Safety equals success when it comes to foraging for food, and sure identification is an absolute must when gathering anything from the wild for you or your family’s consumption. If you are in any doubt at all about what exactly it is you have collected, then you must discard it immediately.
If you are careful then mushroom hunting is a safe pursuit, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t live a long and healthy life. If you are not you will in all likelihood eventually end up eating something you shouldn’t have, or even worse feed it to someone you love, and the consequences of mushroom poisoning can indeed, even with modern medicines, be fatal. I refer you to mushroom-appreciation.com to the effects of eating The Death Cap.
Some Sound Advice from a Master
Before you venture out and start picking, I urge you to go out and buy at least two books or field guides on identifying mushrooms. This is sound advice I’ve garnered from John Wright’s excellent River Cottage Handbook Mushrooms(2007). Wright, with a lifetime’s experience of gathering, eating and studying all types of fungus, still uses, and I quote, ‘dozens’ of books to help him identify what he is picking. The very fact that he has never been poisoned is simple testimony to the fact that this is a safe pursuit so long as you are always very, very careful. His number one rule is simple: ‘Never eat a fungus if you do not know its name.’ Follow it and you cannot go wrong.
Another great book for beginners is The Mushroom Guide and Identifier by Peter Jordan. It is a wonderful A4 sized publication with clear, sharp and huge pictures to help with identification. There are many more, and I will be compiling a list for this blog.