Q&A: Which wild fungi are safe to eat?
Question: How do you know which fungi are safe to eat? There are so many different ones around at the moment but you never know if they are safe.
Answer: With so many types of mushrooms out there, we don't recommend picking anything you aren't sure is safe to eat. Amateur mycologist Shirley Kerr says, "If in doubt don't eat it. If you do, always leave some behind so people can find out what killed you! Most fungi in New Zealand are not safe to eat."
If you want to learn more about mushrooms, your best bet is to get a book such as A Photographic Guide to Mushrooms and Other Fungi of New Zealand, by G S Ridley.
Fungi fanatic, Tim Thornewell at Mushroom Gourmet says you can help them spread further afield so you have a reliable harvest each year.
Mushrooms release millions of spores from their gills; to collect them, swirl a few old field mushrooms in a bucket of water, then pour that spore soup over turf.
Or buy a DIY mushroom kit (from Mushroonm Gourmet or garden centres) and bury golf ball-sized handfuls of inoculated mushroom compost about 5-10cm under the surface of manured soil. Then pray for a bumper foraging season next year.
NZ Gardener columnist, Robert Guyton, is a fan of the giant puffballs in his Riverton garden in Southland. He fed family and friends on just half a sphere of tofu-like puffball steaks fried in garlic and butter then made soup with the rest.
Even non-edible fungi have a valuable role to play in our gardens and ecosystems. Without them dead trees wouldn't rot. Fungi transform twigs and branches into mush, which goes on to become top-grade humus, recycling nutrients back to the soil.
- NZ Gardener