Wild, edible mushrooms of NW Ontario
A lot of people are hesitant of picking wild mushrooms as they have such a bad reputation. Identifying edible mushrooms is about using your head, and the traits of the mushrooms you are looking for. Never eat a mushroom unless you are 100% sure of what it is.
There are a few mushrooms here that would be very hard to mis-identify and using very specific identification traits you can be confident in your identification and enjoy some of the better tasting wild mushrooms out there.
Steps for identification
- What time of year? [spring, summer, fall]
- Where it is growing? [on old decaying wood, in the ground]
- How does it grow? [clumps together, alone or in groups spread out]
- Where does it grow? [hardwood forest, softwood forest, grass, note any identifiable trees]
- What configuration are the gills? [gills, pores, teeth, false]
- What colour are the gills?
- Press on the gills. Did they change colour?
- What colour is the top of the cap?
- What colour is the stem?
- Is there a ring around the stem?
- Scratch/cut the mushroom. What colour if any does it turn?
- Take a spore print. What colour is the spore print?
Gill Types: Note colour, staining and type of gills present.
True Gills: narrow platy fins radiating from the stalk out to the tips of the caps. Note the density colour and the bruising colour of the gills. Honey mushrooms are good local example.
Pores: No defined gills as above, instead a series of pores under the cap. This is a hallmark of Bolete mushrooms. Boletes are many and varied in their edibility and or toxicity.
Teeth/spines: Gills appear as narrow teeth or spines hanging from the cap. Scaly Hedgehog mushrooms are a local variety.
False Gills: No true gills, instead may have ridges that appear as gills, however they are not easily breakable, thin or platy. Lobsters and Chantrelles are great examples of false gills.
Tips and Tricks
Never eat a mushroom you are not 100% sure of its identification. Even when 100% sure, only ingest a small amount as some people have reactions to normally edible mushrooms. Always cook them first.
The underside of mushrooms are its gills. They are typically fragile blades, some have spines/”teeth”, some are more ridges, some are pores and others have no gills at all.
Spore print mushrooms – place the cap, gills down on a piece of white AND a piece of dark paper for an hour or two. This will tell you the colour of its spore print.
Stay away from young “button stage” mushrooms and older, bruised or damaged mushrooms.
Where does the mushroom grow? On wood? Mossy forest? Hardwood? Softwood?
How does the mushroom grow? Clusters? Alone? In spaced out groups?
What time of year is it? Most mushrooms have a season, finding a fall mushroom in the spring means its not likely what you were looking for.
Start out with easier mushrooms, join groups and go on identification walks. Always ask for help with identification.
Identification and resources
It is important to identify and be sure of edible plants, mushrooms and berries in the wild. There are numerous resources available however nothing is better than going with an expert and growing your knowledge over time.
Pictures and videos are very important and a simple google search (images) will return a wide range of a specific plant you are looking for. There are numerous Facebook groups as well, where the users are usually more than happy to help identify something. Simply upload a good quality picture (or 3 or 4 from different angles) and see what the collective consensus is.
Keep in mind that no one can identify by picture alone 100% of the time.