Edible mushrooms include many fungal species that are either harvested wild or cultivated. Easily cultivated and common wild mushrooms are often available in markets, and those that are more difficult to obtain (such as the prized truffle, matsutake and morel) may be collected on a smaller scale by private gatherers. Some preparations may render certain poisonous mushrooms fit for consumption.
Before assuming that any wild mushroom is edible, it should be identified. Accurate determination and proper identification of a species is the only safe way to ensure edibility, and the only safeguard against possible accident. Some mushrooms that are edible for most people can cause allergic reactions in some individuals, and old or improperly stored specimens can cause food poisoning. Great care should therefore be taken when eating any fungus for the first time, and only small quantities should be consumed in case of individual allergies. Deadly poisonous mushrooms that are frequently confused with edible mushrooms and responsible for many fatal poisonings include several species of the genus Amanita, particularly Amanita phalloides, the death cap. Even normally edible species of mushrooms may be dangerous, as mushrooms growing in polluted locations can accumulate pollutants, such as heavy metals.
Mycophagy/maɪˈkɒfədʒi/, the act of consuming mushrooms, dates back to ancient times. Edible mushroom species have been found in association with 13,000-year-old archaeological sites in Chile. Ötzi, the mummy of a man who lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE in Europe, was found with two types of mushroom. The Chinese value mushrooms for supposed medicinal properties as well as for food. Ancient Romans and Greeks, particularly the upper classes, used mushrooms for culinary purposes. Food tasters were employed by Roman emperors to ensure that mushrooms were safe to eat.
Mushroom cultivation has a long history, with over twenty species commercially cultivated. Mushrooms are cultivated in at least 60 countries. A fraction of the many fungi consumed by humans are currently cultivated and sold commercially. Commercial cultivation is important ecologically, as there have been concerns of depletion of larger fungi such as chanterelles in Europe, possibly because the group has grown popular, yet remains a challenge to cultivate.
Agaricus bisporus dominates the edible mushroom market in North America and Europe, in several forms. It is an edible basidiomycete mushroom native to grasslands in Europe and North America. As it ages, this mushroom turns from small, white and smooth to large and light brown. In its youngest form, it is known as the 'common mushroom', 'button mushroom', 'cultivated mushroom', and 'champignon mushroom'. Its fully mature form is known as 'portobello'. Its semi-mature form is known variously as 'cremini', 'baby-bella', 'Swiss brown' mushroom, 'Roman brown' mushroom, 'Italian brown' mushroom, or 'chestnut' mushroom.
Pleurotus species, the oyster mushrooms, are commonly grown at industrial scale.
Some species are difficult to cultivate; others (particularly mycorrhizal species) have not yet been successfully cultivated. Some of these species are harvested from the wild, and can be found in markets. When in season they can be purchased fresh, and many species are sold dried as well. The following species are commonly harvested from the wild:
Boletus edulis or edible Boletus, native to Europe, known in Italian as fungo porcino (plural 'porcini') (pig mushroom), in German as Steinpilz (stone mushroom), in Russian as Russian: Белый гриб, tr.Bely grib (white mushroom), in Albanian as (wolf mushroom), in French as the cèpe and in the UK as the penny bun. It is also known as the king bolete, and is renowned for its delicious flavor. It is sought after worldwide, and can be found in a variety of culinary dishes.
Calbovista subsculpta commonly known as the sculptured giant puffball is a common puffball of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Coast ranges of western North America. The puffball is more or less round with a diameter of up to 15 cm (6 in), white becoming brownish in age, and covered with shallow pyramid-shaped plates or scales. It fruits singly or in groups along roads and in open woods at high elevations, from summer to autumn. It is considered a choice edible species while its interior flesh (the gleba) is still firm and white. As the puffball matures, its insides become dark brown and powdery from mature spores.
Calvatia gigantea the giant puffball. Giant puffballs are considered a choice edible species and are commonly found in meadows, fields, and deciduous forests usually in late summer and autumn. It is found in temperate areas throughout the world. They can reach diameters up to 150 cm (60 in) and weights of 20 kg (45 lb). The inside of mature Giant puffballs is greenish brown, whereas the interior of immature puffballs is white. The large white mushrooms are edible when young.
Cantharellus cibarius (the chanterelle), The yellow chanterelle is one of the best and most easily recognizable mushrooms, and can be found in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. There are poisonous mushrooms which resemble it, though these can be confidently distinguished if one is familiar with the chanterelle's identifying features.
Grifola frondosa, known in Japan as maitake (also "hen of the woods" or "sheep’s head"), a large, hearty mushroom commonly found on or near stumps and bases of oak trees, and believed to have Macrolepiota procera properties.
Morchella species, (morel family) morels belong to the ascomycete grouping of fungi. They are usually found in open scrub, woodland or open ground in late spring. When collecting this fungus, care must be taken to distinguish it from the poisonous false morels, including Gyromitra esculenta. The morel must be cooked before eating.
Tuber, species, (the truffle), Truffles have long eluded the modern techniques of domestication known as trufficulture. Although the field of trufficulture has greatly expanded since its inception in 1808, several species still remain uncultivated. Domesticated truffles include
Many wild species are consumed around the world. The species which can be identified "in the field" (without use of special chemistry or a microscope) and therefore safely eaten vary widely from country to country, even from region to region. This list is a sampling of lesser-known species that are reported as edible.
Coprinus comatus, the Shaggy mane, Shaggy Inkcap or Lawyer's Wig. Must be cooked as soon as possible after harvesting or the caps will first turn dark and unappetizing, then deliquesce and turn to ink. Not found in markets for this reason.
Corn smut economically important pathogens of cereals. Known in Mexico as huitlacoche, where it is considered a delicacy. Corn smuts can be used as fillings in quesadillas, tacos and soups.
Amanita muscaria is edible if parboiled to leach out toxins, fresh mushrooms cause vomiting, twitching, drowsiness, and hallucinations due to the presence of muscimol. Although present in A. muscaria, ibotenic acid is not in high enough concentration to produce any physical or psychological effects unless massive amounts are ingested.
Coprinopsis atramentaria (Coprinus atramentarius - Common Inkcap) is edible without special preparation, however, consumption with alcohol is toxic due to the presence of coprine. Some other Coprinus spp. share this property.
Gyromitra esculenta (False Morel - Turban, Brain Mushroom) is eaten by some after it has been parboiled, however, many mycologists do not recommend it. Raw Gyromitra are toxic due to the presence of gyromitrin, and it is not known whether all of the toxin can be removed by parboiling.
Lactarius spp. Apart from Lactarius deliciosus (Saffron Milkcap), which is universally considered edible, other Lactarius spp. that are considered toxic elsewhere in the world are eaten in some Eastern European countries and Russia after pickling or parboiling.
Lepista saeva (Field Blewit, Blue Leg, or Tricholoma personatum) must be cooked before eating.
Verpa bohemica is considered choice by some—it even can be found for sale as a "morel"—but cases of toxicity have been reported. Verpas appear to contain monomethylhydrazine and similar precautions apply to them as Gyromitra species.
Mushrooms are nearly always cooked before consumption. Frying, roasting, baking, microwaving are all used to prepare mushrooms.
Mushrooms will usually last a few days, longer if refrigerated. Mushrooms can be frozen, but are best cooked first.
A commonly eaten mushroom is the white mushroom (Agaricus bisporus). In a 100-gram (3+1⁄2-ounce) reference serving, Agaricus mushrooms provide 92 kilojoules (22 kilocalories) of food energy and are 92% water, 3% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 0.3% fat (table). They contain high levels (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid (24–33% DV), with moderate content of phosphorus (table). Otherwise, raw white mushrooms generally have low amounts of essential nutrients (table). Although cooking (by boiling) lowers mushroom water content only 1%, the contents per 100 grams for several nutrients increase appreciably, especially for dietary minerals (table for boiled mushrooms).
Some wild species are toxic, or at least indigestible, when raw. The safety of consuming Reishi mushrooms has not been adequately demonstrated, as of 2019. Reishi mushrooms may cause side effects including dryness of the mouth or throat, itchiness, rash, stomach upset, diarrhea, headache, or allergic reactions. Failure to identify poisonous mushrooms and confusing them with edible ones has resulted in death.
^Arora, David. Mushrooms Demystified, 2nd ed. Ten Speed Press, 1986
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