Forest Foraging: Mushrooms

Spring mushrooms? Yes, they’re out there and they’re beautiful, but let’s talk before you consider eating one.

Rain is good for spring mushrooms, so expect to find a good variety starting now and continuing well into the fall. Mushrooms are just so interesting! Intriguing, really. Most people either find them fascinating or fear-inspiring. Let’s try to stir up some of that fascination…

Mushrooms are indicators that the fungal network within the soil is in place and functioning. That is great for the health of soil organisms and the vegetation that relies on the work they do. Nobody breaks down nutrients for plants as well as fungi do! When soil moisture and temperatures are right, you may find the fruiting bodies of the fungi popping up aboveground – mushrooms! Think of them as you would an apple: they spread new fungal growth by releasing spores, just as an apple spawns new apple trees when the fruit drops and seeds are spread.

So, yes, mushrooms are good. But that doesn’t mean good to eat in all cases. Always consult someone you are 100% certain can correctly identify what you find, please! Many animals use mushrooms for food, so don’t let that fool you into thinking humans can safely eat them. Even the best human-edible mushrooms may not be well tolerated by everyone. The golden rules are “don’t assume you are correct in your identification,” and even if you eat a mushroom you feel certain about be sure to keep an uncooked sample for the ER, just in case of an adverse reaction.

Here are two fascinating examples of mushrooms commonly considered “edible” you may find in our forests. We’ll talk again soon about more possible edible mushrooms, but meantime, get out there to see some of these amazing organisms!

Here is a crazy little mushroom commonly called an Inky Cap. It’s in a family of fungi called Coprinus. It is generally considered edible when very fresh and young, but that means within the first few hours of its appearance. It quickly begins breaking down, as shown in the photo, and drips its spore mass onto the ground to be washed away, spreading the fungus to new homes. Fair warning: if eaten within a few days of ingesting an alcoholic drink, or if you enjoy a drink within a few days after eating it, the result is violent vomiting!

It would be hard to mistake this beautiful mushroom for anything else if it always looked just like the one in this photo. Nature tends not to work that way though. So this is a great image of Lactarius indigo, the blue milky mushroom. This summer through fall fruiting body is blue all over: the cap, gills, stem and the blue milky substance that exudes when it is cut or broken. It is a good edible and, amazingly, stays blue when cooked! Be aware, in some soils the color can mislead.

Want to look up mushrooms in online field guides? Try Michael Kuo’s Mushroom Expert or Dr. Mark Vorderbruggen’s Foraging Texas.


  • Always cook mushrooms to aid digestion and unlock their nutrients.
  • Never trust your identification unless you have LOTS of experience and are 100% certain you know they’re edible.
  • While field guides are wonderful, don’t depend on photos alone to positively identify a mushroom. Many books have look-alike species. Colors and conditions vary. Be wary!
  • Take photos, but don’t touch mushrooms in the wild. The truly poisonous ones can literally kill you if you ingest even a small amount. Hands off is always the safest plan.

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