There are a tad more than 10,000 documented varieties of mushrooms, most are toxic, some lethally so. Many are edible and most pleasingly so. Some are acquired via foraging while others are grown commercially and by home hobbyists. The following is a list of 30 edible mushrooms, some are easily grown some are very difficult and seem next to impossible, but nothing is impossible – right ?
Almond Portobello Mushrooms is related to true Portobello and white button but it is not the same. Almond Portobello smells and tastes like almonds because it contains many of the same compounds. It has a texture similar to common portobello but differs drastically in taste as well as medicinal qualities. Almond Mushroom can be grown outdoors on decaying organic material such as compost or even organic mulch.
Blewit Mushrooms [Lepista nuda] grow in scattered locations throughout Eurasia and North America. For those foraging for them they are fairly easy to identify as they have an unusual light purple lilac variegated coloration. If you pass them up, you blew it. Unlike most mushrooms Blewits prefer the cool weather of early Autumn. In some areas they grow wild all through the winter. Older specimens have somewhat ruffled caps. In the culinary realm they are a gourmet item, but must be cooked prior to consumption, they are not suitable for eating raw. Blewits can be grown in mulch piles rich in leaf mold and pine needles and mulch. They grow in the cool seasons when most other mushrooms are dormant.
Bolete Mushrooms are another name for Porcini Mushroom covered further down on this page.
Button Mushrooms aka white mushrooms or white button mushrooms are the most familiar mushroom available at the local produce retailer year round. They are also the most widely cultivated mushroom in North America. They are compact, easily grown and harvested and they taste good.
Button Mushrooms grow fairly rapidly [new crop every other week] and are a good choice for novices getting their feet wet in fungiculture.
Caesars Mushroom aka Amanita caesarea was a favorite of the ancient Romans. It grows in the medditerranean region and is still very popular in Italian, French and North African cuisines. They are yellowish orange, the caps more orange and the gills more yellow. In North America it has some relatives Amanita jacksonii grows from Southern Canada all the way down to Northern Mexico and Amanita arkansana grows in the southern USA. There are other mushrooms of the same class that mimic the appearance of their edible cousins. They are so strikingly similar that they can only be identified under a microscope, some are toxic. Don’t eat any you find via foraging unless you are 100% certain what you have or have Kevorkian like tendencies.
Chanterelles are golden yellow odd shaped fungi. They have a delectable spicy fruit flavor. The texture is firm, dense and meaty like mangoes sprinkled with pepper. Like most of the mushroom realm they are most commonly acquired via foraging, but can be cultivated. They are a tad tricky to grow but a successful harvest is well worth the work. They thrive in a symbiotic association with tree roots of several species such as birch, beech and some spruce trees. They need a low pH below 6.0 and will not grow in acidic soil and the soil must not be compacted. If all conditions are perfect and you have inoculated spawn, it could take 3 to 5 years before you reap the fruits of your labor.
Cremini is maturer version of the white button mushroom described above. They are comparable in shape to white buttons but are generally darker in color, brownish. They are sometimes sold as ‘baby portobellos’. Creminis are mild in flavor and can be used for any recipe that calls for white button mushrooms.
Desert truffle grows in very arid regions of the Middle East and North Africa. Various cultures have differing names for this truffle. As per legend they grow where lightning has struck the desert sand. They are rare but not nearly as rare as the European Truffle nor as valuable.
Elm Oyster is not another variety of oyster mushroom, it is its own uniwue variety with distinct characteristics. Elm oyster grows in clusters and resemble a beautiful, white flower when mature. They are best grown in straw See: Growing Elm Oyster Mushrooms
Enoki or Enokitake mushrooms aka winter mushrooms have become popular in recent years. They look like little bean sprouts or micro greens when fully mature and are used in many Asian recipes. It is unusual in its requirements in that it grows in cooler temperatures, low light and high c02.
Although Enoki grows in low temps it spawns best in temperatures in the 72 to 75 F range. The mushrooms emerge from the mycelium strands that were fostered in a warm environment once they are transported to a cold environment of 50 to 60 F. Harvest roughly every 50 to 60 days.
False Morel – some can be DEADLY if eaten raw. False morel actually includes several distinct species in 2 separate genus. Lorchel mushrooms which are sometimes called Beefsteak [Gyromitra esculenta] and Carolina false more [Gyromitra caroliniana] are some of the more common. Even though some versions can be deadly if eaten raw there are others that are delectable when properly cooked. In Scandinavia they are considered a delicacy and sold commercially . False morel mushrooms contains carcinogenic compounds as well as gyromitrin which can cause liver damage and death.
Fried Chicken mushrooms grow in compact crowded clusters. The beige to brown caps are 1 to 5 inches round. They have a pleasant sweet aroma and soft chewy texture that tastes somewhat like ‘fried chicken’. Like most mushrooms they are generally acquired via foraging.
Golden oyster mushroom aka tamogitake are similar to standard oyster mushrooms in appearance other than their golden yellow color. They are generally grown on dead wood but just about any substrate will suffice. Harvests every 3 weeks.
Gypsy Mushroom [Cortinarius caperatus] is an edible mild flavored mushroom. For some reason this mushroom is a favorite place for some species of fly to lay eggs and they sometimes infested with maggots. Due to its common appearance it is easily and frequently confused with toxic mushroom species.
Hedgehog mushroom aka sweet tooth is a cousin of the chanterelle, its taste and aroma although similar are considered inferior to chanterelle mushrooms. It is generally acquired via foraging and little information is available as to success rates for cultivation although it is feasible.
Hen of the Woods is another name for Maitake mushrooms further down.
Horn of Plenty aka Black Trumpet mushrooms [Craterellus cinereus] grow in damp woodlands usually in very large groups, which makes easy pickings for the lucky forager who comes across them. The cap grows in a funnel shape and creates the horn from whence it draws its name. The ‘meat’ of this mushroom is chocolate brown encased by a charcoal gray outer skin. They have no gills like most mushroom varieties. They are related to chanterelles and are also sometimes called “black chanterelle”.
Jelly Ear mushroom is not all that common, nor is all that sought after but is an edible mushroom. It has been used as an herbal medicine for minor ailments in Asian folk medicine and at one time in the west as well where its popularity has declined in the past century. Mycologist Patrick Harding likened it to ‘eating an Indian rubber with bones in it’
King Oyster Mushroom is related to regular oyster mushrooms and is grown in the same fashion. See Oyster Mushrooms
Lions Mane Mushroom have come under the microscope in recent years for its potential nerve regenerative properties and neuroprotective effects. It remotely resembles traditional mushrooms. Instead of umbrella caps and stems we usually associate with mushrooms, they grow in rotund cylindrical masses and produce long snaking spines that resemble a lions mane. It tastes a little like shellfish and a little like squash with only a distant hint of what you would expect from a mushroom, sorry but it doesn’t taste anything like chicken. Lions Mane Mushrooms can be grown on logs in pretty much the same fashion as shiitake mushrooms. The spawn is planted in logs from freshly cut hardwood trees. The logs should be free of visible disease and excessive damage and the bark still intact.
Matsutake is the common name for a somewhat rare mushroom. Its natural range includes Europe, Asia and North America. The American matsutake aka pine mushroom can be found growing under conifers. Young mushrooms are white as they mature they develop brownish blotches. They have a somewhat foul odor, a combination of baby poop and jalapenos. There are many imitators but only one Matsutake, professional foragers and mycologists spend years searching without ever finding one. They can be cultivated but not easily. See: How to Grow Pine Mushrooms
Maitake, the dancing mushrooms in Japanese. They’re popular and for a good reason, they taste Great and are easily cultivated. They grow by tree bases in the wild and are fond of Oak Trees. They can be grown in inoculated logs, preferably Oak
Morel Mushrooms are not only difficult to locate, they are expensive, fetching anywhere from $8 to $15 per pound – subject to market fluctuations. They are not only difficult to locate in the wild from whence they are customarily gathered, but they are also difficult to cultivate.
Ox Tongue Mushroom can be found in most of Europe, North Africa, North America and even down under in Australia. It resembles a chunk of meat, a cows [or Ox] tongue. Some Europeans use it as a meat substitute. It is not toxic but don’t eat it raw as it tastes foul, super astringency. It needs to be cooked for a considerable amount of time and should also be harvested young for the best flavor.
Oyster Mushrooms have become quite popular, they have a taste and texture reminiscent of Oysters, hence their name. Oyster mushrooms thrive in high humidity and need to be misted several times daily for optimal results. They are best grown indoors, and can be grown year round.
Parasol Mushrooms can be eaten raw, some people soak them in butter or sauces. They are similar in appearance to some poisonous species so foragers take heed. There are some records of it being cultivated commercially. So far as being grown by hobbyists, I personally have never given it a go. Spores can be germinated in 10 to 12 days on substrates of hay or wood chips, leaf litter or compost
Porcini Mushroom is similar to the portobello, and often used for the same dishes. It’s aroma is reminiscent of sourdough and its flavor is like creamy nuts. Beige colored, they are an inch to 10 inches round. They are easily grown by home hobbyists
Portobello Mushrooms. If you like button mushrooms, then making your way to portobellos should be an easy step. This mushroom is the most mature stage of the white button mushroom, with its cap fully grown out. The portobello is mild in flavor, but has a meaty texture. It works great as a substitute for meat in certain dishes, and is particularly delectable when grilled.
Reishi aka red reishi or lingzhi mushroom in China, is an edible mushroom most commonly used as an herbal medicine in the orient. It can be grown fairly easily by Hobbyists. See: How to Grow Red Reishi Mushroom in Growbags
Saffron milk cap mushroom aka Lactarius deliciosus is popular in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Basque cuisine. Slavic countries and India also use them . They are generally acquired via foraging.
Shaggy Ink Cap mushroom, Coprinus comatus is an edible mushroom. Once picked it secretes a black ooze which renders it unattractive but still edible. It should be used right away and can not be stores. It looks like a big white corn dog sticking out of the ground when young once the gills form it resembles a British barristers wig.
Shiitake Mushrooms – Growing your own shiitake mushrooms isn’t very difficult. It’s low maintenance once you get it started and doesn’t require a tremendous amount of space. All you need is some Logs and seed , the mushroom seed is called spawn.
Truffles are a delicacy generally found in expensive gourmet shops. It’s a subterranean fungi popular in Europe for centuries. Very few North Americans have ever tried them, but those that have generally come back for more. Modern horticultural advances have made it possible for American gardeners to plant their own truffle orchards. The hardest part is getting the orchard established, once established it requires little maintenance, very little water, no fertilizer, minimal yearly tilling. The roots of oak or hazelnut saplings are inoculated with truffle spores and then planted. Hazelnut trees are most commonly used to cultivate truffles. The tree will produce nuts above ground, and you can also harvest truffle below the surface.
Wine Cap Mushrooms are not as well known as Portobello , but in my opinion their flavor and appeal is comparable, and in some cases superior. They are meatier and grow well in outdoor beds.