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Have a happy and safe mushroom-hunting season

Monday, April 26, 2010

"There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters."

The warm spring weather causes some people to venture outdoors on mushroom seeking missions. Morel hunting is especially popular this time of year. The short morel season usually lasts about 4-5 weeks.

These delectable mushrooms are highly prized by mushroom hunters and gourmet cooks alike. While mushroom hunting can be fun, hunters need to take caution while harvesting and eating mushrooms. There are 2,000 or more kinds of wild mushrooms in Indiana. Some are poisonous and some are edible and delicious when properly prepared.

The edibility of the majority is either not known or they are not considered for food because of their small size, poor flavor or texture. There are a lot of old wives' tales about mushrooms that can lead you in to harm's way. Please take the following true or false quiz to test you mushroom knowledge:

1. Poisonous mushrooms tarnish a silver spoon.

2. If it peels, you can eat it.

3. All mushrooms growing on wood are edible.

4. Mushrooms that squirrels or other animals eat are safe for humans.

5. All mushrooms in meadows and pastures are safe to eat.

6. All white mushrooms are safe.

7. Poisonous mushrooms can be detoxified by parboiling, drying or pickling.

The correct answer to all of the above questions is false. Questions often arise about the identity and edibility of mushrooms that are found.

It is very important that you know and can identify the mushrooms that you are hunting for. If you are a novice mushroom hunter, go with someone who is experienced to help you make sure you have edible mushrooms. "When in doubt, throw it out" is a good mantra to take when identifying and eating mushrooms.

I recently talked to a nurse that works in an emergency room and she said that in the spring they see a lot of mushroom poisoning, especially in children. If you are taking children mushroom hunting, make sure they show you every mushroom before they decide to eat it.

Some mushroom species are very poisonous. Don't eat excessive amounts even though you are sure of the identity. Certain individuals might become sick (possibly an allergic reaction) after eating a mushroom that is considered edible.

Mushrooms can also spoil very easily, especially if collected in plastic bags and left unrefrigerated. It is best to wrap each mushroom in dry paper toweling or in paper sacks and refrigerate the samples if they are to be kept overnight, although most don't last that long.

When hunting for mushrooms, make sure that you leave a few mushrooms to mature and spread spores for next year's mushroom crop. This will ensure good mushroom hunting for years to come.

I hope you enjoy the spring mushroom hunting season.

For more edible mushroom information on the web try the link: ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/pdf/3303.pdf, The Ohio State University Fact Sheet on Wild Mushrooms or the IDNR publication, Common Mushrooms of Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs at www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/brochure/Mushroo....

For more information, call Ann V Delchambre at 653-8411 or e-mail adelchambre@purdue.edu or Facebook Putnam County Agriculture

Upcoming events

April 26: Pond Workshop

April 29: Ext. Homemaker Spring Dessert at Fairgrounds

May 1: Monroe County Master Gardener 2010 Garden Fair

May 4: Extension Office Closed (Primary Election Polling Place)

May 4: Master Gardener Association Meeting Field Trip

May 10: "End of Life Financial Issues" 7 p.m. in Ext. Classroom

May 13: Ext. Homemakers County Council Mtg. at 7 p.m. fairgrounds

May 15: 4-H Sheep Tagging, Fairgrounds, 8 a.m. to noon.

May 22: 2010 Tox-Away Day in Putnam County

June 12: Putnam County Master Gardeners' Garden Tour

June 15: Greencastle Farmers Market starts

June 17-19: 2010 State Conference for Purdue Master Gardeners