10 Mushrooms You Should Forage This Summer
There is such a wide variety of nature’s best to forage for this summer, but a special salute must be awarded to the mushroom.
While there are an estimated ten thousand species of mushroom in North America alone (which is astounding!), we have to be incredibly careful to identify each variety incredibly carefully before consumption.
Mushrooms can be incredibly deceiving. Some of the most attractive-looking mushrooms can, in fact, be poisonous when consumed, while others that look a little plain can be the most delicious!
So while you are out foraging this summer, don’t bypass seeking out some beautiful and edible mushroom varieties to take back to base camp and either use them for some fantastic dishes or take advantage of some of their surprising yet powerful medicinal qualities.
Let’s have a look through the ten best mushroom species to look out for when you are foraging this summer.
Fairy Ring Mushroom
Scientific name: Marasmius Oreades
Where to find them: You can find the Fairy Ring Mushroom all across North America.
You will primarily find them growing nicely in grassy areas or in the vegetation next to old tree stumps.
When to find them: You will find them in the warmer seasons, such as summer and fall, but they may grow all year round in warmer climates.
These mushrooms are pretty small and will grow in clusters that resemble an arc and can be very pale or even white.
Beware of the Sweating Mushroom which is the poisonous counterpart, which is more pinky gey in the gills.
Some may believe it is called the fairy ring mushroom as it has the iconic shape of a fairy house, with a pointed top and flush pale gills on the underside.
How To Use Them: The stems of this mushroom are very woody and tough, so it’s best to remove those. After rinsing and drying, these mushrooms can be used in light salads and lightly sauteed in butter for a sauce for tofu or chicken.
Meadow Mushroom or Field Mushroom
Scientific name: Agaricus Campestris
Where to find them: The meadow or Field Mushroom can be found across North America and can be foraged in grassy areas, and much like the fairy ring mushroom, they can be found growing in an arc or a “Fairy Ring”; however, you may also find them growing solo.
When to find them: The meadow mushroom loves humidity, so look out for them after rainfall in the warmer months during spring, summer, and fall.
The meadow mushroom can be identified by a flat white cap when the mushroom has reached a mature stage, but you will find the varying colors of gills underneath that denote the age of the mushroom in this variety. Pink, Red//Brown and dark brown are all good colors to see here, but if you find one with a white underside, leave that one well alone!
Beware of the Toxic counterpart, the yellow stainer, named as such as it will bruise yellow when cut or bruised.
How To Use Them: This mushroom is quite versatile and can be used similarly to that of the button mushroom. Highly absorbent, it will take on many flavors when sauteed; a wild garlic butter is a perfect pairing!
Hen of the Wood
Also Called Ram’s Head/Sheep’s Head
Scientific name: Signorina, or Maitake Grifola Frondosa
Where to find them: You can find this mushroom growing in sizable clumps at the base of tree stumps across the northeastern regions of North America spreading west. They can usually be found in the same places year after year.
When to find them: You will find them in the late part of the summer to early autumn, and like other varieties of mushroom, they will be primarily found after a rainy period.
The hen of the wood mushroom is a mix of grey and brown in color and has a tubular appearance. The clumpy collections of them grow similarly in appearance to the way coral looks.
How To Use Them: The stalks of the hen of the wood mushroom can be pretty tough, so it’s best to collect with a knife for assistance against the woody stem. They are incredibly meaty in texture and can stand up well to flash-sauteeing with butter, herbs, and garlic for a delicious risotto topping or over fresh pasta.
Wood Hedgehog/Hedgehog Mushroom/ Sweet Tooth Mushroom
Scientific name: Hydnum Repandum
Where to find them: This mushroom, which can be known as any one of the three names, can be widely found across North America and can readily be found in abundance in summer and fall.
You will find them growing in clumps underneath grasses and mossy areas underneath certain species of trees, such as Pine and Birch.
As its name might suggest, the hedgehog mushroom has “spines” or “teeth” underneath the cap of the mushroom, rather than the typical gills you’d expect from a mushroom.
The Wood Hedgehog has an orange hue with some tan highlights, and the shape of the mushroom is similar to the chanterelle mushroom with a unique contour for each one.
Beware of the doppelganger mushroom to this variety, which is slightly darker and more scaly, although not considered poisonous, it would be pertinent to avoid it.
How To Use Them: The beautiful element of the wood hedgehog mushroom is that it has a sweet and almost nutty taste, which can be a perfect robust flavor to add into cream sauces, butter sauces, or steeped in hot water for a mushroom infusion which is excellent for soothing digestive complaints.
Chicken of The Woods Mushroom/Sulphur Shelf Mushroom
Scientific name: Laetiporus Sulphureus
Where to find them: You will be able to find the Chicken Mushroom growing on hardwood trees that can be alive or dead, such as Oak trees (the tree is a super important part of getting the right mushroom), and can be predominantly found in areas of North America that are east of the Rocky Mountains.
When to find them: This mushroom species is generally a summer mushroom, but if the growing climate is warm in spring, you can often find them growing a little earlier than high summer.
These mushrooms can be gigantic and are characterized by their orange or salmon-pink cap, which turns to bright yellow underneath.
This species is known as a “bracket mushroom” as it does not have the characteristic gills underneath that you’d expect to see.
Be sure to be extra cautious that you only forage the mushrooms found on oak trees, as the mushrooms on most other varieties can be very unpleasant and toxic, such as the Jack-o-lantern mushrooms, named as such as they can glow in the dark.
How To Use Them: These mushrooms host a really powerful meaty texture and flavor, but it’s essential only to use the caps when they are young, and of course, make sure they are identified correctly!
This texture and flavor profile allows them to be an excellent meat substitute and make delicious stuffing for game birds and venison dishes.
Scientific name: Morchella Esculenta
Where to find them: The Morel Mushroom is easy to spot! It can be found over most North America beneath hardwood trees in wooded areas and orchards and loves to grow on the ground that has been agitated.
When to find them: Although this mushroom is not exclusively a summertime forage-find, you will find that the cooler the climate, the season of Morel can stretch from spring into the early summer season.
These mushrooms look incredibly gnarly, with deep indents that resemble an irregular honeycomb structure, they are beautiful, and each one is unique in its pattern. It has beige highlighted outer areas, while the indents are a deeper brown.
Beware of finding the “ False Morel” distinctive from the Morel as the cap is not attached to the stem.
How To Use Them: These mushrooms pack a flavor punch! They are fantastic on their own cooked in butter with herbs but can also be dried for future use where they can be rehydrated and used in stocks, stews, and to make mushroom broth; they can aid digestive issues on their own steeped in hot water!
Scientific name: Calvatia Gigantea
Where to find them: The beautiful giant puffball is a relatively common mushroom worldwide, including North America, and can often be found in temperate locations, mostly in forests and meadows.
When to find them: Although they have a somewhat shorter season than many other mushroom species, you will be able to forage for them throughout summer into early fall. Potentially a touch longer if the weather stays warm.
Giant puffballs can often grow to huge diameters, hence the name of the species!
With a smooth and perfectly rounded white exterior, you will find the inside is soft and pure white flesh when torn open. The young versions of these mushrooms are the only ones you should consume as they increase toxicity as they grow older.
If you think you fond a giant puffball and it has anything other than white or has gills, leave it alone!
How To Use Them: These puffball mushrooms have such delicate flesh and are incredibly absorbent, so don’t be tempted to wash them! These mushrooms will take on any flavor, so ideally would be cooked in stock-based dishes and soups to mingle the flavors.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Also called Bear’s Head Tooth/Monkey’s Head/Pom Pom/Bearded Hedgehog Mushroom
Scientific name:Hericium erinaceus
The Lion’s Mane Mushroom has to be one of the most beautiful-looking mushrooms to forage for and is found in shaded areas of northern deciduous or alpine forests.
As with many other species of mushrooms, you are likely to find them growing on rotten logs and dead hardwood trees.
You can forage for them in the very late summer into fall, and they will be more prominent in the lower, damp areas of their chosen habitats.
The Lion’s Mane Mushroom is entirely edible as long as all the mushroom parts are white, and you will liken their strands to look like icicles hanging from the stalk.
If you find them while foraging, they are an absolute delight to see and consume!
How To Use Them: These mushrooms are delicious in soups, cut finely as an alternative to meat in light spring rolls, or simply cooked in wild garlic butter for delightful simplicity. You can also make tinctures, teas, or you can find them in supplements. If you don’t have time to make your own remedies, or you haven’t found Lion’s Mane in the forest, you can buy the Lion’s Mane Tincture from Nicole Apelian’s Apothecary here!
Shaggy Mane Mushroom
Also Called Shaggy Inkcap/Lawyer’s Wig/Maned Agaric Mushroom
Scientific name: Coprinus Comatus
Where to find them: You are likely to find the Shaggy Mane Mushroom or any of the names it is referred to all across North America in meadows and Grassy areas.
When to find them: The growth and maturity of the mushroom are heavily dependent on a warm climate. However, its season can run from mid-summer to early winter, depending on how humid it is to grow.
This beautiful mushroom has a shaggy-looking cap that descends over the stem with the appearance of being covered in loose scales.
This mushroom is only edible in its infancy, and this will be indicated by the gill of the mushroom being pink in color: if the gills are black, leave them alone!
How To Use Them: A high proportion of this mushroom is water, so you can use it to make beautiful soups and stock-based dishes, such as risottos and late summer broths.
Scientific name: Cantharellus Cibarius
The beautiful Chanterelle Mushroom is extremely widely grown, and you can find these while foraging across North America, primarily in coniferous forests growing in clumps mingled in with the mossy areas.
They can also be found at the base of mountain ridges in lush woodland.
While the appearance may vary among species of Chanterelle, you are likely to find them at their golden best in late summer into mid-fall.
These mushrooms appear funnel-shaped and can be anywhere between yellow and gold but can easily be mistaken for their toxic counterpart, the Jack-o-lantern mushrooms.
How To Use Them: Chanterelles sometimes have distinct undertones of pepper and are very rich and meaty, making them the perfect addition to pasta dishes, and can be complimented to cream sauces and stock-based dishes such as risotto.
Whichever mushrooms you find along your foraging journey, be sure to identify them correctly before harvesting, as some mushrooms have some very accurate doppelgangers, which can be toxic and harmful if ingested.
The best advice is to pop a guidebook in your basket and see what you can find along the way; learning about all the species is especially fun too! Once you start finding new mushrooms, you will begin to see them everywhere, and the edible ones are such a delight to eat!
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