Advice: Edible mushrooms from poisonous ones?

Dear Beerhaze,

How can I tell edible mushrooms from poisonous ones? Here’s the thing, mushrooms are expensive and they grow everywhere around here. Why would I buy mushrooms when I can take a 5-minute walk and pick a grocery bag full of them free of charge?

Dear Pocket Genius,

You answered your last question yourself… because they could be poisonous!

It’s quite difficult to pick only the edible ones. I’m sure you can have someone teach you locally, where you live. This is not really something you should research over the web, as it could be the last mistake you make.

Sure, there are certain varieties of mushroom that are impossible to confuse with poisonous ones, but again, ask someone to show you, in person.

A few examples to get you started…

  • Wrapped in a plastic container for $2.99 at your local grocery store (edible).
  • The tiniest nibble off a mushroom growing in your backyard makes your tongue tingle and your dog foam from every orifice (poisonous).
  • Mushrooms in odd color combinations: red/white, black/green, brown/yellow, blue/pink (poisonous).
  • Cream of mushroom soup scraping from the bottom of the pot at Pizza Hut (poisonous).
  • Fried mushrooms that give you diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, or worse: bleeding from the eyes, tongue swelling to the size of a 12 oz. Striploin steak, urge to pass water and the need to watch Dancing With The Stars (poisonous).
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