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Mycophagy: Best Edible Mushrooms

Design and text by Ursula Hoffmann, Recipes from many people (we hope)

Make sure that all mushrooms you target for the table are identified correctly and safe to eat. See

Poisonous Mushrooms and Look-alikes
Edibles and Poisonous Look-alikes
Images of edibles and poisonous look-alikes

Collect your edible mushrooms clean, i.e., cut them off from the base (leaving the base in the ground or on the tree), and put each kind into a separate wax or paper bag or into a clean basket. Do not collect mushrooms growing near a highway or in an area where herbicides might have been used, such as a golf course. Lactarius volemus and hygrophoroides: do not bruise or cut them; these species will taste much better if taken home, washed intact, and cut just before sautéing.

Cut off dirt and any soft or worm-infested rotten pieces. If a mushroom, such as an oyster mushroom, has beetles, soak it in the sink, in a bowl of salted water: the beetles will abscond.

Washing? Some people say: Never! and use a soft brush to get rid of some sand. After grinding my teeth on sandy food, and picking a slug out of my salad and a morel, and pine needles out of my cooked chanterelles in Munich, I say: wash everything, from meat and potatoes to asparagus and mussels and mushrooms -- thoroughly! Put the cleaned and washed mushroom into a strainer lined with paper towel, cover them with paper towel, and refrigerate for an hour or so, to dry them sufficiently for drying or freezing or sautéing.

Drying -- this works well for boletes and morels and black trumpets but not for most other edibles:
1. You can use an electric food dryer.
2. You can do it the old-fashioned way: use a needle and heavy-duty thread to string up the sliced mushrooms and hang them in a cool airy place to dry until they are bone-dry.
3. You can use an electric plate warmer, put a cookie grid on top (so there is a space between the heated surface and the top of the cookie grid), put paper towel on the grid and the mushrooms on top of the paper towel. I can dry halved morels and sliced boletes overnight with this setup.
4. Store the dried mushrooms in clean jars, sealed tightly, and keep them in a dark cool place. They will keep for years provided you redry them once a year or so.

Reconstituting dried mushrooms: I like to reconstitute them in half water and half good dry white wine rather than just water. If they are sandy, I move them around in the liquid and wait for the sand to settle on the bottom. Then I fish out the mushrooms and save most of the liquid, discarding the last with the sand in it.

Freezing -- never uncooked:
Sauté in butter, or half butter, half oil. OR "Parboil" the mushrooms: Simmer (never boil) a small quantity of cleaned and washed mushrooms in lightly salted water for about 15 minutes, cool, put into a plastic container or bag, add some of the cooking liquid, label, date (they will keep for a few months), and freeze. This works well for boletes, chanterelles, chicken mushrooms, even sliced giant puffballs.

Simmer clean perfect mushrooms in a mixture of distilled white vinegar, water, salt, white pepper corns, mustard seed; taste the liquid. Store in glass jars in the refrigerator, with the liquid covering the mushrooms. They will keep for a few months.  See recipe from Elinoar Shavit for pickling mushrooms

Cooking -- there are as many attitudes as there are cooks:
1. Remember to cook all mushrooms slowly and thoroughly.
2. I believe in preparing fresh edibles that have delicate flavor for the pure appreciation of their taste and odor, without other ingredients: e.g., fresh Boletus edulis or scaber, chanterelles, truffles, Lactarius volemus or hygrophoroides: sauté the thinly sliced or finely chopped fresh mushrooms  in a heavy skillet with half extra-virgin olive oil and half butter on very low heat for about 20 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, and a few drops of lemon juice to enhance the flavor. A bit of chopped parsley would not hurt. For chanterelles, one could add one dried apricot, finely chopped, to enhance the chanterelles' apricot odor. Serve with eggs, on pasta, on toast, or on the side, or with any fish, poultry, venison or veal dish that is delicate enough not to overpower the mushrooms.
3. Remove the pileus of slimy boletes, and the pores of very mature ones.
4. Dried boletes have too strong a flavor to serve as a side dish. Reconstitute and wash them in half water and half dry white wine, simmer until the wine evaporates, and add them to the sauce of your meat or poultry.
5. Morels: see recipe
6. Many people believe in using wild mushrooms, period. And, yes, most wild mushroom simply serve as an exotic and perhaps expensive and thus impressive ingredient, supplying texture to the palate, without adding much else -- so they can be prepared with onion, garlic, sour cream, herbs, etc. all of which will add taste to the finished dish. At the extreme end, you can prepare bitter mushrooms, such as some Lactarius, with enough onions, garlic, and hot peppers to mask the bitter taste. Some people lack the taste buds for bitterness and thus can feast on Tylopilus felleus, avoided by worms and fellow collectors and therefore perfect and plentiful.
7. Forget about Cortinarius, Strobilomyces and some other genera of the fleshy mushrooms: I know of no method to make these palatable (believe me, I tried).

Here are some mushroom pictures and ideas for preparation, from John Plischke III:
Note: We added AG and a page number, so you can easily verify description and edibility as well as references to dangerous look-alikes in the Audubon Guide.

  • Aborted Entoloma or abortivus -- see Entoloma abortivum
  • Agaricus AG 500 - 509
  • Armillariella mellea (Honey mushroom) AG 736: use clean young caps only, simmer briefly in water, discard the water, then finish by sautéing or whatever till thoroughly cooked; season to taste. (These mushrooms tend to be slimy; discarding the water gets rid of the slime. Use the same process for Pholiota squarrosa and squarrosoides AG 716 - 717)
  • Black trumpets -- see Chanterelles
  • Boletes AG 562 - 595
  • Chanterelles, Craterellus, Hydnums, Dentinums AG 387 - 398, 428 - 431
  • Chicken mushroom -- see Laetiporus sulphureus
  • Coprinus (Inky Cap) AG 596 - 602
  • Dryad's Saddle -- see Polyporus squamosus
  • Entoloma abortivum AG 641
  • Grifola frondosa AG 463
  • Hen of the woods -- see Grifola frondosa
  • Honey mushroom -- see Armillariella mellea
  • Horse mushroom -- see Agaricus arvensis
  • Hypomyces lactifluorum (Lobster mushroom) AG 573
  • Inky Caps -- see Coprinus
  • Lactarius corrugis, hygrophoroides, volemus AG 682,  685, 696
  • Laetiporus sulphureus (Chicken or sulphur mushroom) AG 468
  • Lepiota procera (Parasol mushroom) AG 520
  • Lepista nuda (Blewit) AG 750
  • Lobster mushroom -- see Hypomyces lactifluorum
  • Marasmius oreades (Fairy Ring Mushroom) AG 772
  • Morels AG 326
  • Oyster mushroom -- see Pleurotus ostreatus
  • Parasol mushroom -- see Lepiota procera
  • Pleurotus ostreatus (Oyster Mushroom) AG 793
  • Polyporus squamosus (Dryad's Saddle) AG 481
  • Puffballs AG 822 - 826
  • Shaggy Mane -- see Coprinus
  • Sparassis crispa AG 411

  • Some of Ursula's favorite recipe ideas -- please e-mail more --
    also see the online mushroom cookbook by Louise Freedman, Wild About Mushrooms, as well as a selection of recipes on the same site.

    Recipes and pictures from John Plischke III, from the Lincoff Foray 2003

    Recipes from Clay Martin, from the NEMF Foray 2003

    Elinoar's Corner
    Recipes from Chris Snyder, the 2005 NEMF Iron Chef

    Last revised Dec 2006.   -- Main Menu --