There are a huge range of different mushroom identification resources and sometimes its difficult to know which is best. Many of them are in hard copy form as foray mushroom guides or online. Essentially, its best to have a hardcopy during going mushroom hunting as you may not be offline and you can readily add notes with a pen, however as with many hardcopy books they can become quickly out of date, so when you are at home studying we recommend using the trusted sources on the web.
As there have been lots of different taxonomic changes over the years, we prefer more up-to-date resources like most of them on the web. However, you're never guaranteed to have the most up to date resources, so we have compiled this list of what we feel are the best online mushroom identification sites.
- MycoKey - This is one of our favourites, it's really accessible, looks really great and the results that come back are quick and very comprehensive.
- Rogers Mushrooms - We are not huge fans of this site, as it is pretty difficult to use and its not very pretty to look at. However, the hardcopy book is pretty awesome, its probably the most comprehensive and up to date on the market, definitely good for medium to expert mushroom hunters.
Lots of people when they are out in the thick, come across mushrooms and wonder whether they are edible or not. Its always better to be safe then sorry, so the majority of the time people avoid any risk and march on, given that there are a plethora of mushrooms which could be poisonous. It is important for everyone to make sure of what they have before they can ingest mushrooms as a meal.
Here are a number of characteristics to look out for as you identify your mushrooms:
The spore print test
The spore print test is one of the most helpful tests for edible mushrooms and mushrooms in general. You cut the mushroom cap and place it gill-side down on a clear piece of paper. There will be a powdery impression of the gills formed on the paper. You can also put the mushroom in between two pieces of paper (called sandwiching) and leave for 4 to 8 hours. The end result will be a color impression of the spore pattern on the clear paper. The probable colors that you will find include; white, cream, yellow, purple, black, pink, and purple-brown. There will never be such colors as blue, green or red. With your results, you will have to compare to a guide that indicates which color is for which mushroom.
This technique is mainly used with online tools that identify mushrooms. Most online identification sites have a whole bank of pictures that match almost all available mushrooms (have a look at our online mushroom identification tool review page for more info). You therefore, get your specimen and compare it to the photos on the guide. This is one of the best methods of mushroom identification but should however be used in conjunction with other methods to ascertain the type of mushroom. The risk of relying only on this method is that one risks taking wild mushrooms that could be particularly dangerous to their health, make sure you are 100% certain of the identity of the mushroom, or trot on!
Use of mushroom characteristics
Mushroom characteristics are important in the identification process of mushrooms. Some of the characteristics used include; descriptive characteristics like shape, color, taste or flavor, appearance, and other characteristics like where the mushrooms grow. While it is advisable to be sure of the mushroom before ingestion, the University of Florida affirms that touching a small piece of the mushroom to your tongue for tasting is not as dangerous. Common mushrooms have such flavors as mild, bitter or peppery.
These descriptions are also critical when used with online tools as most of the online tools would help identify the mushrooms using these characteristics. You will also need to avoid putting them in plastic bags as they will rot soon. It is advisable that they are collected in paper bags.