Q&A: Which wild fungi are safe to eat?

Field mushrooms are safe to eat but make sure you identify them correctly.
SALLY TAGG

Field mushrooms are safe to eat but make sure you identify them correctly.

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.

Mushrooms are popping up all over the region thanks to a climate perfect for growing fungi.
Kylie Klein-Nixon

Mushrooms are popping up all over the region thanks to a climate perfect for growing fungi.

Helpful websites in New Zealand to visit include the Fungal Guide by LandCare Research and The Hidden Forest

READ MORE:
Crop of the week: morel mushrooms
How to grow oyster mushrooms in coffee grounds
Are those magic mushrooms on the $50 note?

Fairy rings of common field mushrooms ( Agaricus campestris) do pop up in lawns, sports fields and grass verges in autumn. 
Giant puffball steaks can be fried with garlic and butter.
ROBERT GUYTON/NZGARDENER

Giant puffball steaks can be fried with garlic and butter.

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.

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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.

 

March till May is fungi time in Southland and the colouful, but poisonous fungi, Fly Agaric or Amanita Muscaria is ...
Barry Harcourt

March till May is fungi time in Southland and the colouful, but poisonous fungi, Fly Agaric or Amanita Muscaria is becoming a common scene in Invercargills Queens Park and other woodland areas.

 

These bright red fungi, look pretty but don't eat them!
Vivienne Haldane

These bright red fungi, look pretty but don't eat them!

Amanita fungi are potentially lethal - leave them in the ground.
NZGARDENER

Amanita fungi are potentially lethal - leave them in the ground.

 - NZ Gardener

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