Foraging for Fungi on the Forest Floor

Mushrooms and Moss

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you got stranded in the wilderness? Do you have the knowledge, skills, and courage to survive? Where would you sleep? What would you eat?

I got a taste for what it would take on a foray with the Monadnock Mushroomers Unlimited. This club of fungus fanatics explores the region’s state parks and forests for the fun of finding, identifying, learning more about (and sometimes eating) its mushrooms. It’s a great way for fledgling foragers as well as experienced collectors to share a love of mycology.

After a brief meeting at the trailhead of Brewster Forest in Dublin, we were off down the trails scanning the forest floor for chanterelles, hedgehogs, oysters, and boletes.

Monadnock Mushroomers Unlimited

Who knew there could be such diversity in just one forest? Red, orange, yellow, white, brown, and even purple mushrooms? Some grew like shelves up the trunks of decaying snags, and others had hundreds of long protrusions like a sea coral or a church’s pipe organ. Even within the familiarly-shaped parasols, some had gills while others had pores beneath their caps. Here’s a look at some of my favorite finds:

We returned to the trail head with baskets overloaded with specimens. Puzzling out the identities of each was a group task. Veterans shared their perspectives, guidebooks were consulted, and some of us set a few of our finds aside to take home to the kitchen.

Basket full of mushrooms

Eating wild mushrooms is a dangerous business if you don’t know what you’re doing. Many varieties are poisonous enough to kill you in a slow, painful, adrenal failure kind of way. I made sure to collect for consumption only those that were easily identified. And I also asked the experts in the group. Some edible mushrooms look exactly like their poisonous cousins, so it’s important to double check every identifiable feature.

Identifying Wild Mushrooms

When I picked these two mushrooms, I thought they were the same kind. Upon cracking open their caps, one of the mushrooms immediately oozed a blue ink. It was poisonous, although the other was edible. Case in point!

I thought these were the same mushroom species!

I was, however, very curious to find out what these wild mushrooms would taste like. So I brought a few of the choicest specimens home to my cutting board. There’s a king bolete, a two-colored bolete, and some sweet tooth mushrooms.

Edible wild mushrooms

Chop, chop, chop and then into the frying pan with a little butter. I tried just a bit of each species first to make sure I wouldn’t have a reaction.

Cooking wild mushrooms

They were a bit crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and they had a full nutty flavor. Delicious!

Eating wild mushroooms

Interested in learning to forage for mushrooms? Start with these tips:

8 Tips for Safe Foraging

  1. Stick to the mushrooms indicated for beginners. These are the ones less easy to mistake for another species that could be poisonous.
  2. Always check your identification against at least two sources, and if you’re a beginner make sure one of those sources is an experienced collector. When in doubt, don’t pick.
  3. Pick mature, but fresh, mushrooms. Mushrooms that are still budding out of the ground or opening their parasols are harder to identify.
  4. Check for worms, slugs, or other bugs that may have burrowed into the mushroom before picking.
  5. Forage away from roads or areas that may have been sprayed with fertilizers or pesticides.
  6. Keep edible species in separate containers from unknown species to avoid cross-contamination.
  7. Clean and cook your mushrooms thoroughly before consumption.
  8. When trying a new species eat just a little to start. Even for edible mushrooms you may have an allergic reaction.

Special thanks to MMU!


Jackie Raiford, New Hampshire State Parks Intern

I'm a graduate student working towards my Masters in Conservation Biology at Antioch University New England. My research interests include the conservation of urban green spaces for the physical and psychological health of communities. I lived for the first 24 years of my life in Rockville, Maryland just north of Washington D.C. I have traveled a little both domestically and abroad, and lived for six months in Australia. I also work as a dance and fitness instructor, and am certified by the American Council on Exercise.

11 thoughts to “Foraging for Fungi on the Forest Floor”

  1. I thought the Brewster Forest is a Society for the Protection of NH Forests reservation, did they transfer it to the state?

    1. Andrew, Thanks for commenting! Brewster isn’t a State Forest and is one of the Society for the Protection of NH Forests’ permanent reservations. We’ll make that correction to the post. Thanks for pointing this out.

  2. Hello Jackie,
    I was wondering if you knew a good place to pick boletes in NH. I am from Eastern Mass and would like something that has a lot of mushrooms but is not a super long drive.

    1. Hey anna,

      Not too many people like to give up their good mushroom picking spots. It’s kind of like fishing. Once you find a primo spot you don’t really want other people taking your dinner. lol. you can find really good tasting mushrooms anywhere. and I mean anywhere. western mass should be a fine spot for boletes. This year has really been great and remember you can always look for chaga during the winter while you wait for morels to come out in the spring. happy hunting 🙂

  3. Hi. I live in western mass and am looking to take a workshop on mushroom foraging. I can’t seem to find any in this area. Do you have any leads? I could go southern NH orVT, too. Thanks, jen

  4. Please, please, please -do not pick up mushroom with its root! When you go mushroom hunting it is a must to take a little knife with you. Before picking the mushroom, cut it right above the root. Holy rule.

  5. I was wondering if my 9yo son might use one of your photos for a poster he is making for 4-H about wild mushrooms in NH? The photo of the 2 mushrooms that looked the same until you sliced them open is a perfect illustration of why you must be very careful when eating wild mushrooms! Thank you.

    1. Just use yeast, if it kills it, its posin. If it doesn’t your good to go, no need for lessons. Test multiple different bacteria’s. No need to try it yourself, or feed to a mouse.

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