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Friday, November 27, 2009


Fall 2009 - Wild Mushrooms in the Bay Area


Death Caps and Others to Stay Away From

Reports about foragers getting sick and, in some cases, dying from eating wild mushrooms appear every fall.

Recently, a Central Valley Woman died after eating Death Caps (Amanita phalloids) which are found in this area during fall/winter.  Her husband and cousin survived but one required a liver transplant. The death caps resemble a type that is consumed in Asian countries but many foragers are unable to identify the difference between the edible varieties that grow in their native land and the poisonous ones that resemble them here.

© David Arora - Mushrooms Demystified

Death Caps are not the only ones emerging now.  In my walks in the neighborhood I have come across some others to stay away from.


Bitter, and hallucinogenic.  Found in clusters near base of trees.

Big Laughing Jim (Gymnopilus spectabilis)



Satan's Bolete (Boletus satanas)

There is a saying that "There are old mushroom pickers and there are bold mushroom pickers, but there are no old, bold mushroom pickers".  It is good to remember that.  After foraging for about 15 years I still check and double check before I think of eating unfamiliar specimens.

Then There Are Chanterelles 

My first chanterelles of the season.


Their distinctive color, shape, and smell make them easy to identify.    And they are delicious.  The 2008/9 season was not very bountiful because of low rainfall.  This season,too, we have had very little rain.  But they have begun to appear.  During a hike with friends on November 25th we found some; encouraging sign.  

Commercial sellers  send out teams of mushroom pickers.  Not only do they trample through the woods in their quest to make money, they leave a trail of beer cans, bottles, food containers and such trash.  Very annoying.  

Fall Colors
Thanksgiving Day, Mariposa Ave, Palo Alto, California





Ive found some small laughing Jims in a cluster at the bottom of a tree, should I eat them?
I have been collecting and enjoying wild mushrooms for some years but I'm not a mycologist.

Based on what I found about Laughing Jims, I wouldn't eat them.

David Arora's "Mushrooms Demystified" is an excellent book (with hundreds of photographs). It has increased my knowledge. Also, check with your local mycological society.

Bottom line, do not eat wild mushrooms that you are not sure about. I enjoy walking in the woods. In the cold weather, mushrooms are a bonus.
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