Best time for mushroom hunting?

Somebody landed on this blog after searching “best time for mushroom hunting in Southern Ontario”. Lots of people think the best time is now. I know this because there are a few cars at just about every forest I know and all the obvious places are now mushroom-free zones.

For me the best time is anytime but when the forests are crawling with foragers. This is the time of year I stop. It’s been a pretty good season for foraging for certain species. I haven’t been out nearly as many times as I have on some other years, but I’ve done pretty well when I have ventured into the woods. So I’ll leave the honey mushrooms and any other goodies to the crowds. Have fun. I’ll be back out come morel season in the spring.

Memphis and Georgie in the forest

Traffic going north yesterday morning was crazy, with weekend cottagers making their weekly pilgrimage. We avoided the 400 and took a leisurely drive up 27. I collected some edible mushrooms and we went for a long walk. When we got back to the car, George sat down about 15 feet from the car and refused to come when called. Instead, he got up, turned and walked back into the forest. Later, when we got home I bathed both dogs and brushed them out. They can pick up a lot of dirt plus burrs and stickers in the forest.


Best mushroom field guide?

Somebody landed on this blog today after searching “best mushroom field guide for Ontario”.  I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before. I use two.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.31.33 PMScreen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.30.14 PMThey are the Audubon guide by Gary Lincoff and Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada by George Barron. They’re organized differently and depending what I’m looking for I use one or the other. Normally I have both in my car when I’m out chasing mushrooms. I’ve been told the Barron guide is the most accurate, but I have no way of validating that (except that the statement came from a fellow who knows more about mushrooms than I’m ever likely to know).

I’d like to ask the rest of you Ontario mushroom hounds, what guide do you use?


I headed out early this morning in search of some morels.  I first visited a spot that has been reliable for me in the past, but didn’t find a single morel. I was disappointed because I have heard reports of some finds in our area and I really hoped to find some this season.

I decided to go for a hike on a nearby trail, but I wasn’t hopeful – I had looked there in the past and had never struck gold.

IMG_1317I was surprised to find several nice yellows right beside the trail, just a two minute walk in from where I parked my car. I thought, wahoooo, I’m going to come home with bags of tasty mushrooms, but then nothing. I walked and I looked and I looked and I walked, and found nothing for the next 3/4 hour – until I came upon a number of trees that I thought looked promising. In this spot I started to find mushrooms again. They were not concentrated. I’d find one here, one there. Some trees had two or three mushrooms under them; others had nothing at all. In all I found about 30 morels – not a huge haul, but nothing to sneeze at either.


I went for a hike today, scouting around to see if any yellow morels may have started fruiting. I didn’t see any morels, and judging from what I saw today, I’d say we’re still a week early. (all of this is entirely in my imagination of course, as any old fool knows there are no edible mushrooms in Ontario).

Even with no mushrooms to show for it, the hike was excellent and the rain held off until after I got home.

A few thoughts on toxic wild mushrooms

Lots of people tell me they would never pick wild mushrooms for the table because they are afraid of being poisoned. I’m OK with this because it means there are more of those tasty mushrooms available for me in local forests.

No doubt there are some nasty, in fact deadly mushrooms in our forests. There are also quite a number of them that will give you a serious belly-ache and a bad case of the runs but won’t kill you. There is really just one rule. Be 100% sure of any mushroom you are eating. And, don’t eat the poisonous ones. If somebody tells you, oh my uncle Bud has eaten these for 30 years and he’s fine, but you can’t identify the mushroom, just don’t eat it. If you are 95% sure of your identification and you’re tempted to think 95% is good enough, just don’t eat it. When it comes to eating stuff I find in the forest, I’m very conservative.

I’ve had many conversations with people who have stories about people with loads of experience picking mushrooms poisoning themselves because the mushrooms they picked and ate looked exactly like the edible mushroom they have been picking and eating for many years. It’s true that there are some poisonous mushrooms that look a lot like tasty edibles, and in fact I avoid any mushrooms that I can’t positively identify 100% of the time. I see some pickers in fall each year picking mushrooms I can’t positively identify. For instance I see people with bags of red Russulas. I can’t tell the difference between the poisonous varieties of red Russulas and the good ones, so I just don’t pick them. Somebody told me these guys do it by taste. Well, good luck to them. Just because they eat them and don’t get sick doesn’t mean I’m going to do it.

Let’s look at one story that was in the news. It’s the story about Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer, who managed to poison himself and 4 others. Here’s what Elizabeth Grice wrote in the Telegraph

Evans is a knowledgeable countryman who’d enjoyed mushroom expeditions since he was a boy. He’d been told just the place to find ceps and chanterelles and came back with a basketful of what he thought were Boletus edulis, or ceps. He was greeted like a returning hero. “Fantastic!” they said. No one noticed they were the deadly webcap, Cortinarius speciosissimus, a mushroom that damages the liver, kidneys and spinal cord. No one consulted the fungi guidebook in the kitchen.

“It had been 10 years since I’d picked ceps and I thought: these are a bit more ginger-coloured than I remember. I didn’t spot the crucial difference – that they had gills and ceps don’t.”

This apparently really happened. This guy needed a kidney transplant because he picked and ate wild mushrooms without paying any attention to identification. All boletes have pores on the under side of their caps. Cortinarius have gills. This is one of the first things you notice when you see a mushroom. Does it have pores? Does it have gills? Does it have teeth? It’s the very beginning of any attempt to identify a mushroom.

I can identify a good number of tasty edible mushrooms with certainty. I can also identify some of the nastiest killer mushrooms. Between those two groups are many, many species of mushrooms. I can identify some of them but many of them I can’t identify with certainty (and in some cases I can’t even get close). I keep trying to learn more species each year because it interests me, but but some mushrooms are very tricky to ID.

Some people have allergies to some wild mushrooms. Assuming you’ve identified the mushroom with certainty, but you’ve never eaten it before, cook up and eat a small amount and see how your body reacts before having a full meal of them.


Somebody landed on this blog after searching “where to find wild hedgehog mushrooms in Ontario”. I just want to say, I’ll never tell….er I mean, there are no wild hedgehog mushrooms in Ontario. Check Quebec, I hear there are plenty there. And Manitoba too….

Careful what you eat…

Somebody landed on this blog today after searching “can mushrooms give upset tummy.”

Yes, mushrooms can give upset tummy. Some wild mushrooms found in Ontario can make you very sick and some others can kill you dead dead dead dead dead.

During mushroom season, I post about picking wild mushrooms regularly and try to regularly add in a warning. Still I worry. I have seen people in the woods convince themselves that very difficult to identify mushrooms are safe to eat. They might get lucky, but then again they might not.

I’m very conservative when it comes to picking mushrooms for the table. “Pretty sure” just doesn’t cut it. I’ve been trying to identify mushrooms for a few years now. I know a bunch of them very well but there are many more that I really can’t identify accurately. I work at getting better at identification. I’ve read some books and I’ve even taken one course – but as I’ve said, I’m very conservative about what I eat. I suggest you should be too.

Please be very sure about your identification before you eat any wild mushrooms.

Mushroom, wine AND beer festival? almost perfect

The folks in Mendocino County are trying to cover all the baes with their Mushroom, Wine and Beer Festival. Next year they should step up their game and make it the Mendocino County Mushroom, Wine, Beer, Scotch, Trout and Old Time Music Festival. That would be just about enough to get me thinking about California.  Thanks East Texas Red for pointing me to this.