Archive for Thursday, June 14, 2007

Don’t assume found mushrooms are edible

June 14, 2007


Beautiful flowers, luscious growth, delicate foliage, emerald-green grass and some really odd growth is appearing overnight. This period of warm, wet weather has given rise to the occurrence of fungus in our flower beds, lawns, trees and mulched areas. The common fruition of these fungi is mushrooms. They are relatively harmless to plants, and by contact, harmless to humans or animals.

The first thing that must be said is they are not - repeat, not - edible. Some actually may be, but until you are 100 percent sure and have that analysis confirmed by an expert, they are inedible. Even if edible, they may taste like they are not. Toadstool is just a common name for mushroom and certainly does not refer to the edibility. Safe, edible mushrooms can be bought at the store.

There are more than 700 species of mushrooms in Kansas. Good reference books such as "A Guide to Kansas Mushrooms," by Bruce Horn, Richard Kay and Dean Abel, will describe and picture 150 of the more common ones. Many are very unusual. Some are small and spreading to large and attractive. Others are mundane gray or an almost crimson red. Yet others are flat and fanlike or feature spikes that smell really bad. Fungi are everywhere. It is the "decay" we often quote. Cut down a dead tree, dig an old log, turn some mulch, and you may find fine white webs. These are the actual fungi. This is critical to the process of breaking down organic matter. Mushrooms are the fruit of this fungus. Mushrooms are to fungus as tomatoes are to tomato plants.

Patience is the best control measure. Wait until the rain stops and the sun dries them out. Applied chemicals will not reach the source as it is well below the soil surface. You can rake them down or pick them off sooner to avoid pet or children's curiosity. With children, educate them, show them, tell them what you are doing and why. Yours may not be the only yard in which they find curious growth. If collected, they are a nutritious addition to a compost pile only.

Turf areas of a yard, park or golf course may experience an occurrence of so-called "fairy rings." These are not due to any little people's dance or ceremony, but fungus. They are caused by the outward growth of the fungus, producing a matlike structure. As the mat enlarges, additional nitrogen, due to the decay, is available at the edge. This is the brighter green we see as the ring, while the mat in the center may produce a byproduct that is harmful to the turf, or be so dense as to inhibit moisture penetration to the soil. This is the dead turf seen in the center.

Some growth in the turf shows "puff balls." These look like golf balls on steroids sitting on a 4-inch tee. These are poisonous. Mow or rake them down to dissuade pets or children. Wash you hands if you handle the mushrooms.

- Stan Ring is the horticulture program assistant at K-State Research and Extension Douglas County. He can be reached at 843-7058 or


Ragingbear 10 years, 11 months ago

Man, I wish I read this article earlier. Do you know how hard it is to type when your fingers are made out of snakes and your monitor is made of swiss cheese with a bowling ball for a screen?

number3of5 10 years, 11 months ago

Puffballs are not poisonous as MacHeath said. As for eating one, if picked at the right stage, they are the most delicious mushroom I have ever eaten. Wish I could find them in town.

Ragingbear 10 years, 11 months ago

Puffballs are another fungus that is like Moral mushrooms. There is no other fungus that looks like them that is toxic. If you find them, they are edible when they are roughly the size of a baseball to a softball. If you cut them, the coloring should be the same off white color of an edible mushroom throughout the entire ball. If it is discolored in any way, it is considered to be no longer fit to eat because the flavor gets really nasty really quick. I guess if your starving that it would still be an option.

Take them home and wash them, then slice them about a quarter inch thick and simmer them in a bit of butter and preferably some ground pepper.You now have a mushroom slice that will cover an entire top of a burger and is quite tasty. The flavor is quite similar to store bought mushrooms. Certain breeds of puffball are actually quite pricey if you can find them for sale. It's one of those things that rich people buy for $10 a pop.

I used to pass by a hillside to and from school when I was younger. Right after a decent rain, the entire hillside would be white with them. We always had them for cooking in our house during the spring and fall.

Ragingbear 10 years, 11 months ago

Oh.. Sorry. This is obligatory.

Badger,badger,badger,badger,badger,badger,badger,badger,badger,badger,badger,badger, mushroom mushroom!

erod0723 10 years, 11 months ago

If anyone finds a mushroom, do not eat it. send me a message so that i may test its quality. There's nothing worse than expecting to go on a crazy trip and realizing it was just a porta bella.

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