How to Tell if a Mushroom Is Edible

by Chelsea Hoffman ; Updated August 31, 2017

Many wild mushrooms are poisonous and some are safe and edible.

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If you enjoy hiking and roughing it in the great outdoors, then you've probably seen myriad mushrooms; especially during the moist seasons. Learning about different mushrooms and how to identify edible ones can enhance your outdoor experience. Knowing about edible mushrooms in the wild gives you the ability to prepare them with your next campsite meal before another hiking, fishing or otherwise wild adventure. Identifying wild mushrooms to determine which ones are edible varies from type to type.

When you find a wild mushroom examine its outer appearance carefully. Edible mushroom varieties are distinctive in comparison to the wide range of toxic types.

Pick the mushroom with gloved hands for protection and rotate it in your fingers, examining its underside.

Refer to your wild mushroom guide book. Choose a guide book that is from a reliable source such as one published by a university or governmental body. The indexes of guide books allow you to search for identifiable features. For example, if the mushroom you have identified is round, bright white and resembles of a fluff of marshmallow you can look up "white puff," in the index of many guides. This leads you to a mushroom called lycoperdon or the puffball mushroom. It is completely edible. However, similar deadly mushrooms mimic this mushroom's appearance so identify it cautiously.

Clean the mushroom thoroughly with warm water and a vegetable scrubber after you have thoroughly identified its appearance and linked it to an edible variety in your guides.

Cut into the mushroom and observe its insides. Refer to the guide for identification of the insides. There are several varieties of mushrooms so paying close attention to guides will help you identify them correctly. For example, the inside of the edible puffball mushroom is bright white and spongy. If you cut into a puffball mushroom and black dust poofs out of it, immediately wash your hands and dispose of it as this it is a toxic mushroom.


  • Always fully cook mushrooms, even when they are identified as edible and safe. This makes eating them safer in case you are mistaken.

    Only eat a small bite of the identified mushroom and wait 24 to 48 hours before preparing the entire batch of edibles you have identified. This gives you time to react in case the mushroom was identified in error.

    Sometimes, and identification guide will note if a mushroom closely resembles another, inedible or poisonous mushroom. Take extra care in discerning the differences between them before deciding yours is edible.

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About the Author

The author of such novels as “Planet Omega” and the romantic drama, “Chloe and Louis,” Chelsea Hoffman devotes her time to writing about a myriad of different topics like gardening, beauty, crafts, cooking and medical research. She's published with Dobegreen.Com, The Daily Glow and other websites, and maintains the site Beauty Made Fresh.