While foraging for wild mushrooms is a lot of fun and very rewarding, please use extreme caution!
There are are many species that have look-a-likes. Having an experienced guide while learning is highly recommended. (We swear we're not trying to use this as a scare tactic to get you to sign up for one of our guided hikes. If you are interested in finding out more information about when are next hike will be, you can contact us.)
Here are just a few of the most sought after wild mushrooms in this region...
Lion's Mane & Bear's Head
A.K.A. Hedgehog fungus. There are no look-a-likes, and all forms of this fungus are edible. Mostly found in the fall in the southeast. Grows on dead or dying hardwood trees, including maple, beech, oak, birch, walnut, & sycamore. A choice mushroom, with a crab-like flavor.
Almost year round in temperate forests. This species is common on hardwood trees and often produces huge flushes. Among the most heat and cold tolerant of all wild mushrooms it is not uncommon to find oyster mushrooms in the dead of winter in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
In mixed hardwood forest throughout the Eastern United States, March thru May. This is THE premiere edible. It is difficult to mistake and absolutely delicious. Morchella boasts the fastest growing mycelium of any know species of fungus; you can literally watch it run across a petri plate. It is also extremely difficult to cultivate, making demand even higher among gourmet chefs.
Chicken of the Woods
a.k.a. sulphur shelf. On stumps, trunks, and logs; also on living trees and buried roots. May-November. Note: many people are sensitive to this species, especially when collected from Canadian hemlock or pine. Eat a small amount first before you over-indulge to prevent potential belly upset!
Late summer to Late fall. This species forms on the roots of dying or dead oak trees. It blends in with the leaf litter and can be hard to see. Sometimes attaining enormous size (the cluster shown here was 60 lbs!) Maiatake is sought after by mycophiles and chefs alike. Cook this species for a LONG TIME for best flavor. 45 minutes on med to high heat or try it in a crock pot soup.
There are three common types of reishi that you can find in the southeast: Ganoderma lucidum, G. curtissii (both found on hardwoods), & G. tsugae (found on hemlocks). It is very showy with it's bright red and yellowish/orange colors and it's varnished look that darkens as it matures. It has analgesic, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antibacteria, antioxidant, antitumor, antiviral, anti-HIV, and blood pressure lowing effects.
Very common under pine or mixed hardwood forests throughout Southeastern North America, summer into fall. This is one of the easiest to recognize species due to its very shallow gill structure. All chantrellelles are edible but some are very small. No one has EVER been able to figure out how to cultivate chantrelles and who ever does will be very very wealthy indeed!
In fields, lawns and waste places, during warm weather in temperate climates. Shaggy manes often form fairy rings in lawns and pastures.
Summer to fall in Eastern temperate forests under mixed hardwoods, especially oak. This species exudes copious amounts of fishy smelling latex when bruised. The latex stains brown. Look alike species have a latex that is extremely acrid and burns the tongue; think "battery acid". This species is among the most common and delicious edibles in Eastern forests. When well cooked, the species takes on a savory flavor that is well... to die for!
Trametes versicolor, often called the "turkey tail," one of the most common mushrooms in North American woods, found virtually anywhere there are dead hardwood logs and stumps to decompose--and, occasionally, on conifer wood too. Its cap colors are extremely variable, but tend to stay in the buff, brown, cinnamon, and reddish brown range.