The forests of North America are full of delicious fungi growing on the sides of trees. They can be boiled or stir fried and go well with Western and Asian cooking. However, look-a-likes exist that closely resemble edible fungus, yet are poisonous. It is critical for fungus collectors to know which kinds of fungus are safe to eat and which to avoid.
During spring, summer, fall and even during warm winter periods, the oyster mushroom grows in large clumps on the sides of trees. The mushroom is around 2 to 8 inches wide and is white, tan or off-white-colored. It has white gills under its wide cap that run down a short stem to the bark of the tree. This mushroom has a few look-a-likes, but they are not poisonous, only unpleasant. Check the reference below for a sample picture of the fungus.
The sulfur shelf fungus is easy to spot by its bright orange top and sulfur-yellow pores under the cap. Some are peach or salmon colored instead of bright orange. This fungus is also known as chicken mushroom and chicken of the woods. The caps range in size from 2 to 12 inches wide. The reference below contains reference pictures of this fungus. The fungus grows from summer to fall on living and dead trees. There are no close look-a-likes for this fungus. However, be careful as this mushroom can cause a mild allergic reaction in some people in the form of swollen lips. This mushroom has the texture and taste of chicken when cooked.
Wood Ear Fungus
This is a famous edible fungus that also goes by the names of cloud ear mushroom and ear of Judas mushroom. The wood ear fungus is pale off-white color or black and jelly-like in texture. It grows on the sides of trees. and can be dehydrated and re-hydrated for cooking. This fungus is often an ingredient in Chinese and other Asian dishes. Photos appear in the reference for wood ear.
- mushrooms image by Deborah Durbin from Fotolia.com