Mushrooms are an ideal addition to any diet. They are nutritious, can be found in the wild and have many delicious varieties. This is especially true for those who eat vegetarian and organic. There are many varieties of mushrooms, but only a handful of popular wild mushrooms are edible. They can be used in sauces, pasta, to top meats, soups, stews, stir-fry dishes, on pizza and raw on salads. Great care should be exercised when searching for and consuming wild mushrooms; there are several that can be fatal when eaten if not identified correctly.
Morels are some of the most delicious wild mushrooms in North America and most easy to safely identify. After the first spring flowers appear, they spring up in moist, sandy soils, especially around trees such as ash, apple, cottonwood and elm. Streams, hillsides and gorges flourish with them as well. Morels range from light to dark gray, light tan to golden brown, cream yellow to gold. The cap ranges from small and slender to short and fat. They have a mild flavor with a firm texture.
The chanterelle is known as one of the more flashy and desired wild edible mushrooms. It has a distinctive flavor and aroma, reminding one more of a fruit or flower then a fungi. The yellow or golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) is easy to find because of its bright color, usually mixed in woods under conifers or oaks from June to September. The color ranges from vibrant orange to light yellow, smooth and firm. The mushrooms smell like apricots, with a fruity, flowery flavor.
This wild edible mushroom is very fragrant, a popular mushroom in French cuisine. It not only has a delicate texture, but a fragrance like apricots or grapes. It flourishes mostly in summer and is easy to find, usually on the ground under oak trees. They do not grow on wood. The color ranges from salmon pink to pale gray to chocolate black with wrinkled skin. They grow from June to September.
Porcini mushrooms are very common throughout the world for their versatility in cooking and light crisp flavor. In France, it is known as the cep. In Italy it is the porcini, and in the United states it is the king bolete. It can be harvested in late summer and early fall, individually or in clusters. The color ranges from reddish brown to light brown to creamy tan, with a dome-shaped smooth spongy top.