I can only identify the 1UP's and the power-ups
August 21, 2013 4:54 PM   Subscribe

I have no background knowledge in mycology whatsoever. But I would like to improve my mushroom-identification knowledge from zero to at least beginner-101 level. What resources [online, print books, or other] might be most useful for someone [me] who wants to be able to recognize the mushrooms near his home in Upper Valley VT/NH? Bonus points for resources that will help me to understand whether the mushroom is dangerous for dogs to ingest.

Basically, every walk with my puppy [obligatory pic] is a referendum on whether he should eat the mushrooms we encounter along the way (I say no, he says yes). I steer him away from most of them, but am neither sharp-eyed nor fast enough to keep him away from all of them. So, as I pick them out of his mouth, I'd like to be able to gauge better how worried I should be.
posted by .kobayashi. to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Do you know the difference between Cremini, Button, and Portabello mushrooms?

It's how old they are when picked. That's it. Probably won't help you on your walk, but it's still pretty cool.
posted by theichibun at 4:57 PM on August 21, 2013

Best answer: The best resource is your local mycological society- most of them will lead you on mushroom hunts. The local knowledge is by far the best, because mushrooms can have different toxicity levels depending on geography. Mushroom knowledge is really just academic until you find them in the field.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:27 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

My vote is for any book by Paul Stamets that you can get your hands on, but in particular "Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms"--as it has the most species detailed compared to his other books. There's even a few Ted Talks featuring him that you might find interesting if you're looking for more info about mushrooms in general and not necessarily identification.
posted by stubbehtail at 5:50 PM on August 21, 2013

Best answer: I'm West-Coast-centric, and out here the definitive guides are by David Arora. He has a short book and a very thick book. Both are worth purchasing, and both would help you narrow IDs down, if not getting you to a specific, regional ID.

Two more tips:

There are several helpful Yahoo groups. I'd specifically recommend Mushroom Talk for help and conversation that's not all that regional, but that would be after the fact. Also after the fact, you could look through mushroomobserver.org to narrow IDs.

Also, if we're only talking about your dog, a) learn to identify amanitas (Google will help you) and avoid them at all costs, and b) generally wrestle away from him any mushroom that has gills. Gilled mushrooms are the most poisonous.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:09 PM on August 21, 2013

Oh, forgot mykoweb.com. Also west-coast-based, but still helpful.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:10 PM on August 21, 2013

Best answer: The Complete Mushroom Hunter is a pretty good introduction with great pics, especially if you want to figure out what is edible. It is not a complete field guide, so you also need one of those for identification -- the National Audubon Guide is good for this, and also by Gary Lincoff.

If you are really interested, Mushrooms Demystified is widely acknowledged to be the bible. It's a bit big to bring along on walks, but is very complete for identification and an accessible, fun readt.

Online, I like Rogers Mushrooms for identification.

oneirodynia is right though -- the real answer is to find the locals and go on a foray! Mushroomers are very friendly folks and will help you so much with getting started. Forays are cheap and you learn a lot of essentials that aren't in books, especially about your local area.
posted by susanvance at 4:54 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Re: the dog -- I am absolutely not an expert but I wouldn't let him eat any. Mushrooms can be unpredictable and very few wild ones should be eaten raw, at least by humans. For example, raw morels would make anyone sick, but are fine if they are cooked. Likewise, mushrooms occasionally have worms or other things growing on/in them (especially the mature ones).
posted by susanvance at 5:06 AM on August 22, 2013

Response by poster: susanvance: Right, the plan is not to let him eat any. What I'm mostly hoping to do is to quell my unease during those occasional times he manages to sneak a chomp on one. I can be a worrier.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:29 AM on August 22, 2013

Best answer: Ah, good plan. Just wanted to also note that Eugenia Bone has a nice list of American mycological clubs by region that might be more up-to-date than the link above.
posted by susanvance at 11:39 AM on August 22, 2013

Well, I can tell you what I did. I found the most local mushroom book I could at a local bookstore. I read it, many times. I walked around with a camera. I took good pictures, and then I went home and compared them to the photos/pictures in the book. Then I got more comprehensive mushroom guides. Kept taking pictures, and learning what they were. Eventually you get to the point where you know the "foolproof" ones, and then it's down to spore prints and more expert-type activities.

Learning your mushrooms takes patience, because they're ephemeral, popping up and then disappearing. Even knowing that the same mushroom looks different as it ages is a thing.
posted by RedEmma at 8:41 AM on August 24, 2013

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