There are 2,000 or more kinds of wild mushrooms in Ohio. Some are poisonous and some are edible and delicious when properly prepared. Even though not every one is interested in collecting mushrooms to eat, it is important to understand most have an important and beneficial role in the environment. A lot of mushrooms aide in the breakdown of logs, leaves, stems and other organic debris. Others, such as the woodland mushroom, are essential to good growth, and even survival of trees.
Edible and poisonous mushrooms sometimes look very similar and even grow in the same area. Since there is not a way to test to see if a mushroom is edible or poisonous, it’s a good idea to go mushrooming with someone who knows how to identify them. The season for collecting wild mushrooms in Ohio for food begins in late March and early April when the first morel or sponge mushrooms (top photo) are found. These edible mushrooms are most abundant during April and the first two weeks of May. The false morels (bottom photo) are found at this same time of the year, but they must be regarded as poisonous and not collected for eating.
Ohio State University’s Fact Sheet shares a few tips when collecting wild mushrooms:
- Be sure of your identification-eat only kinds known to be edible.
- Do not eat mushrooms raw.
- Eat only mushrooms in good condition.
- Eat only one kind at a time and do not eat large amounts.
- Eat only a small amount the first time; even morels, generally considered to be excellent, may cause illness in some persons.
- Don’t experiment. There is an old saying, “There are old mushroom hunters, and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.”
- Obtain a copy of one or more books or publications on mushrooms and/or join a mushroom club.
Did you know that Ohio had a Mushroom Society? Formed in 1973, The Ohio Mushroom Society has widespread membership mainly in Ohio, but also in several surrounding states. Their goal is to increase their members’ appreciation and knowledge of wild mushrooms in an informal, enjoyable manner. Those who wish may go on to acquire an extensive background in mycology, the scientific study of fungi. Their membership ranges from the beginning collector to the professional mycologist and includes several mycophagists (mushroom eaters), photographers, artists, toxicologists, and nature enthusiasts. Anyone with an interest in mushrooms is encouraged to join. You can find more information on their website: www.ohiomushroom.org.
Each spring, the fields and forest floors of Ohio’s state parks are scoured by thousands of mushroom hunters. Depending on where you live, mid-April through May is prime mushroom time in Ohio, and while several species of Ohio mushrooms are fit for the dinner plate, the most passionately pursued is the morel. Many state parks permit the hunting of mushrooms but special rules do apply, so contact the park office at each park you plan to visit. Click here to find contact information for your state parks.