How Do I Tell If A Mushroom Is Safe To Eat?

How Do I Tell If A Mushroom Is Safe To Eat

Just because you see mushrooms growing in the wild, doesn’t mean they are safe to eat. In fact, you should never eat a mushroom that you find growing wild, unless you know exactly what kind of mushroom it is. You could get really sick, or even die. It’s that serious.

Print this mushroom guide and also keep it on your phone for whenever you are going out to pick mushrooms.

Below are some safety tips for those who like to pick mushrooms. After all, they make a delicious side dish, or can be added to many dishes for a scrumptious flavor.

Avoid These

  • Old Or Decaying Mushrooms

This should be common sense, but as with any fruit or vegetable that you pick, you should never eat anything that is rotting or old. When picking mushrooms, they should be firm and in one piece with thick stems, and no insects on them. If you notice a bite taken out of the mushroom, do not eat it.

  • Raw

Cook any mushrooms you pick in the wild. They are very hard to digest raw, and heat destroys toxins, if any are present. Cook well. However, heat does not kill all toxins in poisonous mushrooms so make sure you do not have a poisonous mushroom on your stove.

  • False Morels

real vs false morels

These are mushroom that have caps that are either wrinkled or irregular, looking like saddles or brain coral. The bottom edge hangs freely, surrounding the base of the mushroom. Do not eat these.

  • Parasols


These mushrooms look like an umbrella that has been opened, or like a parasol, hence its name. They typically have white rings around their stems, with milky white gills. They are full of Amanitas, one of the deadliest poisons in nature. Especially avoid these mushrooms if they are spotted or brightly colored.

  • Other Mushrooms To Avoid

-Jack O’Lantern

-Little Brown Mushroom

Safe Mushrooms

  • Oyster Mushrooms

Typically grown in clusters, these mushrooms are ivory or white in color and soft when you feel them. They are used in many fancy dishes in restaurants and are very safe to eat, not to mention they are delicious.

  • Chanterelle Mushrooms

Another fancy mushroom used in fine dining dishes, the Chanterelle mushroom is shaped like a trumpet with caps that are wavy and irregular. Some have wrinkles going down the stem, while some are smooth all the way down, but if you notice that the gills are sharp and jagged, it may be the poisonous Jack O’ Lantern mushroom. Do not eat.

  • Hen Of The Woods Mushroom

Known as the Maitake, they are very large and can grow to be up to 100 pounds. They are brown with caps that look feathered, and are very round in shape. These are safe to eat and there are no other mushrooms that look like them, so you won’t mistakenly eat one that is poisonous.

  • Puffballs

Found growing mostly in late summer through fall, they can be as small as 1 inch in diameter or as big as 12 inches in diameter. These large mushrooms are round and fluffy, and are typically grown in decaying wood or soil. Always cut them open before cooking. They could be a young parasol instead. Otherwise, they are safe to eat.

Fungus Families

Mushrooms belong to certain fungus families, and being able to identify which family can help you determine if they are poisonous.

  • Agarics Family

Some are safe and some are not.

They all appear:

Cap: White

Gills: Brown or black

Stem: Thick

Skirt: Yes


Smell: Mushroom scent with hints of almond or aniseed


Smell: Iodine or Indian Ink, unpleasant scent, chemical scent

  • Boletus, Suillus, Leccinum Families


Gills: None, instead have spongy pores that are yellow, white, or cream colored


Cap: No red

Stem: No red

*When cut or bruised does not turn blue

  • Milkcaps

Mostly toxic, so stay away.

*Lactates a milky substance when you touch its gills.

  • Russulas and Brittlegills Families

Stems: Brittle

Gills: Brittle

*Some are safe, some taste bad, and some are poisonous.

Taste Test

Place a tiny bit on tongue and chew. If it burns like chili, it’s poisonous. Spit it out. If it has a pleasant mushroom taste, it’s safe. Only perform this test if you know you are testing a mushroom from the Russulas family.

  • Amanitas

Base: Bulbous called a volva

Gills: White with spores

*Mostly poisonous

General Rules:

Red on cap – Avoid
Red on stem – Avoid
White gills – Avoid
Skirt on stem – Avoid
Ring on stem – Avoid
Bulbous sack like base – Avoid


Nature is filled with yummy vegetation to eat, but you have to be careful. Just like the animals in the wild, some vegetation can be poisonous. When it comes to mushrooms it can be hard to decipher the safe mushrooms from the poisonous mushrooms. When in doubt do not eat.


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