Ohio, a U.S. state south of Lake Erie and one of the larger states in area located east of the Mississippi River, has plenty of space in which a broad range of plants and fungi flourish. Mushrooms, perhaps the best-known type of fungi on the planet, exist in abundance. While some varieties of mushrooms are not safe for human consumption, there are a number of kinds of edible mushrooms in Ohio. The trick is learning to identify them to a high degree of certainty before eating them. You should never eat anything you pick from the ground without knowing exactly what it is.
The edible mushrooms growing season in Ohio runs from midsummer to the end of fall. A number of misconceptions about distinguishing the poisonous types from the edible types persist, including the falsehood that if other animals can safely ingest a given species, humans can do so as well. You should avail yourself of a field book, such as "Mushrooms and Macrofungi of Ohio and the Midwestern States" (see Resources).
Morel Mushrooms in Ohio
The season for edible morels starts in or near the beginning of April and peaks in the first half of May. Beware of so-called false morels, which also grow during this time of year, as many of these are poisonous. Some people have eaten the ostensibly off-limits varieties with no apparent ill effects, but this is never a chance worth taking. Have a field guide handy when picking, and if possible, have an expert personally vet your collection before you consider eating from it.
Other Edible Ohio Mushrooms
Chanterelles are bright yellow or orange trumpet-shaped mushrooms that typically grow under hardwood trees. They are about 0.5 inches to 6 inches wide and are similarly tall. Puffballs are white to gray and round or pear-shaped with no stalks. They can become as large as 2 feet in diameter and can be found in a variety of places, usually in open fields. Shaggy manes are 4 to 6 inches in height and are notable for their long white cylindrical caps with brown scales.
The Ohio Mushroom Society
The Ohio Mushroom Society (see Resources) serves as an Ohio mushroom hunting guide of sorts. It offers a number of helpful links to other mushroom information sites and offers meet-ups and announcements of upcoming expert speakers who will appear in the Buckeye State. Meeting other collectors in person is perhaps the best way to hone your knowledge of which mushrooms are safe for consumption.
- The beautifully colorful Russula mushroom is sometimes edible and sometimes poisonous, and the tasty morel looks remarkably similar to the false morel. It's therefore essential to get it right by searching with experienced mushroom pickers.
- Morel gathering is a restricted practice, so get permission from relevant authorities before picking.
About the Author
Kevin Beck holds a bachelor's degree in physics with minors in math and chemistry from the University of Vermont. Formerly with ScienceBlogs.com and the editor of "Run Strong," he has written for Runner's World, Men's Fitness, Competitor, and a variety of other publications. More about Kevin and links to his professional work can be found at www.kemibe.com.
first mushrooms. image by firsov from Fotolia.com