Nonpoisonous Mushrooms

There are perhaps a thousand kinds of mushrooms that are not poisonous. Many of these are edible. Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin B2 and certain minerals, and they are low in calories. In addition to the meadow mushroom, some of the well-known nonpoisonous mushrooms are:

Horse Mushroom

This species resembles the meadow mushroom but is larger and coarser. The flavor is considered excellent.

Coral Mushroom, or Clavaria

This genus includes some of the larger forms of the stag horn, or fain-club, fungi. Coral mushrooms grow upright in fingerlike clumps, resembling yellow or white coral. They may be found in late summer and early autumn in moist woody places.

Oyster Mushroom

This mushroom is named for its flavor. It is found in clusters on logs and on dying or dead hardwood trees. The stalks are short and laterally attached; the caps are white to ashy gray with white gills beneath.

Shaggymane

This is the largest of the genus called inky caps, or ink caps. The shaggymane is often six inches (15 cm) tall, with a cylindrical cap three inches (7.5 cm) long and one and one-half inches (4 cm) in diameter. It springs up overnight on lawns after a warm rain. By the end of the day it has matured and the gills and some other parts of the cap have turned into an inky black liquid. It must be picked just before maturity and cooked promptly.

Puffball

No puffball is known to be poisonous, but some are not eaten because of flavor or texture. When a mature puffball is struck it will give off a cloud of dust, which is composed of dark brown spores that have developed inside it. Puffballs should be eaten only when the insides are white and solid. Also, only large ones should be picked because certain poisonous mushrooms pass through a button stage in which they resemble a small puffball. Several species are eaten. The largest is the giant puffball, which has been known to reach a diameter of more than three feet (90 cm).

Fairy Ring Mushroom

This species is rather small, but it is popular because it is found in abundance and has a nutlike flavor and good drying qualities. It is buff in color and grows chiefly in open grassy places, often in circles called fairy rings. These rings are caused by the outward growth of the mycelium year after year in an increasingly larger circle. Fairy rings may be formed by other species of gill mushrooms, including the meadow mushroom.

Shiitake, or Black Forest Mushroom

This is a wild Japanese mushroom that is popular in the United States because of its smoky, garlic-like flavor. The cap is up to three inches (8 cm) wide and is tawny to dark brown. It is found on conifer and hardwood stumps.

Morel

There are several species with excellent flavor. The whitish stalk supports a cap that is conical or cylindrical, black to olive-gray, and pitted or honey-combed. The morel is found in early spring in orchards and deciduous woods.

Truffle

This relative of the morel grows underground. It is found primarily in Europe, where pigs and dogs are trained to locate it by its pungent aroma. It is then dug up with a small hoe. Truffles are considered a delicacy.