September 20, 2022

The Ultimate Guide on Foraging Wild Mushrooms

Everything You Need to Know About Foraging Wild Mushrooms
(Without Poisoning Yourself!)

Foraging Tips, Tools, Recipes, & More

Foraging Wild Mushrooms


Certain types of mushrooms found in the wild can be highly poisonous and even DEADLY. Never consume a mushroom you have found in the wild without being able to 100% identify it. Always play it safe! If you are unsure, ask an expert. It is not dangerous to touch a poisonous mushroom but it can be fatal if ingested. 

foraging wild mushroooms
Foraging Wild Mushrooms by Mycology Men

Foraging Wild Mushrooms Tips

Get Informed

The more you know and the more resources available to you, the better. There are many, many, many varieties of mushroom out there. You probably cannot memorize them all and even if you could, do you want to risk making a mistake with a poisonous (and possibly deadly) mushroom variety? Resources like your local field guide, mushroom identification sheets, and identification apps on your phone can help you to stay informed on the types of mushrooms you are foraging. This can make the whole experience more exciting and safe.

If you are ever unsure of a variety of mushroom, it is always a good idea to take a picture and ask an expert. If you do not personally know an expert, you can try reaching out to your local mushroom foraging group leaders. You can also post pictures in identification apps and users can help you to identify the mushroom. Never take the chance of consuming a mushroom you have not been able to accurately identify. 

Resources Summary

  • Use local field guides
  • Use identification apps
  • Take pictures
  • Ask experts like local mushroom group leaders

Essential and Optional Tools to Forage for Mushrooms

Just as with any adventure, you want to make sure that you have all the proper tools to keep you safe and allow you to make the absolute best of the adventure. Resource tools like field guides and identification sheets and apps are very important, but there are other tools you should be using to forage for mushrooms. Mesh or wicker baskets are essential to both carrying your foraged mushrooms and aiding repopulation. The mesh allows mushroom spores to fall from your foraged mushrooms and onto the ground. These spores will eventually produce a new batch of mushrooms. And so the cycle continues.

To collect your mushrooms, a knife and brush (or combination tool) are absolutely necessary. Sometimes you might even use a small garden shovel to remove larger mushrooms. The small shovel is optional for foraging. 

Items for your well-being should also be packed for any outing of foraging wild mushrooms. Water to stay hydrated and food to keep up your energy are both great to bring along. Bug spray can also be very useful when deep in the woods and surrounded by the bugs and insects that come with the territory.

In some areas you may need a permit to forage for mushrooms. If so, be sure to carry this with you. You can check with park directors and employees for specifics. It is not OK to forage on private property without the owner's permission. Some national parks also do not allow the removal of any plant life; so foraging would also not be allowed.

Foraging wild mushrooms is always fun with a companion like a good friend, a group, or even a dog. Not only can it be fun to forage with others, but it can help to keep you both safe. Many times you will find yourself foraging off-trail in the forest. If some injury were to occur, having a companion can help you get back to safety or alert someone to help you.

An extremely useful, but optional tool, would be an offline GPS instrument. When you have no signal, the GPS on your phone becomes useless. An offline GPS instrument can help you in the unfortunate event you get lost in the woods.

Essential Tools Summary

  • Identification sheets/app and local field guide
  • Knife
  • Brush
  • Wicker or mesh basket
  • Small garden shovel (optional)
  • Food and water
  • Bug spray (optional)
  • Permit (if necessary)
  • Friends or a dog (optional)
  • Offline GPS (optional)

Where to Go For Foraging Wild Mushrooms

Generally, you will find mushrooms in the wild in both fields and forests, most commonly after rain. You can also look in specifically damp places like under logs or in moss. There are many parts of the United States and Canada where you can find mushrooms to forage.

The most popular area is the Pacific Northwest of the United States (PNW). The PNW has great weather conditions for mushrooms to flourish in the wild. You can also forage for mushrooms around the Rocky Mountains, the Midwest, the Northeast, and lots of Canadian territories.

We suggest getting a copy of your local field guide for more specific information on mushroom hunting in your area. An important note to remember is that many National Parks do not allow the removal of any wildlife, so be sure to check local laws and restrictions.

Where to Forage Summary

  • Pacific Northwest, USA
  • Midwest, USA
  • Rocky Mountains, USA & Canada
  • Northeast, USA
  • Much of Canada
  • Damp places or after rain
    • Logs, moss, etc.

How to Forage for Mushrooms

When you come across a mushroom you want to forage, it is best to use your knife to cut the mushroom at the stem rather than pull it out of the ground, roots and all. Many mushrooms will return year-after-year if you leave the roots be. So mark your spot and keep coming back! You can use your brush to remove any dirt on the mushroom. Some mushrooms hide in the dirt. This can help you to properly identify it as well as cook it.

Responsible mushroom hunters will only forage what they need. Over-foraging can be detrimental to the sustainability of the wild mushroom ecosystem. We advise avoiding mushrooms in bad condition as they will probably not be suitable for consumption. If the mushroom has mold, dark spots, wrinkles, or has frost on it, let it be. Frost will occur during the winter.

The best time of year to forage for mushrooms is the Fall. The weather conditions in the Fall are ideal for the mushrooms to be fully grown and ready to be collected. Any later than the Fall and the weather becomes cold enough to freeze and expand the water in the mushrooms (mushrooms are mostly made of water).

Aside from looking in areas where mushrooms are commonly found like under logs or in moss, you can use your sense of smell to locate mushroom patches. They give off a distinct odor and if you are familiar with it, you can follow your nose right to the pot of gold at the end of the mushroom rainbow.

Be sure to properly identify any mushroom you find before consuming it. Touching the mushrooms is fine in any situation, even if they are poisonous. 

How to Forage Summary

  • Cut the stem, do not pull it out of the ground
  • Brush away dirt to help with identification
  • Only forage what you need
  • Avoid mushrooms in bad condition - smiley, moldy, frost-covered
  • Fall is the best time of year
  • Use your sense of smell to locate mushroom patches
  • Identify your mushroom before consuming
  • You can safely touch poisonous mushrooms, but do not consume

How to Tell the Difference Between Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms

Unfortunately there is no single way to positively tell the difference between an edible mushroom and a poisonous (and possibly deadly) one. Some edible mushrooms look similar to poisonous ones and vice versa.

Before consuming any mushroom you forage in the wild, be sure you can 100% identify the mushroom. It is always better to play it safe and not consume the mushroom. You could be messing with life and death. Two great tips to follow are: 1) always avoid mushrooms with red caps or stems & 2) White gills often mean poison.

10 Types of Mushrooms You Can Forage and Eat

Not all mushrooms are edible, some are even poisonous. Of the over 10,000 varieties of mushrooms on this planet, only about 30 are edible. This means it is absolutely essential to be informed about the types of mushrooms you are foraging wild mushrooms. Carrying an identification sheet or application with you can help keep you safe. Here is a quick list of mushrooms you can both forage and eat. We give a quick description of each as well.

Chanterelles Mushroom

Chanterelles are some of the most sought after mushrooms because they are easy to find and identify and delicious to cook with. Chanterelles are bright yellow, orange, or gold. You can commonly find them under oak trees when the leaves have fallen.

But be careful. If you find mushrooms growing on wood on the ground, they are not chanterelles but likely they’re poisonous look-alikes. 

The best way to confirm it is a chanterelle in the field is to check the gills and see if they are false or true. Chanterelles have false gills which means, while the ridges look like gills, they are not.

True gills are entirely separated from each other rather than folds in the surface like false gills are. Another good indicator is the smell. Chanterelles smell like apricots. 

If you find one chanterelle, keep on looking. You will most likely find more as they tend to grow in clusters!

Oyster Mushroom

Oyster mushrooms are another relatively easy mushroom variety to find and identify. They are white or a light brown/pink. If you come across a yellow oyster-looking mushroom, it is probably one of the poisonous look-alikes found in the USA. It is best to avoid yellow oyster-looking mushrooms.

You can find oyster mushrooms on dead or dying tree logs. The underside of a downed log is a good place to check as oyster mushrooms enjoy the shade. The best way to confirm the mushroom you found is an oyster is to inspect the gills and stem.

The gills should be white and the stem should be off-center. Another good indicator is the growing pattern. Oyster mushrooms grow in groups. 

Unlike other types of mushrooms, oyster mushrooms grow pretty much year-round. You are more likely to find them after heavy rainfall. It is best to pick the young oyster mushrooms as these will have a better taste and are not yet spreading spores like the older oyster mushrooms. Spreading spores is essential to the sustainability of the mushroom ecosystem.

Cauliflower Mushroom

Cauliflower Mushrooms are some of the most difficult mushrooms to find in the wild, but they provide a delicious reward once you do find them! They resemble a ball of wavy noodles or a head of cauliflower. You can usually find them at the base of dying trees. They have a firm texture with a lot of flavor. Definitely a chef’s favorite. 

Puffball Mushroom

Puffball Mushrooms are pretty easy to pick out because they are relatively large round balls, about 4 to 12 inches or even more! They can be found in meadows, fields, or forests. There are many varieties of Puffball Mushroom so it is important to check with an identification tool or an expert before consuming. Some varieties are not edible.

There are other varieties of mushroom that look like puffballs and they are poisonous. Be VERY CAREFUL when identifying mushrooms before consuming. If you find an edible puffball, cut it in half to make sure the consistency is the same throughout. This means it has not gone bad and is ready to be cooked! Puffball mushrooms have an earthy flavor.

Porcini Mushroom

Porcini mushrooms are some of the hardest mushrooms to find in the wild. That, along with their rich, earthy flavor, make them highly desirable (and a bit pricey)! Luckily for us foragers, the porcini mushroom is pretty easy to identify.

They have a thick, sturdy, white stem and a brown, spongey cap. Young porcini mushrooms (about 4-6 inches in height) are the best to harvest because they are less likely to have pest infestation. You will most likely find porcinis on the forest floor.

Chicken of the Woods Mushroom

Chicken of the Woods are a highly sought after variety of mushroom because their flavor is quite desirable. As you might have guessed, they have a chicken flavor. These mushrooms are relatively easy to find and identify because of their bright orange/red color, they grow on trees at eye level, and do not have gills. Young chicken of the woods mushrooms will be moist and older ones might be a bit more crumbly. 

Shrimp of the Woods Mushroom

Shrimp of the Woods mushrooms are great for beginner foragers because they do not have any poisonous look-alikes. When you find them, you can be pretty confident they are the real deal.

They are also a fun mushroom to hunt for because they are usually pretty covered with dirt and hiding under rotted wood. They will definitely require some cleaning before consuming.

Maitake Mushroom (Hen of the Wood Mushroom)

Maitake is translated to “dancing mushroom” in Japanese. It is called this because people would literally dance upon finding one. They are highly desirable and can grow quite large. Some find maitake mushrooms weighing over 30 pounds! Now that is a big mushroom. These mushrooms are sought out for their medicinal properties.

In addition, they are a great source of protein and can be a delicious replacement for meat in any meal. You can identify them by their overlapping, dark brown fronds, their large size, and the area they grow. You will find maitake mushrooms at the base of dying oak trees.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Lion’s Mane are one of the most revered mushroom varieties for both foragers and chefs. They can fetch a hefty price tag, but many find it very worth it. They are known as one of the best tasting and most medicinal mushroom varieties out there. They do not look like typical mushrooms with a stem and cap. Rather, they look like white waterfall spikes that flow over whatever object they sit upon.

They are sometimes even called “pom-pom” mushrooms because of their resemblance to a cheerleader’s pom-poms. These mushrooms can grow on broken and dying logs and trees, but you might need a ladder to reach them. Luckily for foragers, there are no look-alikes and all forms of the Lion’s Mane are edible.

Lobster Mushroom

Lobster mushrooms are not even technically mushrooms. But you can still forage and cook with them! Lobster mushrooms occur when a parasitic fungus takes-over an edible mushroom and changes its consistency, shape, flavor, and even its DNA.

They take the shape of the mushroom they take-over, so the shape can vary greatly. You can spot lobster mushrooms from their bright red color and hard exterior shell, like a lobster. Look for these mushrooms on the forest floor.

Foraged Mushroom Recipes

Wild Mushroom Bruschetta*


  • ½ pound of wild mushrooms, cleaned, dried, and cut to preferred size
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Chives
  • Olive Oil
  • White wine
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Slices of baguette


  1. Slide your shallot, chop your garlic
  2. Sautée mushrooms in a pan with 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat for about 1-2 minutes
  3. Add shallot and continue for 1 minute
  4. Add garlic and stir for ½ a minute to release the flavor
  5. Add a good splash of white wine and reduce by half
  6. Add heavy cream and reduce by half
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. Serve over slices of toasted baguette with chopped chives atop

Wild Mushroom Tartlets*


  • 375 grams (1 ½ cup) block all-butter puff pastry
  • flour , for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 300g mixed wild mushrooms or just one type, cleaned and sliced
  • 25g parmesan (or vegetarian alternative), finely grated
  • small handful parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove , finely chopped
  • 1 egg , beaten


  1. Flour a large flat surface to roll the pastry into a cylinder
  2. Cut out 4 circles at about 6 inches across (diameter)
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and store the pastry circle in the fridge
  4. Heat your oven to 400℉
  5. Heat a large frying pan on medium high heat. When it is hot, add the butter and mushrooms. Fry until there is no more liquid. About 5 minutes.
  6. Season with salt and pepper then remove from heat.
  7. In a medium bowl, mix with parsley, garlic, and parmesan
  8. Remove the pastry circles from the fridge. Score the edges with a knife.
  9. Spoon your mushroom mix onto the center of the circles.
  10. Brush beaten egg onto the edges of the pastry.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

Sautéed Wild Mushrooms for Burgers, Steak, Tuna, & Pork*

Sautéed mushrooms can make a really delicious and nutritious addition to make proteins. Mushroom-topped burgers. Steak with a mushroom side. Tuna and pork with mushrooms. To sautée mushrooms, heat butter in a pan over medium-high heat.

Place your mushrooms in the butter and cook until the desired consistency is reached. How long this process takes will depend on the mushroom’s size, consistency, and type. You can add anything you want to the sautée like onions or garlic or seasonings.

8 Poisonous (and Possibly Deadly) Types of Mushrooms*

Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric mushrooms look like the typically animated mushrooms you see in cartoons. The red cap with white dots is very noticeable. These mushrooms are not fatal by poison to humans, but could be for dogs and cats. Ingesting these mushrooms can cause intense nausea, loss of coordination, sleep, and, on occasion, hallucinations.

Podostroma Cornu-Damae

These bright red mushrooms are pretty rare, but, if ingested, can cause death within days. Death is caused by multiple organ failure, but you may also experience hair loss, skin peeling, low blood pressure, and stomach pain. They look similar to a type of edible mushroom called ganoderma. Podostroma Cornu-Damae are found in Asia, specifically Japan and Korea.

Destroying Angels

Destroying Angels

Destroying Angels are the most commonly found toxic mushroom found in the world. They cause kidney and liver failure which is fatal. If ingested, you will experience severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and convulsions within 3 hours. They are sometimes called “Fool's Mushrooms” because the all white and oval mushrooms look like certain types of edible mushrooms. 

Deadly Dapperling

The name of these mushrooms can speak for itself. Ingestion can be fatal due to liver toxicity. These mushrooms can be found all over Europe, Asia, and North America. Like other poisonous mushrooms, these resemble certain types of edible mushrooms.


Webcaps can resemble chanterelles, an edible mushroom variety. Unlike chanterelles, Webcaps can be fatal. They can cause flu-like symptoms which might not appear for up to 3 weeks after ingestion. 

Autumn Skullcap

Autumn Skullcaps, if ingested, can cause liver failure which results in death within 7 days. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and hypothermia.Like other types of poisonous mushrooms, these resemble other types of edible mushrooms and can be easily misidentified. 

Death Cap

Death Caps, as you might have guessed, are known as the deadliest mushroom in the wild. Just a small amount can be fatal. Ingestion can lead to nausea, vomiting, dehydration, dizziness, and more. These mushrooms resemble other types of edible mushrooms so one must be careful when identifying.

Conocybe Filaris 

These mushrooms can commonly be found in the wet lawns of the American Pacific Northwest (PNW). They can be misidentified as magic mushrooms, but they will not cause any hallucinations. Instead they can cause liver and kidney failure. Symptoms may resemble food poisoning which can lead to misdiagnosis. 

Check out the rest of our blog for great guides!

Mycology Men
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