“All mushrooms are edible – once,” said Maxine Stone during a recent lecture at Power Valley Nature Center where she shared tips on finding, identifying and preparing wild Missouri mushrooms. “Before eating any mushroom get them positively identified otherwise you could suffer the consequences, which could be deadly.”
Maxine Stone is the author of the newly published Missouri Conservation Department's field guide Missouri Wild Mushrooms: A Guide To Hunting, Identifying and Cooking the State’s Most Common Mushrooms and is past president of the Missouri Mycological (fungi and mushroom) Society. The book is a result of years of personal study and field work and illustrates the amazing mushroom variety that grows throughout Missouri. As Stone said, "There's more than morels in Missouri."
Missouri Department of Conversation media specialist Dan Zarlenga confirmed that mushroom hunters in Jefferson and South County will be able to begin to find morels and other wild mushrooms once the weather warms in early spring.
“Morels start coming out in April but there are lots of varieties of mushrooms out there,” said Zarlenga, noting that there are more than just morels to hunt. “While morels are the most commonly known mushroom in Missouri, there are lots of other varieties that are edible, such as chanterelles and Hen in the Woods. Once you learn which mushrooms are good you’ll be able to harvest wild mushrooms spring, summer and fall.”
During Stone’s program she emphasized the importance of 100 percent identification, especially since there are many look-a likes as the non-edible false morel. Since morels are among the first mushrooms to appear, Stone explained how to ID them.
“Morels come in two colors, black or yellow and have honeycomb caps with ridges and are hollow inside,” said Stone. “ In comparison, the false morel are reddish in color are not hollow and look more like a brain.”
When the weather warms and the moisture is right morels start popping up. Stone says you can find morels almost anywhere where the ground has been disturbed, including parks and woods or your own backyard.
“I know some people that have morels coming up in their gravel driveway,” Stone said.
If you want to hunt for morels Stone recommended looking for them around drying elm trees, or around white ash or cottonwood trees. "Believe me if the conditions are right you’ll find them,” said Stone.
One tip Stone had for harvesting any Missouri mushroom was to cut them instead of pulling them out of the ground. This allows the mushroom spores and ground to stay in place, which in turn will hopefully ensure a future harvest.
Whether you hunt and harvest mushrooms yourself or buy them from a farm market, preparing them is easy. Just brush off any dirt or wipe them clean with a paper towel.
“There’s no need to soak wild mushrooms in salt water,” said Stone. “Since mushrooms are mostly water you don’t need to add any more water to them, or salt for that matter. I recommend just brushing off any dirt or bugs you might find on them. If I do use water to wash them off I do so sparely.”
Copies of Missouri’s Wild Mushrooms: A Guide To Hunting, Identifying and Cooking the State’s Most Common Mushrooms can be ordered from the Missouri Conservation Department’s online nature shop at www.mdcnatureshop.com. Besides great photography and information to help you ID your finds, the book also features 24 mushroom recipes, which includes the following:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 cups fresh or 1 handful of dried morels
- 1 pint heavy cream or half and half
- 2-3 tablespoons Marsala wine
- salt and pepper
Melt butter in a skillet over a medium heat, add shallots and sauté for a few minutes.
If using fresh morels cut each in half lengthwise to clean and rinse if necessary. If you have large morels cut them into smaller pieces, but not too small. Add the morels to the sautéed shallots and sauté for a few minutes.
If using dried morels reconstitute them in warm water. Cut them into pieces, but not too small. Squeeze out morel liquid and save. Add morels to sautéed shallots and sauté. Add the reserved morel liquid being careful not to add in any sediment that has fallen to the bottom.
Continue to cook until liquid has evaporated. Add the cream and cook for a few minutes until mixture thickens Add salt and pepper to taste. Add Marsala wine to taste. Makes 6-8 servings.
Note: These are excellent served as a topping on grilled steaks or chicken.
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
- 1 clove galic, sliced
- 1 cup fresh chanterelles, torn into pieces
- splash of balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper bread, pasta or rice
Melt butter with garlic and sauté until garlic is soft. Add chanterelles. Let them sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until done (tender). Serve on bread (bruschetta-style) or over cooked pasta or rice.
- 2 –3 cups oyster mushrooms, cut to resemble oyster shells
- 3/4 cup beer
- 1 clove garlic salt
- 3 –4 while black peppercorns
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 10-ounce package spinach, thawed and drained
- 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup milk
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup seasoned bead crumbs
Place mushrooms in a large pot. Pour beer and enough water to cover. Add garlic, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and cool. Arrange mushrooms on a baking sheet (or shallow dish).
Melt butter in a saucepan over a medium high heat. Cook onion and garlic in butter until soft. Reduce heat to low and stir in spinach and cheese. Cook until cheese melts. Stirring frequently. Spoon sauce over each oyster as if you were filling a real oyster shell. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake 8 – 10 minutes in a 425- degree oven. Serves 6-8.