The fall is often a good time to gather wild mushrooms– today some hints on what to look for and what to avoid. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
“Now here’s one of my favorites!”
We’re in Ithaca, New York hunting for mushrooms with George Hudler, the author of Magical Mushrooms, Mystical Molds. He tells us that the best way to learn the do’s and don’t’s of mushroom collecting is with a knowledgeable guide. But there are some signs that you can look out for when you’re trying to identify a mushroom that you’ve found.
“Some things to think about when you’re out collecting mushrooms. First of all, when you do find a mushroom that you would like to try and identify, it’s always important to dig it rather than pick it. And that’s because some of the most deadly, poisonous mushrooms have a bit of a cup that grows at the base of the mushroom, but underground. Take a knife or a little shovel or something and you don’t have to dig very deep, but scoop down around the base and make sure that this cup isn’t lying underground.”
One lucky mushroom find is the aptly named Giant Puffball. Now, puffballs come in many sizes, but this tasty variety looks like a lumpy white soccer ball.
“What we like to look for are things called giant puffballs. But those are known as the Breakfast Mushroom because you slice them up like a loaf of bread, and prepare them just like French toast, dip them in egg and fry them and they are absolutely delicious.”
Now if you do find a giant puffball, check first to see what it looks like inside. If the interior is anything but pure white, the puffball is not good for eating. And never, repeat never eat any mushroom unless you’ve positively identified it as edible.
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.