty – Craterellus cornucopioides?



Memphis made a friend – a pup named Georgia. They had a great time together this afternoon.

Toothed Fungi
Toothed Fungi

Among the more interesting finds of the afternoon were two different edible toothed fungi – combed tooth and bear’s head tooth. These were both found growing on downed trees, a short distance from one another. Another edible mushroom found on dead wood was a chicken of the woods. If he’s lucky, Jamie will have another chicken in the same spot next year. A few other edibles were found – two varieties of Suillus – and also a few pear-shaped puff-balls and some honey mushrooms as well.

I had a fun time this afternoon – I got to make some new friends, enjoyed a great walk in the woods. We found some interesting mushrooms, and I had a chance to pass along some of my knowledge to others.

Mushroom walk

I was contacted recently on this blog by a fellow looking for someone to lead a mushroom walk up in cottage country. It’s getting right toward the end of our season here, but I agreed to do the walk on Saturday, and hopefully we’ll find some interesting mushrooms and some tasty edibles. I am not a mycologist. It’s just a hobby for me. I enjoy trying to identify mushrooms and I enjoy collecting tasty edibles for the table. I can identify quite a few species but there are hundreds and hundreds of different species in our woods. I’m sure we’ll find all kinds of things I won’t be able to identify – and a bunch of mushrooms I’m familiar with as well. These folks are pretty smart in seeking out someone to help them ID mushrooms. Even though I’m not a pro naturalist or mycologist, I’m sure by sharing some of my knowledge and experience, I can help a few people begin to learn for themselves.

Quite a number of people have found this blog by searching for info about Ontario mushrooms. I’d like to take a moment to remind people to be really careful about eating any mushrooms you pick in the woods – unless you’re 100% sure you know what you’ve got and you know it’s safe to eat. Also, even mushrooms known to be generally safe can cause stomach upset in some people, and certain edibles are more likely to do this than others. If you have identified a mushroom and you’re sure of the ID and you want to eat it, but sure you first cook up a little bit and eat that, and see how your body reacts – before enjoying more of the mushrooms.