Mushrooms are an edible fungus used extensively and diversely by many cooks. They range from the fruit-like chantarelle to the hardy, meat-like portabella. Mushrooms that you find in the grocery store are edible. If you hunt for mushrooms in the wild, always take care and use a mushroom field guide, as some are quite poisonous. Here are a few of the most popular edible mushrooms.
Boletes (Boletaceae) look like a hamburger bun on a thick stalk, but instead of gills they have a spongy layer of pores on the underside, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. The tops of boletes are brown or reddish brown, with pores that range from white to orange, red or brown. They grow up to 10 inches tall. More than 200 boletes species grow in North America. They are commonly found under trees, especially pines. Boletes with orange or red pores are poisonous; do not eat them.
Sulfur shelf mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus) have bright orange-red caps and pale sulfur-yellow pore surfaces. These fungi grow in large masses on wood. They do not have stems, and their pores are tiny. Their size ranges from 2 to 12 inches wide. Sulfur shelf causes a mild allergic reaction (swollen lips) in some people, the MDC warns.
Morels, also known as pinecone, sponge and honeycomb, are easily recognized mushrooms. The morel's cap has distinctive pits and ridges, and it grows from 2 to 12 inches tall. According to the MDC, there are three common morel species: the common morel, which is white when young and yellow as it ages; the black morel, which starts off gray or tan but darkens with age (though they are tastiest when young); and the half-free morel, which has the cap attached at the middle and has long, bulbous stems. Morels should not be consumed with alcohol; they can cause mild poisoning symptoms, the MDC warns.
Chanterelles come in funnel or trumpet shapes, with wavy edges to their caps. Most chanterelles are orange or yellow, except for the black trumpet, which is brownish black. Chanterelles grow from 1/2 to 6 inches wide, and up to 6 inches tall.
The oyster mushroom is a large white, tan or ivory-colored fungus named for its oyster shell shape. Its white gills stream down from a short, off-center stem. Look for soft-fleshed oysters on wood and in large clusters of overlapping caps. They grow 2 to 8 inches wide.
The portabella (sometimes spelled portobello) mushroom is an extremely large, dark-brown mushroom that is the fully mature form of the Crimean, a common white mushroom, according to the University of Florida Extension. Its open, flat cap can grow to 6 inches wide. They are best eaten young and fresh; as they age, their surface darkens and wrinkles.