The Arkansas region has some edible mushroom varieties for those interested in picking their own, but mushrooms can range from tasty and healthful to mildly poisonous and fatal. Exercise caution while collecting mushrooms for cooking. Seek expert guidance until you learn to identify edible mushrooms from their poisonous counterparts.
Puffballs are stalkless mushrooms resembling pears. They are usually white, tan or gray in color. Puffballs occur in fall and toward the end of summer inhabiting pastures, barren grounds and lawns dry without trees, or dying wood and dead trees. Examine the interiors of puffballs before cooking. Cut them top-to-bottom and check if the interiors are stark white resembling white bread. As a puffball mushroom ages, the insides turn yellow and then brown, finally becoming a dark powdery bulk. Aging features can decrease the taste of the mushroom. Peel the skin off the puffball, if it is hard, before cooking.
Oyster mushrooms resemble an oyster shell and grow in spring, fall and winter. They can be white, ivory or tan brown. They have short stems from which white gills sprout. You can see them growing on wood in bunches with their caps overlapping. Immerse oyster mushrooms in salt water before cooking. They may carry bugs and saltwater treatment remedies it.
The pits and ridges on these mushrooms make morels easy to recognize. Another distinctive feature of the morel is its cap, the lower end of which flares into the stem. Counties in the north of Arkansas see mostly yellow and black morels. Yellow morels are aged versions of the common morel species; the pits and ridges of these morels are yellowish brown in color, which gives them their name. The black morel has ridges that are gray or tan-colored on a young one, which gradually turns black as the mushroom grows old; the pits are brown in color and stretched in shape. Morels are spring specials and can grow in a variety of habitats including river beds, trees and wet woods. Cut the morel partially to check if it is insect-ridden, before cooking.
Boletes have thick caps and stems. The caps are either brown or reddish-brown in color. The under portion of the cap consists of a spongy surface of pores, which you can detach from the cap. Boletes are summer treats. They grow under trees or on ground close to trees; pine trees are their favorite habitat. There are few precautions to use with boletes as some members of this species are poisonous. Avoid boletes with orange or red pores. Taste a piece of uncooked bolete cap; if it tastes bitter or unpleasant discard it. If you find the bolete cap oily to the touch, remove it as it can cause diarrhea. Boletes can be hard to digest; so, cook them instead of eating raw. Check boletes for bugs before cooking.
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