Cooking with Wild Mushrooms

Martha Bishop, OMS Board Member

If you are lucky enough to find wild edible mushrooms this year, you may be looking for a few tips on preparation for the table!

 Of course, if you plan to eat any wild mushrooms, you should always be absolutely certain that you have correct identification, and that the species is listed in modern field guides as edible.    Always check with an experienced identifier if you are unsure about what mushroom you are looking at.  Many wild mushrooms can be confused with poisonous species if you do not have adequate experience with a particular species.  Some species that were previously considered edible are now known to contain dangerous toxins. 

Once you are sure of your ID and edibility, check to make sure that all of the mushrooms in your collection are the same species.  It is possible for species that look similar but are not the same to grow close together.  Also check your field guides to see whether there is any information about not collecting otherwise edible mushrooms from specific locations.  Mushrooms sometimes concentrate toxins from certain trees.  Never eat any mushrooms collected from industrial and agricultural sites or yards where chemicals may have been purposely or accidentally applied to the soil or trees.   Mushrooms have been shown to concentrate radiation, heavy metals, pesticides, and other chemicals.

Next, clean your mushrooms.  I wash them with in water to remove any insects and soil or other debris, and then dry them with a towel to remove excess moisture.   Many people like to soak morels overnight in salt water to remove insects from cavities in the mushrooms.  If any of your mushrooms appear to be discolored or showing other signs of spoiling, throw those away.  Old mushrooms, like any other spoiled food, could cause illness.

Generally, you should always cook wild mushrooms thoroughly before consuming them.  Many mushrooms, including morels, have substances that cause illness if the mushrooms are eaten raw or undercooked.   I usually cut mushrooms into small pieces cook them at least 10 minutes after they are heated through to make sure of thorough cooking.

If you are cooking a mushroom that you haven’t eaten before, eat only a couple of bites on the first day that you try them.  Some people experience personal reactions or allergies to new foods.  You can try eating more the next day if you suffer no ill effects.

I hope you will have success in finding some wild edible mushrooms this season!  Since it is illegal In Ohio to sell wild-collected Ohio mushrooms, this may be your best chance to try eating them.

Please see a couple of my favorite preparation methods below.

Favorite Morels

Morchella esculentoides

Morels can be fried, baked, or steamed and eaten as a side dish or included in other recipes calling for mushrooms.  This is my preferred way to prepare them because the flour helps to retain moisture and to concentrate the delicious flavor.

Ingredients:

  • Morels, precleaned, soaked overnight in salt water, and dried as above (You may want to cut large ones in half, lengthwise.)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, butter, or both
  • Flour

Put a generous amount of flour in a shallow bowl.  Roll the morels in the flour to coat.  Heat enough oil or butter to coat the skillet over medium high heat.  The skillet should be large enough to lay out the morels in a single layer.  Cook until browned on one side, and turn to brown on the other side.  Heat should be high enough to brown the mushrooms, but low enough to allow thorough heating through for several minutes.

Cantharellus lateritius

Brandied Chanterelles

This is a delicious recipe inspired by the combination of Walt’s famous recipe for candied chanterelles and the gift of a bottle of fine Armenian brandy.  You could use any brandy you prefer.  I have used cognac with good results.

Ingredients:

  • Chanterelles, cleaned and dried as above, and sliced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Brandy
  • Wildflower honey (or any kind you have on hand)

On medium high, heat just enough olive oil in a large iron skillet to prevent sticking.  Add the chanterelles in a single layer and sauté until golden on both sides.  Remove from heat and add an ounce or two of brandy depending on how many mushrooms you have.  Be careful because the brandy may flame if you add it over the heat.  Add a little water or more brandy if all the brandy evaporates immediately.  Return to low heat and stir and simmer until the liquid evaporates.  Drizzle the mushrooms lightly with a bit of honey to glaze, and cook, stirring another minute to finish.

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