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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2003

Make sure mushrooms are edible

It's time for mushroom hunting. Morels have started growing. Usually, these tasty mushrooms are found in the wild from late March until mid-May.

Searching for wild mushrooms can be like a treasure hunt, and that treasure can be delicious - or dangerous. More than 2,000 kinds of wild mushrooms grow in the Buckeye State, according to Ohio State University researchers. Some are good for you and some are not. Knowing the difference is crucial.

Pick and eat only those that you know are edible. When in doubt, throw them out. If you're not an experienced mushroom hunter, get a guide and check with an expert to make sure the mushrooms you find are edible.

Here are some common edible and poisonous mushrooms, according to experts at Ohio State University and the Missouri Conservation Commission.

Morel mushrooms are usually found in the wild from late March until mid-May.
Morel mushrooms are usually found in the wild from late March until mid-May.
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SOME MUSHROOMS TO PICK

Morels. These are the most popular mushrooms among hunters. They have spongy, cone-shaped caps with dark dimples. The caps range from two to four inches high and from tan to dark brown. Beware of false morels (most are not hollow as true morels are, and often are reddish-brown), which are not edible.

Chanterelles. These bright yellow or orange trumpet-shaped mushrooms are usually found in summer under hardwood trees, especially oaks. They range from one-half to six inches wide and one to six inches tall.

Puffballs. These round or pear-shaped mushrooms have no stalks and are often white, tan, or gray. They can grow up to two feet wide and can be found in a variety of places, including in lawns and pastures and on soil or decaying wood, in late summer or early fall.

Shaggy manes. These are distinctive because their caps are long white cylinders with upturned brown scales. They grow at the end of the summer in grassy areas with hard-packed soil. They often grow four to six inches tall. The caps and gills gradually dissolve into a dark brown, inky fluid.

SOME MUSHROOMS TO AVOID

Green-spored Lepiotas. These are common, parasol-shaped mushrooms found in many lawns in late summer. They usually have a cream or tan-colored cap, a ring on the stem, and cream-colored gills that turn green with age. They often range from four to 12 inches tall, and from 2 to 12 inches in diameter.

Amanitas. These gilled mushrooms with parasol-shaped caps are usually white, yellow, red, or brown. They are usually found under trees in summer or fall.

Little brown mushrooms. These include a wide range of small to medium hard-to-identify brownish mushrooms. They are found from spring through fall in nearly all habitats.

Once you have positively identified your mushrooms, eat only those in good condition. Cook them first, and only eat them in small quantities, one kind at a time.



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