Mushroom Foraging: Not Just for Fun Guys

"Every mushroom is edible, but some just for once."

--Czech saying

As hobbies go, mushroom hunting is relatively inexpensive - all you need are some paper bags, a pocketknife, a soft brush, and an identification guide. And, in spite of our dry climate, Colorado is right behind the Pacific Northwest in concentration of mushrooms, and has 2,000 to 3,000 varieties.

Why hunt wild mushrooms? According to Denverite and mycophile Bethany Reece, "Some people care primarily about edibles. It's nice to find edibles. Many mushroom hunters care more about carefully tracking weather-patterns, taking long hikes off trail, and slowly meandering through the woods for hours, staring at the ground just to find cool mushrooms that they haven't seen before, and then taking those mushrooms home to identify." Others are interested in the role of the mushroom for medicinal purposes, eco-friendly products or in rehabilitating Colorado's various ecosystems.

For those who do plan to cook up a tasty mushroom risotto, though, it's best to err on the side of caution.  Bethany notes,  "The casual or new hunter should not try to identify safe edibles from books alone (though a good field guide is essential if you're interested in learning to identify mushrooms). The best way to learn is to go on forays with experienced and competent mycophagists. Most mycological societies host regular forays where experienced members are available to help identify what the group finds, and who can teach the physiognomic traits of edible and poisonous mushrooms better than a book can. If you're guessing, don't eat it."

Part of the fun of mushroom foraging is the mystery and suspense of finding new varieties, and the best way to learn about them is through books and mycological groups. "Make friends with other mushroom lovers," Bethany explains. "Go to mushroom festivals. When you're out on a walk with your dog and you see a mushroom, take a sample home, pull out your books and see if you can identify it. Take photos. Make spore prints. Experiment with mushrooms you've never tried from the grocery store (Asian markets often have an amazing selection). Touch them, smell them, look at what they're growing on. Whatever feeds your curiosity is your gateway."

Mushroom hunters have unwritten rules about respect for the environment and etiquette: "As tempting as it may be, don't pick everything in sight. Aim to pick only one third of what's there. If there's only one, leave it alone. If it's a rare mushroom, leave it alone. Consider taking a photo instead. Carpool. It's illegal to hunt on private lands without permission and some public lands have mushroom hunting restrictions: investigate what the restrictions are. If you're going to go into someone's yard, ask first."

And the best part of mushroom hunting?  "Ooh, that's tough," Bethany says. "For me, it's the time I get to spend with the other mushroom hunters."

Online Resources:

Colorado Mycological Society


Rogers Mushrooms

Mushroom Recipes


The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America by Langdon Cook (2013)

A Cook's Initiation into the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms by Philippe Emanuelli (2013)

Mushrooming with Confidence: A Guide to Collecting Edible and Tasty Mushrooms by Alexander Schwab (2012)

Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone (2011) 

The Complete Mushroom Hunter: An Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting, and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff (2010)

The Mushroom Lover's Mushroom Cookbook and Primer by Amy Farges (2000)

Written by Lisa on April 5, 2014


Leigh Ann on April 6, 2014


How surprising that Colorado is so 'mushroomy', being that we are often in a drought, with hard clay dirt--I would think wild ones need lots of rich, moist, loamy soil.

Many wild mushrooms are quite exotic and beautiful--would be fun to photograph them--however, I'd be a bit hesitant to eat one that I might come across on a hike (no matter whom I'm with). Thanks for the great blog, Lisa!


I've seen several different kinds of mushrooms in my own yard and the neighbor's after a day or two of steady rain. My theory (unsubstantiated) is that because of our usually dry weather, any moisture at all will bring out the spores.

Frank Wilmot on April 7, 2014


I consider myself a pretty fun guy - I'm glad to hear that everyone can take part in this great hobby!! Thanks for the great post Lisa!


I must have mushroom risotto tonight!

Anonymous on April 22, 2014


Like the Witty blog title!-- Fun guys-- fungis...:)

Jason Boyle on April 27, 2018


Infusing your dish with magic truffles/mushroom will certainly give you a different kind of satisfaction. But not everyone can be that adventurous and has guts to experiment specially when it comes on something they eat. I came across this article about a very common dish infuse with mushroom

Audreanna Smith on May 10, 2018


Hi Guys, Have you tried truffle mushroom as a medicine? Many studies suggest these effects are actually beneficial for people who take magic shrooms. Psilocybin, as it turns out, can be therapeutic for anxiety, depression, cluster headaches, and even debilitating menstrual pain. And it really helps me as one of the patients having a depression i tried to take this for awhile and it really gives me a good outcome for myself for self-medication. I came across this article that sometimes we have the not so nice experiences where you have a total loss of control and sense of time, and you are in a frightening situation. In this experience, you are confronted with things you have to learn about yourself or thoughts you need to let go. Especially first time users may have negative feelings coming from insecurity Or with a high dose of truffles, you could be thinking: “do I ever get out of this trip”. A trip is meant to be a great and memorable experience.

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