Almost all the choice edible mushrooms grow in Texas at some time of the year. Unfortunately, many poisonous and bad-tasting mushrooms also grow in the state. It’s estimated that up to 10,000 species of fungi are found in Texas and at least 100 of them contain toxic substances. It’s important to be able to distinguish mushroom types with a field guide supplemented with advice from an expert. Three of the most popular edible mushrooms--oyster, morel and chanterelles–are all found in areas throughout the state.
Oyster mushrooms have a light to dark brown, funnel-shaped cap. They range in size from about 1 to 4 inches and have whitish-yellow gills and short, off-center stems. Partial to Texas’ mild winters, the most common oyster species is the cornucopia. This species attaches itself to the stumps or trunks of deciduous trees throughout the state.
Yellow and black morels are common in Texas in spring, and are found in moist areas, around dying or dead sycamore, elm trees and ash tree and in burn sites under conifers. More rarely, morels have been found in the fall west of Austin, near the Pedernales River. These highly prized mushrooms appear honeycomb-like as the cap is made up of a network of ridges. Avid mushroom hunters carefully guard the location of their finds. Morels sell for as much as $15 to $20 a pound at farmer’s markets as of June 2011.
Texas is known for its chanterelles, as is California. The easiest to spot is the golden chanterelle because of its bright color. Tasting more like a flower than a mushroom, with the aroma of apricots, this sought-after mushroom is found in mixed forests, under oaks and conifers. Its cap is bright orange to yellow and smooth becoming wavy at the edges when mature. The flesh is white. The apricot smell is a good identifier and the gills on the mushroom's undersides are thick, often fork toward the edge of the cap and run part way down the stem.
Clubs and Organizations
The Texas Wild Mushrooming Group based in Austin focuses on exploring the fungi of central Texas and the safe identification of edible mushrooms. The Central Texas Foragers look for mushrooms along with other wild foods. The Texas Mycological Society, based in Houston, conducts field trips and produces a list of the species of mushrooms found in Texas. The Gulf States Mycological Club brings together amateur naturalists and professional mycologists. An annual mushroom festival is held in the fall in Madisonville, dubbed the mushroom capital of Texas.