Upset stomach mushrooms

Somebody landed on this blog after searching “upset stomach mushrooms”, and this got me thinking that since a lot of would-be mushroom-hounds have been visiting this blog, I should make a few comments.

I don’t know how many species of mushrooms there are in Ontario – at least hundreds, maybe over a thousand. Most of those species are not good to eat. When I say not good to eat, I mean they can cause anything from mild gastro-intestinal upset to death. Yes there are killer mushrooms in Ontario.

I know there are people who eat mushrooms based on vague information passed down from past generations. I’ve heard stories of so-called poison tests involving silver dimes and so forth, and I know there are some people who traditionally go  through a specific rigamarole involving multiple boilings or pickling or whatever.  People I’ve met in the woods have had buckets of mushrooms I know are very difficult to identify as safe. They tell me, “I’ve eaten these for 30 years and I’m OK”.

I don’t know by what streak of luck or by what voodoo these folks haven’t been poisoned.  Maybe they’ve learned by experience and have clues to identification I don’t know. They’re going to do what they do and I hope they’re OK. Since I know there are nasty mushrooms out there, and since I don’t want to eat poisonous ones and die, I try to identify mushrooms and in truth, each year I mostly pick for the table the same handful of species that I can easily identify.

Each fall a few mushrooms grow out of the mulch I have in part of my back yard. I think maybe they are blewits. I’ve picked them, taken spore prints, compared them to pictures, then I’ve discarded them. I’m just not sure. Perhaps if a more experienced picker looked at them and said yay or nay I might be convinced. The characteristics seem almost right. Almost. But there’s no such thing as being almost poisoned.

I know people who eat orange-capped scaber-stalks – Leccinums. I also know there have been possible poisonings from these mushrooms.  One person I know who eats them says, no, they’re fine I eat them all the time and I’ve never had a problem.  He continues to eat them without consequence. It’s been suggested to me that the ones that caused the poisonings were a western sub-species and the ones here in Ontario are fine. Maybe. Still, when I see these in the woods I leave them be. Who is right? I don’t know. I do know that one of the people who has been made sick by orange-capped scaber-stalks is a very respected mushroom expert. I’m OK with being wrong in this case.

When I look at the stats for this blog I see that many people stop and look at my mushroom posts. I’m posting these notes because I don’t want anyone to be sick. Please identify mushrooms carefully before eating them. Please be sure every time. Be careful about what you read on the internet….it many not all be 100% accurate. Sometimes a photo is not enough to do a reliable identification.

 

 

Question of the Day

Somebody landed on this blog after searching the question, “Are there poisonous mushrooms in Ontario?

A. Yes, plenty. Be careful please.

 

The Mysterious Forest

Years ago, before I started paying attention to mushrooms, the forest was something I quickly walked through on my way to a trout stream. When you slow down and start to look carefully, though, you can find the strangest things growing in the woods. IMG_2014These mushrooms look like something you might see under the sea. Comparing to photos and descriptions in my field guides and online, I’d say these are very likely Clavulinopsis fusiformis, the Spindle-Shaped Coral.  If so, these are in fact edible, but very bitter, making them unpalatable.

Craterellus ignicolor?

Please excuse the quality of the photograph…I was rushing because it was drizzling some and I didn’t want to get my camera phone wet.IMG_2006 We found some of these on the Go Home Lake mushroom hunt. I checked some different references and have seen them referred to as trumpet chanterelles or as Craterellus ignicolor. I also saw reference to trumpet chanterelles associated with the name Cantharellus tubaeformis, and a reference that suggested these small chanterelles are all the same.  In any case they are a tasty edible mushroom, and this is the first time I’ve seen (and eaten) specimens of them.

Speaking of eating mushrooms, my friends Robin and Jamie cooked up an amazing mushroom soup featuring all the different kinds of mushrooms we picked on Saturday. This they served with fried catfish (good job fishing Bill!) and crusty bread. What a feast!

Go Home Lake Mushroom Hunt

Saturday morning I drove up to Go Home Lake, where I was invited to lead a mushroom hunt – the second annual. I’m no pro mycologist, but I can reliably identify a good number of tasty edibles as well as some of the nasty poisonous ones, and I was confident that I could again show a group some of the mushrooms that are good to eat from our forests.

Not long after I arrived, a downpour began which more or less stopped at the appointed start time. Still we had a group of enthusiastic cottagers, eager to learn a little about the mushrooms in their back yard.

Of course, if you’re a dog, the rain means mud-puddles and everybody knows dogs love mud puddles.

Memphis vs muck

Memphis vs muck

We did find a good variety of tasty edible mushrooms, including horn of plenty (trumpets), hedgehogs, chanterelles, puffballs and corals. We found enough that everyone on the hunt left with a good selection of tasty mushrooms.

Hedgehog

Hedgehog

Horn of Plenty

Horn of Plenty

There was even time for a little fishin’ after the hunt and again today.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Go Home Lake bass

Go Home Lake bass

This morning, Jamie cooked a fantastic bbq breakfast of bacon, omelets and pancakes, served with maple syrup Jamie made this year from local trees.

Of course this cottage life does take a lot out of a guy….

Tuckered Georgie crashes

Tuckered Georgie crashes

 

Look what I found…

I drove a couple hours north of the city early this morning in search of some brook trout in a particularly gorgeous and challenging trout stream I know.  As a bonus I found a few edible mushrooms.  These are “milk caps” or Lactarius mushrooms.

DSC06745When you break them, they exude an orange latex-like substance.  These are Lactarius thyinos. If you can identify these mushrooms as Lactarius, you will know you have L. thyinos because they are the only one of the milk caps with orange milk that does not bruise green.  I found them right where they were supposed to be – in a cedar forest. DSC06744  More common in our area are L. deliciosos, which look similar until you bruise or break them, when the bruised area turns a greenish colour.  In my opinion, L. thyinos is a much superior find.

What big teeth you have…

Here you can see the underside of a couple of the Hydnum repandum I found this morning. As you can see, these hedgehog mushrooms have teeth. Some people remove the teeth before cooking, but I don’t see any need to do that.

DSC06482DSC06481

Hydnum repandum – Hedgehog mushrooms

You don’t see the distinctive teeth on hedgehog mushrooms until you pick them. Tuffy P and I picked a few this morning. Here’s how they appear in the forest.

IMG_1851 2IMG_1846IMG_1850There are two types of hedgehog mushrooms, Hydnum repandum and Hydnum umbilicatum. These are Hydnum repandum. Hydnum umbilicatum in our area appear with flatish caps close to the ground, with a “belly button” on the cap. I have found they tend to be more orangy-tan than the others. Both are equally excellent to eat. Just be sure you know what you’ve picked 100%.

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