agaricus campestris

Ralph's Rules

for (relatively) Safe


Quite a few people may poo-poo my suggestions here, but I think it's possible to have a lot of fun hunting, identifying, gathering wild mushrooms, leading to some good side dishes and well seasoned main courses without serious risk of an ambulance ride.

  • If I am in any way uncertain of the identity of a species, I don't try it.
  • For a new species, I should be able to find it via the keys in at least three books.
  • I draw no conclusions until I have a definitive spore print, and a cross section of a sample (gill connectivity, stem hollow/stuffed, bruising color, etc.)
  • I should be able to state with confidence what distinguishes the specimen in my hand from the 3-5 species most easily mistaken for it.
  • I should be confident of the limits of variability for this species.
  • The photos should not contradict my keyed identification.
  • The subtle nuances (odor, bruising, brittleness, habit, descriptive details, etc) should all support the identification.
  • Being an amateur, I tend to stay away from difficult-to-be-certain families such as cortinarius and "little brown mushrooms" (LBM's), as well as high risk families such as amanita. I still collect them on study trips for the identification practice, but I stop there.

  • While I often use older books for identification purposes, I rely on the most recent texts, monographs and reports for toxicity warnings (modern information gathering and statistics are much more thorough.)

  • The books have to agree, not only that it is edible, but that it is worth eating.
  • I do not hurry to start eating! Many people are individually allergic to species generally considered edible. . . My wife for example, gets severe stomach aches from agaricus bitorquis (a real tragedy given the rich flavor) but I can eat it comfortably.
    • My first taste for this species is just enough to find out whether my palate even finds it interesting. (I don't pursue species I don't find enjoyable)
    • My second taste (more than 24 hours later) is about a teaspoon-full.
    • I wait another 24 hours before trying a full-sized serving.

  • I do not over-indulge: these babies hover right at the edge of our liver's ability to detoxify things... If I push it, I may actually make myself allergic (what a stupid thing to even consider trying!).
  • When gathering, I gather only one species at a time, checking each specimen individually. I have found intersecting rings of marasmius oreades and clitocybe dealbata in neighborhood lawns.

  • I do not eat more than one species in a meal: Just as coprinus atramentarius is cross-toxic with alcohol (atramentarius apparently shuts down acetaldehyde oxidase, leading to acetaldehyde poisoning), we have no idea at all which species of musrooms are cross-toxic with others.
  • I do not eat species raw: quite a few "edible" species have powerful hemolytics and other nasty enzymes which are denatured by cooking. Besides, I still have some real hang-ups when it comes to eating raw mushroom maggots.

courtesy of
Kim Anderson
wish to
photos and artwork
© Ralph Czerepinski
last modified:
Friday, 24-May-96 20:28:30 EDT