Mushrooms come in all shades, from the beautiful and edible types to the odd-looking and poisonous…
More than 2000 varieties of edible mushroom species can be found around the world. In this article, we will sum up nine of the most delicious ones.
You can find many of the mushrooms that we discuss here in local grocery or gourmet stores. Other species mentioned below grow only in the wild, but most have unique appearances and features to help you identify them.
Remember, if you go out hunting for mushrooms, that there are several species of dangerous poisonous ones. Be sure to bring someone with you who has some experience in mushroom foraging. The North American Mycological Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing mushroom enthusiasts together. They have clubs across North America that offer group mushroom foraging expeditions, as well as offering talks and classes about wild edible mushrooms.
It is also wise to invest in a good mushroom guide. Our favorite guide is Falcon Guide’s North American Mushrooms: A Field Guide To Edible And Inedible Fungi. This inexpensive yet thorough guide covers just about all the mushrooms you can find in North America. Plenty of photos and tips make this a great little guide to bring with you on your walks in nature.
I provide some brief descriptions of the wild edible mushrooms discussed in this article, and you can read more in my beginner’s guide to wild mushroom hunting. But remember, a working with detailed field guide and/ or an experienced mushroom forager is the best way to keep yourself out of trouble.
With that warning clear, read on to learn about nine different edible mushrooms.
1. Shiitake Mushroom
Shiitakes (Lentinula edodes) are arguably the most delicious edible mushroom species available! Their chewy and meaty taste makes them the perfect choice to add to almost any dish.
Besides being one of the tastiest edible mushrooms, they are also among the healthiest mushroom varieties. A randomized trial showed that consumption of shiitakes lowers levels of CRP (an inflammation marker) and improves immunity.
These mushrooms only grow wild in east Asia, so you will need to make a stop at the supermarket for them if you are in North America.
The shitake mushroom provides large amounts of vitamins and minerals, including copper, pantothenic acid, zinc, manganese, and vitamin B6, among others.
2. Enoki Mushroom
Enoki mushrooms (enokitake) are long thin mushrooms that look almost like strings. You’ve probably seen white ones like these in the store.
but wild ones actually look a bit different. Commercially raised Enoki are grown without light which accounts for their white color. Wild Enoki have orange caps and brown stems. They grow on dead wood, especially willow trees and hardwoods.
Whether wild or fresh, these mushrooms taste great and make awesome low carb noodles. Enokis are cheap to buy and simple to grow, too.
Enoki mushrooms contain the following nutrients: niacin, folate, riboflavin, potassium, thiamin, phosphorus, and pantothenic acid.
3. Button Mushroom
This list will be incomplete without the most popular and widely eaten mushroom in the world. The white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) represents 90% of the edible mushroom species consumed in the US.
The button mushroom is the fresh and younger version of cremini and portobello mushrooms. They taste incredibly good and make an excellent ingredient for a great breakfast. After all, they are not the most popular edible mushroom for nothing!
They grow in the wild, but are similar in appearance to several poisonous species, so we recommend buying them in the store.
These mushrooms may not be touted as medicinal as other species, but they provide some rich benefits. Nutrient-wise, button mushrooms contain riboflavin, niacin, copper, selenium, phosphorous, and potassium.
4. Portobello Mushroom
Portobello mushrooms belong to the Agaricus bisporus family. It is the largest and most mature variety of the species.
If you want a mushroom that can be stuffed with any ingredient of your choice, Portobello mushrooms are your obvious choice. Their late stage of maturity gives them a deep, rich, and delicious flavor, especially when baked with cheese.
The Portobello mushroom is bigger and wider than other mushrooms in the Agaricus bisporus family. Some of its major beneficial nutrients include riboflavin, copper, niacin, selenium, pantothenic acid, and potassium.
5. Oyster Mushroom
Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus eryngii) are among the largest types of edible mushroom species. Their size and sheer thickness give them a highly spongy and extremely chewy texture. A great way to enjoy them is roasted, as roasting brings out their rich and deep flavor.
The good thing about this species is that it doesn’t have poisonous look-alikes, which makes it somewhat safer to identify and pick in the wild compared to other mushroom types.
Oyester mushrooms grow on dead hardwoods and are quite common. When you find one, look around because there will likely be many others nearby. Be sure to pick younger mushrooms, as the older ones can be tough and leathery.
Oyster mushrooms are also easy to grow. You can order oyster mushroom grow kits on Amazon, and have fresh oyster mushrooms in just a couple of weeks.
Oyster mushrooms provide micronutrients such as niacin, copper, potassium, riboflavin, iron, and phosphorus.
6. Morel Mushroom
Morchella esculenta, commonly known as the morel mushroom, is an edible mushroom species with a rather unusual appearance.
At first glance, the honeycomb-on-a-stick appearance of the mushroom makes it strange enough to suggest no one should eat them. But the nutty flavor and the meaty taste of the morel mushroom is, indeed, irresistible!
If you like the shiitake mushroom, you’ll likely love the morel mushroom as it has a similar but more intense taste and flavor.
Because they are hard to grow on a large scale, you won’t find morels in the grocery store very often. But if you live in a wooded part of North America, you may be able to pick them in the wild in the spring and early summer. Their unique appearance makes them easier and safer to identify than other species of mushrooms.
Morels are rich in iron, copper, vitamin D, vitamin B2, manganese, and phosphorus.
7. Lion’s Mane Mushroom
The lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) is a large mushroom with an unusual and distinct appearance.
These edible mushroom species are delicious, chewy, and taste very good with intense meaty flavor. Apart from their tastiness, they have anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, and properties that make them beneficial to health.
Looking like frozen little white waterfalls, Lion’s mane mushrooms are safer to forage for than other species, as they don’t have any poisonous lookalikes.
You will see them most often in the fall, growing on dead and dying hardwood trees.
The Lion’s mane mushroom has gained some popularity in the health industry as it comes in a variety of products, including tablets, extracts, and coffee-mixes.
8. Porcini Mushroom
If you are looking for an edible mushroom species that is famous for its many culinary purposes, the Porcini mushroom perfectly fits the bill.
Porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis) have a deep but mild nutty taste and are known for their intense aroma. They can be bought either dried or in fresh form, but they are expensive.
Luckily. Porcinis are easy to identify in the wild. You can find them in the fall, on the ground near hardwood trees, especially beech and birch trees.
Besides being tasty and flavorful, some animal studies suggest that porcini mushrooms can lead to a decrease in triglycerides and blood pressure. In other words, they can potentially impact positively on markers of cardiovascular risks.
9. Cremini Mushroom
The last entry on this list is an edible mushroom species from the Agaricus Bisporus family, and one of the three most consumed mushrooms in the world (the other two are button and portobello).
Portobello, button, and cremini are technically the same mushroom. They only appear different because they are at varying stages of maturity.
The youngest among the three stages is the button mushroom followed by the cremini mushroom. The Portobello mushroom is the eldest because it has been left to mature fully for a long time.
The cremini mushroom has a deeper flavor, meatier texture, and has a more brownish appearance than its button cousin. It is very tasty and packed with excellent micronutrients, including vitamin B2, vitamin B5, selenium, potassium, and copper, among others.
Edible mushroom species abound in the wild, but you need to be extra careful if you choose to pick them on your own. Eating a mushroom without positively identifying it can be potentially harmful and even fatal.
By investing in a good mushroom guide and by finding friends or groups of experienced mushroom foragers like the North American Mycological Association, you can reduce the dangers and enjoy the fun and delicious hobby of mushroom foraging!
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