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Served fresh or fried, lots of wild mushrooms go from forest to the table—but know which ones are safe when harvesting this summertime delicacy.
"There are 10 to 20 deadly mushroom species in Alberta, so don't start picking them for eating until you know for sure which ones are safe," said ecologist Michael Schulz, who leads spring, summer and fall fungi workshops at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden.
Tendency - Person - Colour - Shape - Mushroom
"There's a tendency for the average person to use colour or shape to figure out whether a mushroom is edible or not, but those are the two most variable factors," Schulz warned. "Colour varies and can fade with time, and size and shape will be in a certain range, but not one of the first things you should use as identifiers."
Big and small, mushrooms pop up "anywhere you've got soil, wood or plants growing," he said, including on lawns and pastures, in forests and bogs, even in planters. On the prairies, almost 2,000 large species have been identified, with countless more still unknown.
Schulz - Species - Alberta
Schulz has sampled more than 80 edible species from Alberta alone.
Although the idea of eating fungus has a certain yuck factor—after all, fungi are the culprits behind infections like athlete's foot and plant diseases like powdery mildew and canola blackleg—there are nutritional pluses, too. Various kinds offer health benefits like protein and antioxidants.
Piece - Wood - Plant - Mushroom - Piece
"You'd never be able to take a piece of wood and get the beneficial plant compounds out of it, but you can take a mushroom from that piece of wood and get the chemicals out by making a tea or cooking them in a stew," Schulz said.
Mushrooms fall into three categories—edible, poisonous and inedible. Fungi generally known to be edible include puffball mushrooms, some (but not all) types found in lawn fairy rings, button mushrooms, portobellos and creminis—a round-capped...
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