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Mushroom Foraging – A Beginners Guide for the Kettle Moraine State Forest

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Written by: Delaney Hudson, Natural Resource Educator, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit


Foraging Tips and Tricks

With mushroom season right around the corner, let’s talk foraging tips and tricks. When foraging, the method I recommend is to always cut the mushroom close to the ground, but not pull it out to disturb the root system. Then wrap the mushrooms in wax paper to take it home. Therefore, you should bring a knife, a scissor, wax paper, and a basket out with you.


Some good ground rules for foraging are to:

  • Only handle mushrooms you have a clear ID on

  • Avoid heavily sprayed areas

  • Only harvest a mushroom in the peak of its health

  • Avoid over harvesting

  • Check the foraging laws in your area.

The Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit is a state forest and follows state statues. Meaning that foraging for “only for personal consumption by the collector” is allowed, as long as that species is not endangered or threatened. The most important aspect of mushroom hunting is understanding when and where to hunt and mushroom identification.


Mushrooms Seasons & Habitats

Each mushroom has its own season and habitat. Spring and fall are the most opportune times for mushroom hunting. This is mainly due to the decaying wood and organic material at that time; mushrooms are decomposers, and this is their food. Wet weather is an important factor as well since it speeds up the decay process of organic materials. Each mushroom prefers to feed on different organic materials. Some prefer oak trees while others prefer compost! Most popular are deciduous forests, conifers, and grassy areas. When foraging, it is imperative to understand each mushroom’s season and habitat for hunting purposes and to aid identification.


Mushroom Identification

While some mushrooms, like Death Cap or Destroying Angel, are lethal, many will only cause slight nausea or liver damage. In fact, the National Poison Data System reports only 3 deaths per year attributed to mushroom poisoning. However, the latter is mainly due to improper identifications or improperly preparing the mushroom in question.


Mushroom identification can sound tricky, but in practice it can be easy to tell edible mushrooms and their sometimes-dangerous counterparts a part. When identifying mushrooms, it is important to be observant.


Mushroom Caps

Most likely, you will first notice the cap of a mushroom. Caps come in all shapes and sizes, such as shelves, funnels, convex rounds, etc. Over the course of a mushroom’s lifespan their caps may change, becoming flatter over time. This is a great way to tell if a mushroom has aged out of its expiration date.


Mushroom Color

Color as well may fade or darken over time, pay extra attention to the colors and shading on each mushroom.


Mushroom Texture

Texture can also be an important detail to note. Some caps may have spines, feel velvety, or have patches. If you look closer at the cap, one may notice the margin of the cap. These differences should be noted as well.


Mushroom Stem

Next, you should examine the stem of the mushroom, or lack thereof. Some stems are club shaped or bulbous, some have ridges or are velvety. Again, color and textures should be noted. You may also notice a ring on some stems. This is the remanent of the partial veil, a thin tissue that will cover the underside of some mushrooms. The ring can be an incredibly helpful tool since not every mushroom has one, they may be skirt-like or just a band of color left behind.


Mushroom Underside & Spore Print

One incredibly distinct difference on many mushrooms is the underside. Some have gills, pores, teeth, folds, etc. This underside is where spores are held. Notice, for example, if the gills are attached or free; if the pores are very fine or large; check out the color and texture, is there bruising present or does it look like a sponge? Although not every mushroom has this underside, some have their own very specific ways of keeping and dispersing their spores. However, all mushrooms have a spore print. The spore pint can be a clear identifier. In order to obtain this, collect the mushroom, use a scissor to cut the stem off so that it is just a cap, set it on a sheet of paper that is half black and half white, cover it with a bowl or glass, and let it sit out for a day. When you check the next day, you should be able to clearly see the spore print.


Mushroom Cautions

Now it is incredibly important to remember that you are foraging at your own risk. Edible mushrooms are an interesting way to get in touch with nature. They have incredible medicinal values and interesting flavors. However, foraging can be dangerous if you are unsure of the ID.


Never eat something unless you are completely sure it is an edible mushroom. When foraging for mushrooms it is incredibly important to research before eating; for example, only specific mushrooms can be eaten raw others must be thoroughly cooked. When foraging we highly recommend bringing along identification booklets, downloading apps like Naturalist, and using outside resources to help ID.


20 Edible Mushrooms of the Kettle Moraine State Forest

Below we have created a list of 20 edible mushrooms in the area to help get you started! Our list contains a basic ID, warnings, and ways you can utilize each of these mushrooms. We highly recommend utilizing your outside resources in addition to this list. Happy foraging!


1. The Giant Puffball

Photo



Photo Credit: Kristina Koslosky, Friends of the Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit

Scientific Name

Calvatia Gigantea

Common Name

The Giant Puffball

Height

10 to 50 cm

Cap

Huge white ball

Spore Print

Green brown

Bruises

Yellow to brown with age

Habitat

Commonly found in meadows, fields, and deciduous

Uses

Puffballs are a known styptic and have long been used as wound dressing, either in powdered form or as slices 3 cm thick

Warnings

The large white mushrooms are edible when young, as are all true puffballs, but can cause digestive upset if the spores have begun to form—as indicated by the color of the flesh being not pure white (first yellow, then brown)

2. Meadow Mushroom

​Photo

Scientific Name

Agaricus campestris

Common Name

​Meadow Mushroom

​Height

​3 to 12 cm

Cap

White, may have fine scales

Stalk

White and bears a single thin ring

​Gills

Pink to red brown to dark brown with age

​Spore Print

Pink to red brown to dark brown with age

Bruises

​Reddish brown

Habitat

​Fields and grassy areas, appearing in fairy rings

Uses

This mushroom can be sauteed or fried, in sauces, or even sliced raw and included in salads. In flavor and texture, this mushroom is similar to the white button mushroom

Warning

Poisonous lookalike Agaricus xanthodermus and similar species bruise yellow

3. Golden Chanterelle

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Scientific Name

Cantharellus cibarius.

Common Name

Golden Chanterelle

​Height

10cm

Cap

Yellow to orange, vase shaped, wavy edges

​Stalk

​Yellow to orange

​Gills

​Ridges are forked and descend the stalk

Spore Print

​Yellow to buff

Bruises

​Dark

Habitat

​Oaks and coniferious forests

Uses

​Many popular methods of cooking chanterelles include them in sautés, soufflés, cream sauces, soups, and with wine. They are not typically eaten raw, as their rich and complex flavor is best released when cooked.

Warning

Care should be taken not to confuse this species with the dangerously poisonous Omphalotus illudens. Chanterelle mushrooms have a faint aroma and flavor of apricots.

4. Crown-tipped Coral Fungus

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Scientific Name

Clavicorona pyxidata

Common Name

​Crown-tipped Coral Fungus

​Height

2 to 10 cm

Branches

Whitish or pale yellowish, sometimes darkening to tan or pink

Spore Print

White

Habitat

On dead wood of hardwoods

Uses

​These fungi are considered edible when raw, but are better cooked. It is best served when fried with chopped potatoes

5. The Shaggy Mane

​Photo

Scientific Name

Coprinus comatus

Common Name

​The Shaggy Mane

​Height

​20cm

Cap

White with shaggy scales, blackens with age

​Stalk

White, collar, bulbous base

​Gills

White, then pink, then turns black and deliquesce ('melt') into a black liquid filled with spores

Spore Print

​Black

Habitat

​Grassy areas and roadsides

Uses

Should be prepared soon after being collected as the black areas quickly turn bitter. It can be used in mushroom soup with parasol mushroom. Large quantities of microwaved-then-frozen shaggy manes can be used as the liquid component of risotto, replacing the usual chicken stock

Warning

​This mushroom is unusual because it will turn black and dissolve itself in a matter of hours after being picked or depositing spores. Lookalike, the 'vomiter' mushroom, Chlorophyllum molybdites is responsible for most cases of mushroom poisoning due to its similarity with shaggy mane and other edible mushrooms

6. Mica Cap

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Scientific Name

Coprinellus micaceus

Common Name

​Mica Cap

​Height

​4cm-13cm

Cap

​Oval when young, expanding to bell-shaped; orange brown to tan and becoming paler with age

​Stalk

White

Gills

Pale to brown to black and deliquescing

Spore Print

​Black

Habitat

Stumps or logs of broad-leaved trees

Uses

​Cooking inactivates the enzymes that causes deliquescence. It is considered good for omelets, and as a flavor for sauces, although it is "a very delicate species easily spoiled by overcooking"

Warning

Must be cooked quickly due to deliquescence

7. The Black Trumpet

​Photo

​Branches

Grayinsh, tubular shape when young becoming funnels with age

Margin

​Black and wavy

Spore Print

​Pink to orange

​Habitat

Beech and oak trees

​Uses

​These mushrooms are extremely versatile and can be incorporated into any dish. As they're hollow, trumpets cook very fast-so don't overcook them.

​Warnings

Edible C. cornucopioides has a whitish spore print. The two species cannot otherwise be told apart, either macroscopically or by their culinary value. There are no poisonous look-alikes.

8. Shrimp of the Woods

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Scientific Name

Entoloma abortivum

Common Name

​Shrimp of the Woods

​Height

4 to 16 cm

Cap

Gray to grayish brown, convex with an inrolled margin, expanding to flat, with or without a central bump

​Stalk

Occasionally somewhat off-center, typically with an enlarged base

​Gills

Attached to stem, white but turning pinker with maturity.

Spore Print

Pink

Habitat

Found fruiting on the ground; near dead or decaying wood. Frequently found where honey mushrooms (Armillaria) are growing or have grown previously

Uses

Shrimp like texture, must be cleaned. The key to flavor with Entolomas is to caramelize and brown them. If they just get stewed from raw, things are going to be bland, just like with a puffball.

Warning

There are poisonous species of Entoloma such as Entoloma sinuatum so one must be very cautious when eating these mushrooms. Both aborted and non-aborted forms of Entoloma abortivum can be consumed, or for beginners, it would be best to pick only the aborted fruiting bodies.

9. Velutipes’ or Enoki

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Scientific Name

Flammulina velutipes

Common Name

​Velutipes’ or Enoki

​Height

3 to 18 cm

Cap

​Convex, expanding to flat, dark orange brown to yellowish brown, fading with maturity.

​Stalk

Pale to yellowish brown or orange brown when young; becoming covered with a rusty brown to blackish velvety coating as it matures.

​Gills

Attached to the stem; whitish to pale yellow and crowded

Spore Print

White

Habitat

It grows from the wood of hardwoods

Uses

​Non meat source of conjugated linolic acid, which has many bodily benefits. The taste is mildly sweet, with a crisp texture

10. The Hen of the Woods

​Photo

Scientific Name

Grifola frondosa

Common Name

The Hen of the Woods

​Height

100 cm

Cap

Fan-shaped, dark to pale gray-brow and yellowing with old age, with wavy margins

​Stalk

Branched, whitish

Pore Surface

​Running down the stem; lavender gray when young, becoming white and staining yellow with age

Spore Print

​White

Habitat

Living on oaks and other hardwoods

Uses

The softer caps must be thoroughly cooked. Other described uses of this mushroom include general treatments for immune stimulation and regulation of homeostasis.

11. Wood Hedgehog

​Photo

Photo Credit: D J Kelly, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific Name

Hydnum repandum

Common Name

​Wood Hedgehog

​Height

​9-21cm

Cap

​Broadly convex expanding to flat; the margin inrolled at first, becoming wavy; pale orange to white.

​Stalk

​Whitish

Undersurface

Covered with densely packed, soft spines; pale orange

Spore Print

White

Habitat

Hardwoods or conifers, especially spruces and beech

Uses

Mild to peppery when well-cooked. Rich in several dietary minerals, especially iron and manganese

Warning

This species, like most mushrooms, should never be eaten raw.

12. Chicken of the Woods

​Photo

Scientific Name

Laetiporus sulphureus

Common Name

​Chicken of the Woods

​Height

50cm

Cap

​Orange to yellow

​Underside

Yellow, sponge like

Spore Print

White

Habitat

​Deciduous and coniferous forests, mainly oak

Uses

​This mushroom can be prepared in most ways that one can prepare chicken meat. It can also be used as a substitute for chicken in a vegetarian diet.

Warning

Potent ability to inhibit staph bacteria

13. Common Puffball

​Photo

Scientific Name

Lycoperdon perlatum

Common Name

​Common Puffball

​Height

​3-7cm

Cap

Whitish to vey pale brown, covered with small spines when young

Interior

White and spongy at first, later olive brown above and yellowish to brown at the base

Habitat

In woods under hardwoods or conifers, but also common along roadsides and in urban settings

Uses

The fruit bodies can be eaten after slicing and frying in batter or egg and breadcrumbs, or used in soups as a substitute for dumplings.

Warning

Should be consumed when young, when the glebe is still homogeneous and white.

14. The Fairy Ring Mushroom

Photo

Scientific Name

Marasmius oreades

Common Name

​The Fairy Ring Mushroom

​Height

​8cm

Cap

Tan to red brown, central hump

​Stalk

White to brown

​Gills

Free or partially attached, white or pale tan

Spore Print

​White to tan

Habitat

​Grassy areas, growing in rings

Uses

Its sweet taste lends it to baked goods such as cookies. It is also used in foods such as soups, stews, etc.

Warning

​This mushroom can be mistaken for the toxic Clitocybe dealbata or C. rivulosa, which have closely spaced decurrent gills. The latter lacks an umbo, and is white to grey in color.

15. The Black Morel

​Photo

Scientific Name

​Morchella augusticep

Common Name

​The Black Morel

​Height

​10cm

Cap

Black elongated honeycombed

​Stalk

White to pale brown

​Gills

None

Habitat

Under hardwoods, specifically ashes

Uses

Cooked in rich buttery or creamy dishes.

Warning

Must be thoroughly cooked

16. The Morel

​Photo

Photo Credit: Amanda Kutka, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit

Scientific Name

Morchella esculenta

Common Name

The Morel

​Height

10cm

Cap

Tannish elongated honeycomb

​Stalk

White basal bulb

​Gills

​None

Habitat

​Deciduous woods, grassy and wet areas

Uses

​Morels have tones of uses! These nutty, meaty mushrooms taste delicious fried, stuffed, sautéed, and roasted.

Warning

​Must be thoroughly cooked

17. The Oyster Mushroom

​Photo

Scientific Name

Pleurotus ostreatu

Common Name

​The Oyster Mushroom

​Height

​30cm

Cap

Shell shaped, pale to dark brown

​Stalk

Whitish; hairy to velvety but often nonexistent

​Gills

White to gray, becoming yellowish in age

Spore Print

White to faintly yellowish, or lilac.

Habitat

Growing in shelf-like clusters on dead logs and living hardwoods and conifers

Uses

Could be served on its own, in soups, stuffed, or in stir-fry recipes with soy sauce.

Warning

Some toxic Lentinellus species are similar in appearance but have gills with jagged edges and finely haired caps.

18. The Slippery Jack

​Photo

Scientific Name

​Suillus luteu

Common Name

​The Slippery Jack.

​Height

10cm

Cap

​Red-brown to yellow, slimy

​Stalk

Thick and yellow, brown dots, with white collar that becomes purple-brown with age

​Underside

​Sponge-like

Spore Print

Cinnamon

Habitat

Coniferous forests, specifically favoring red and white pines

Uses

They are suited for frying, or cooking in stews and soups, either alone or with other mushroom species. Their water content is too high for drying.

Warning

The slime must be removed.

19. Coral Tooth

​Photo

Scientific Name

Hericium coralloides

Common Name

​Coral Tooth

​Height

30cm

Branches

Arising from central core, white when fresh, becoming faintly yellowish to brownish in old age.

Spore Print

White

Habitat

Deciduous forests, on fallen hardwood branches and stumps

Uses

​They make for a great fish alternative. Research is currently being done on the cognitive benefits of this mushroom; it is thought to be a potential medicine for Alzheimer’s

Warning

​Not edible when aged, branches and hanging spines become brittle and turn a light shade of yellowish brown. Must be cooked before eating.

20. Belwit

​Photo

Scientific Name

Clitocybe nuda

Common Name

​Belwit

​Height

​10cm

Cap

​Violet, fades to tan with age

​Stalk

Bulbous base, violet fading to tan with age

​Gills

Partially attached and notched, violet fading to lilac

Spore Print

Pinkish

Habitat

Found in organic material in woodlands or urban settings

Uses

​Blewits can be eaten as a cream sauce or sautéed in butter, or used in dishes. They have a strong flavor, so they combine well with leeks or onions

Warning

This mushroom must be cooked


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