Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms: Where to Find, How to Collect and Cook


mushrooms_cHere is some information about different types of mushrooms: Cep, Chanterelle, Chestnut mushroom, Enoki-take, Fairy Ring Champignon, Field Mushroom, Giant Puffball, Honey Fungus, Horn of Plenty, Horse Mushroom, Jew's Ear Fungus, Matsutake, Morel, Orange Peel Fungus, Oyster Mushroom, Padi Straw Mushroom, Parasol Mushroom, Shaggy Ink Caps, Shiitake, St George's Mushroom, Summer Truffle, White Mushrooms (Button Mushrooms, Closed Cup Mushrooms, Open Cup Mushrooms, Large Open or Fiat Mushrooms), Wood Blewit. You can find methods of collecting and cooking mushrooms, pictures of some of them and other information about edible mushrooms.


Cep – (Boletus edulis) – wild

cepThis is an excellent edible mushroom. It has a robust, firm fruitbody, is found on the ground in the autumn in pine, oak and chestnut woods. The smooth cap can grown up to 18 cm (7 inches) across, it is strongly convex in form and coloured light brown to bronze. Under the cap the whitish surface is flat and covered with minute pores, each of which forms the opening to a vertical tube. The stem is thick with a fine white network pattern on the upper surface. This is a good species howsoever cooked, with a delicate flavour. The fruitbodies are frequently dried on strings and used in soups after soaking, or pickled.

Chanterelle – (Cantharellus cibarius) – wild

This striking pale orange to egg-yolk yellow mushroom is generally found amongst mosses under beech and oak trees, from June to October. It is also known under the name of 'Girolle'. The depressed cap has a wavy, inrolled margin, and the more brightly underside bears thick, well-spaced ridges. It has a strong odour of apricots, which can be retained by gentle cooking. The mushrooms are also suitable for drying and pickling. It is one of the most popular of the edible mushrooms.

Chestnut mushroom – (Agaricus brunnescens) – cultivated

Chestnut-mushroomThese are similar to the cultivated white mushrooms, but the strain is slightly different, producing a mushroom with a brown outer skin, a firm texture and a stronger, more nutty flavour. Chestnut mushrooms have a higher percentage of dry matter so they are excellent in pates, breads and pastries. These mushrooms are picked and sold at two stages of their growth -closed caps which are round with closed veils, and flats which are larger with the dark brown gills clearly visible.

Enoki-take – (Flammulina velutipes) – cultivated and wild

This is a mushroom available either wild or cultivated. Cultivation has been largely developed in the Far East, especially Japan. These cultivated forms look very different from the wild variety for the cap is scarcely formed whereas the stem is well developed but pale. In the wild the mushroom is known as the 'Velvet Shank' (Flammulina velutipes). It forms clusters on stumps of leafy trees, especially the elm, and is an attractive species. The flattened cap grows up to 5 cm (2 inches) across, coloured tawny-brown and is sticky, the gills are white and the stem is pale yellow above, becoming covered with a dark brown velvety layer below. To prepare for consumption, the sticky pellicle of the cap must first be peeled away.

Fairy Ring Champignon – (Marasmius oreades) – wild

Fairy-Ring-ChampignonThis is a small mushroom, much despised by ardent gardeners for it forms fairy rings on lawns which can persist for years. The small, buffy brown, smooth cap grows up to 5 cm (2 inches) across and has a raised centre, whereas the underside has widely spaced, off-white gills. As it is a thin-fleshed species, it is normally used in the preparation of soups and gravies. It has, too, the advantage of being dried easily. When picking, care must be taken to avoid the 'Cream Clot' (Clitocybe dealbata) which is poisonous.

Field Mushroom – (Agaricus campestris) – wild

Field-MushroomA true mushroom, found in fields and open grassland. It resembles the 'Cultivated Mushroom' with a white to pale brown cap, 2.5-10 cm (1-4 inches) across. The underlying gills are at first bright pink, becoming progressivly dark brown as the mushroom ages. The short stem has a small, membranous ring attached to it. When the mushroom is broken open, the white flesh quickly discolours to pinkish. This mushroom has a nutty flavour.

Giant Puffball – (Langermannia gigantea) – wild

This is probably the easiest of all the fungi to recognize. It forms a large, ball-shaped fruitbody, 50 cm (20 inches) or more across. The surface is at first white then discolours to brown as it eventually breaks up and flakes away. The flesh is firm and white at first before becoming brown. These fruitbodies are not always common but in certain years they may be found in large numbers, when they can form fairy rings in open woodland, grassland or on disturbed soil The flesh is delicious when gently fried in butter, but may only be eaten when it is firm and white.

Honey Fungus – (Armillaria mellea) – wild

This is the mushroom found growing in large clusters throughout the late autumn, at the base of tree trunks. The yellowish-brown caps, 2.5-10 cm (1-4 inches) across, have tiny, black, fibrous scales, the gills are whitish but soon discolour with reddish spots, and the fibrous stem bears a white, cottony ring. The fruitbodies should always be cooked, and it is best to eat only the young specimens.

Horn of Plenty – ( Craterellus cornucopioides) – wild

 Horn-of-PlentyA wild mushroom which has been collected for consumption for many years. In France it is known as Ma viande des pauvres' and it also has the name of 'Black Trumpets' which best describes its appearance. Although not common they can be abundant in certain areas, growing amongst the leaf litter in beech and oak woods. The fruitbody forms a greyish-black, conical shape, with a hollow centre and lacking any mushroom-type gills. There is little or no stem. The flesh provides a good flavour and texture, and is often used in casseroles.

Horse Mushroom – (Agaricus arvensis) – wild

A large, white mushroom growing in open grassland. The cap may be convex or flattened, growing up to 15 cm (6 inches) across, and remains smooth or becomes very slightly scaly. Underneath the cap, the crowded gills change from greyish to dark chocolate-brown. The white, cylindrical stem bears a large, membranous ring on the upper region. Fresh specimens have a smell of bitter almonds or aniseed which may just be retained after cooking. When collecting, care must be taken to avoid the poisonous, 'Yellow-staining Mushroom' (Agaricus xanthodermus), which grows in hedgerows, has a large, fleshy ring and most importantly when the base of the stem is broken open the flesh immediately turns bright yellow.

Jew's Ear Fungus – (Awicularia auricula-judae) – wild

Jews-Ear-FungusA strange-looking mushroom, which grows on the branches of several species of tree, particularly elder and sycamore, during late autumn. The fruitbody is gelatinous to the touch, ear-shaped and growing up to 2.5-10 cm (1-4 inches) across. The outer surface is reddish-brown to blackish, and the underside is irregularly ridged. There is no stem. These mushrooms are widely used in Chinese cuisine.

Matsutake – (Tricholoma matsutake) – wild

This is a mushroom which grows wild but only in Japan, with a closely related form found in the conifer forests of north-western America. The cap, up to 12 cm (5 inches) across, soon becomes flattened and covered with small, reddish-brown scales. The stem is also covered with soft, brown scales below a white ring, and the gills are white and crowded. This is a much prized mushroom in Japanese cuisine.

Morel – (Morchella esculenta) – wild

MorelMorels appear in late spring, in orchards and woods, under hedgerows or on open wasteland. The fruitbodies, about 2.5-7cm (1-3 inches) across, have a distinctive appearance. The head is ovoid to conical, yellowish-brown, and bears branching, deep ridges which give a honeycomb-like appearance. The stem is about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick, scurfy white and hollow. It is prized as a food although it must be cooked first. Care must be taken to avoid the 'False Morel' (Gyromitra esculenta), which is poisonous.

Orange Peel Fungus – (Aleuria aurantiaca) – wild

The fruitbodies appear as bright orange cups, 2.5-6 cm (1-2 1/2 inches) across, with a brittle flesh, and devoid of a stem. The outer surface is off-white and scurfy. The mushroom may be found from May to October on hard or disturbed soil.

Oyster Mushroom – (Pleurotus ostreatus) – cultivated and wild

OysterCultivated oyster mushrooms are sold as either grey or brown fan-shaped mushrooms. The closely related Yellow Oyster Cap (Pleurotus citrinopileatus) is also commercially available. All oyster mushrooms are best eaten young and have a delicate texture and flavour so they should only be cooked for a short period. They go well with eggs and fish and are ideal in stir-fry dishes. In the wild they grow in clusters on the trunks of leafy trees and successive crops may appear over the year.

Padi Straw Mushroom – (Volvariella volvacea) – wild and cultivated

A species which is widely cultivated and eaten throughout Southeast Asia. It grows on sawdust or decaying straw. The yellowish-brown conical cap grows to about 5 cm (2 inches) across and appears streaky, the gills are white then pink, and the solid stem is white. It is characterized by at first being enclosed within a fleshy veil or skin when young, and this is the stage most often encountered in Chinese cooking.

Parasol Mushroom – (Macrolepiota procera) – wild

Parasol-MushroomThis is one of the largest, most conspicuous and possibly the best of the wild, edible mushrooms. It appears from late summer and continues through the autumn months, growing in grassland or on hedge-banks. The caps may expand up to 23 cm (9 inches) or more, but the young closed caps are round, borne upon a tall stem. The cap retains a raised central region, and is covered with shaggy, brown scales, the gills are white and crowded, and the stem, may be up to 40 cm (16 inches) and is covered with zig-zag scales. There is a large, movable ring in the upper region. The thick, white flesh is firm, and has a smell of newly ground meal. It is the sliced caps which are normally eaten. In the southern states of North America, care must be taken not to confuse this species with the 'Green-spored Lepiota' (Chlorophyllum molybdites) which is poisonous.

Shaggy Ink Caps – (Coprinus comatus) – wild

This mushroom, which it also widely known as the 'Lawyer's Wig' can be found in fields from sPring through to late autumn. Like all the 'Ink Caps', the gills blacken and dissolve into a black ink. The cap is tall, up to 12 cm (5 inches), cylindrical, whitish, and covered with large, recurved scales. The stem grows up to 10-12 cm (4-5 inches) and is fibrous, with a small, movable ring. It is best to pick the young specimens in the early morning as they contain a great deal less water and have a much better flavour.

Shiitake – (Lentinula edodes) – cultivated

Originally from the Far East, and only growing wild in this area, shiitake mushrooms are now cultivated on an enormous scale. This mushroom has a dark cap with whitish, crowded gills, the stem is short and solid unlike other cultivated mushrooms, the stalks of the shiitake can be tough and should, therefore, be trimmed before cooking. The flesh of these mushrooms is firm and they have a unique steak-like texture and meaty flavour. Use them in rich dishes and sauces and add them to spicy oriental recipes.

St George's Mushroom – (Calocybe gambosa) – wild

St-Georges-MushroomOne of the few wild, edible mushrooms available in the spring, from April through to June, The caps grow up to 15 cm (6 inches) across, are thick and irregularly convex, cream-coloured or with grey to reddith tints. The underlying gills are white and densely crowded, and the stem is robust, whitish and usually thickened towards the base. They have a distinctive smell and taste of newly ground meal, and may be eaten fresh or after drying when the flavour is retained. They are usually cut into pieces and cooked with meat.

Summer Truffle – ( Tuber aestivum) – wild

A truffle is a fungus which grows under the ground. The famous White Piedmont Truffle (Tuber magnatum), from Italy, is the world's most expensive food. The summer truffle is a widespread species. It forms a small, hard ball about 2.5-7 cm (1-3 inches) across, black, covered with prominent wart-like scales. Inside, the flesh is finely marbled with white veins. The flavour of truffles is excellent with a pleasant smell and a nutty taste. As truffles are expensive, sprinkle a little chopped truffle into an omelette.

White Mushrooms – (Agaricus bisporus) – cultivated

Button Mushrooms – These are the smallest of the cultivated mushrooms. They are pale in colour, round in shape with tightly closed veils. Button mushrooms have a delicate flavour and are best eaten raw in salads or lightly marinated. Use them for starters, dips, or in pale sauces to serve with fish, cheese, egg and chicken dishes.

Closed-cup-mushroomsClosed Cup Mushrooms – These arc the most popular cultivated mushrooms; double the size of button mushrooms but still with the veil closed. They have a stronger flavour and are ideal in stir-fries, on pizzas and with pasta or rice. Again, use them in dishes and sauces which are light and pale in colour.


Open Cup Mushrooms
– A more mature flavoured mushroom, again larger in size than the closed cup mushroom and with the pinkish brown gills showing where the veil has broken. The perfect choice for making garlic mushrooms. Also excellent for pies and casseroles and to serve as a vegetable to accompany meat and game.

Large Open or Fiat Mushrooms – These can grow to the size of a dinner plate. The caps become flatter and the gills a darker brown. They have a superb flavour and are ideal for serving whole as a stuffed mushroom or in soups and sauces as well as being a vegetable to serve with grilled steak or bacon and eggs.

Wood Blewit – (Lepista nuda) – wild

Wood-BlewitWood blewits may be found during the autumn and winter months, growing amongst the leaf litter. The caps range from 5-15 cm (2-6 inches) across, and are dark brown to purplish-lilac, with a smooth, shiny surface, and the thick stem is also tinged with violet. The gills are sometimes violaceous but turn a dirty flesh pink colour. The flavour is strong. It is recommended that fruitbodies should first be boiled. Some individuals have an allergic reaction to this species. Care must be taken not to confuse this species with Cortinarius alboviolaceus.


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