Mushrooms are a delicacy that can improve almost every meal or bring ecstasy to our taste buds as a special course.
Not all mushrooms are edible, there are many poisons ones, some are even deadly. So before starting mushroom collecting a collector should know how to identify edible mushrooms.
This mushroom identification aid I'm starting with two mushroom varieties. One of the most popular mushrooms and one of my favorite varieties.
(Caesar's mushroom, Ovolo buono, Blagva)
Amanita caesarea is a delicious highly mushroom. I's native to South Europe and North Africa but can be found in any oak wood in the world. Because of it's delicious meat, the fact that is never rotten and it causes no stomach discomforts even to the people with very sensitive stomach, this mushroom has become very rare in many countries.
Here in Croatia Amanita caesarea is protected by law. It's can't be bought on the market. Large scale collecting is forbidden. It can be collected for personal use only, but only in private woods and only if you collect 1/3 of the amount of mushrooms in that woods. So if the area contains 3 Amanita mushrooms you may collect one.
Amanita caesarea is a part of Amanita genus. Because of it's similarity to other toxic varieties unskilled mushroom collectors and hikers destroy it even though it's one of the mostly appreciated mushrooms in the world.
What does Amanita caesarea look like?
Amanita caesarea is a very easy to spot mushroom even when it's still small. It's orange-red cap is visible even while the mushroom is very small.
Like all Amanita mushrooms it grows out of an white egg that later opens and lets out a beautiful cap and yellow stipe.
Gills are also pale yellow.
Surface of this mushroom is very smooth, when it's raining even a bit slimy.
How to eat and prepare it?
This is one of the rare mushrooms that can be eaten completely raw. It can also be cooked, fried, used as mushroom topping on pizza(delicious!) and dried. If you want to store it in freezer, just cut it in pieces and place in a small bag. There is no need to cook it before saving them. It's delicious meat will never be firm or too dry.
Amanita caesarea can be mistaken for toxic mushrooms by inexperienced collectors. It's very simmilar to other Amanita variety called Amanita muscaria (Fly agaric). But the main difference is that Amanita caesarea never has white scales on it's cap. It is always smooth and it's color is always more orange than red.
(Parasol mushroom, sunčanica)
When do you know that mushroom season has started? When people start walking out of the woods with small white umbrellas in their hands. :)
Macrolepiota procera is a huge, and I mean huge mushroom very popular in Europe. It grows in woods on sunny hills(always covered with leaves) as a solitary or in a fairy rings.
It's very easy to spot it in the woods, it's visible even from distance of 10-15 meters. It's stipe can reach high of 50cm and large cap can be 40cm in diameter.
Cap is white with brownish tone, covered in brown or cream scales that can be easily pealed off. If you brush a mushroom on your clothes it will leave small scales all over you.
Stipe is brown and hollow, when you break it it looks like a small tube.
Parasol mushroom always has a ring located close to the cap. If you gently move it it will slide down the stipe.
When you turn the cap this mushrooms has big gills that are white but when you pass your finger over them you'll notice that they have pinkish tone between the gills. Parasol mushroom never has snow white gills.
When it's still small mushrooms cape looks like and egg, ring is till attached and it slowly slides down after the mushroom opens.
How to eat and prepare it?
Macrolepiota procera can't be eaten raw, it needs to be cooked first. The most common way of eating it is deep frying it after rolling it in eggs and breadcrumbs. It can also be used to improve the taste of sauces or used instead of dough for pizza. Just place your toppings on top of the mushroom and bake.
Parasol mushroom can be dried for storing, or frozen(no need to cook it before). Because of it's delicate meat it's not good when stored in oil or vinegar as pickled mushroom.
Can it be mistaken for toxic mushrooms?
Well I would love to say no but people still mistake them.
People in North America should be careful not to mistake it for Chlorophyllum molybdites. Here in Europe this mushroom doesn't exist.
Some people mistake Parasol mushrooms for Amanita pantherina.
The best was to avoid mistakes is to collect only fully open Parasol mushrooms, and collect them in woods. Not on meadows.