How to Pick Mushrooms Safely: Expert Guide

Foraging for mushrooms available in the forest has been a popular hobby these days. Going to the woods for shrooms with your friends is among the most enjoyable things to do during fall and spring.

Knowing how to pick mushrooms safely is very important. You have to be 100% sure you know how the edible mushrooms from the toxic ones. Consider the tips from experienced mycologists.

How to Distinguish and Recognize Edible from Toxic Mushrooms

You cannot tell the differences between the mushrooms if you don’t even know the
name of those mushrooms you’ve collected. Some toxic mushrooms can put your life
into danger and even kill you. Thus, you have to know the exact name of those
mushrooms on your hands. You need to be 100% sure you knew them all very well to
avoid ingesting any toxic mushrooms by accident.

You should not assume these things are correct and okay to do:

  • Some people may tell you it is okay to peel off the cap. Actually, it is quick to peel the Death Cap.
  • It is not good to think that all of the mushrooms you can find in the woods are safe and edible. Well, some of them are edible, while others are too toxic. The Funeral Bell is one of the deadliest mushrooms you can ever find in the forest.
  • Also, never assume that a mushroom is safe for human consumption if you see some animals eating it. The truth is that a lot of animals can consume poisonous mushrooms without getting sick or poisoned.

Not all common rules or tips you will hear from people about wild mushrooms are true. It is best to do your homework and listen to the pieces of advice from the experts.

Tips on How to Pick Mushrooms Safely

Experts recommend the following as guidelines on how to pick mushrooms safely:

  • Avoid those mushrooms that have white gills, a ring or skirt on their stems, and a round or sac-like base known as the vulva. You may miss out on a few good and edible mushrooms if you do so, but don’t fret as it will save you from the harmful Amanita family members.
  • Get rid of those mushrooms that have a red stalk or cap. This may also end up missing out some edible mushrooms but will spare you as well from the toxic mushrooms with the same characteristic.
  • Lastly, make it habit to do further research to be sure and confident you got true edible mushrooms before consuming anything.

Magic Mushroom Picking Guide

When it comes to edible mushrooms, many are hooked at the so-called magic mushrooms. Known as psilocybin mushrooms, they are those shrooms with psychedelic or hallucinating properties. They work like cannabis.

The following are the best edible magic mushrooms:

Psilocybe Mexicana

These mushrooms are native to South and Central America. Also known as “Teonanacatl”, they seem to be the same as Psilocybe semilanceata, making it harder to distinguish from the said species.

Psilocybe Semilanceata

They are often called “Liberty Caps” because they have big caps. They are one of the most pungent hallucinogenic mushrooms to try. They are more common in Europe and North America. You can often find them growing in pastures and meadows, often consumed by sheep. But they don’t grow out of the manure, unlike the psilocybe cubensis.

Psilocybe Azurescens

This species is also called the “Flying Saucer Mushroom”. It’s also called the most pungent psychoactive psilocybin shroom, as it contains psychoactive biochemicals in high concentration. It usually grows in the northern Oregon Coast, particularly in the dune grasses. This mushroom causes the wood to whiten.

Psilocybe Cubensis

Also called the “Golden Teacher”, it is the most famous magic mushroom species. It exists in the southeast part of the US, northern South America, and Central America. It can also be found in southeast Asia, specifically in countries like India, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Psilocybe Cyanescens

This kind of psilocybin mushrooms is also called the “Wavy Caps”. Researchers said the ancient people of Egypt used this species due to its psychoactive properties for their spiritual ceremonies and rites.

Psilocybe Baecystis

Also called “Knobby Tops”, this kind of mushroom grows on the rotting conifer mulch, in the lawns that contain more lignin, and in the wood chips. Sometimes, it grows from the falling Douglas fir seed cones. This mushroom often grows during fall, from early winter. It may also grow during spring.

Other Things That Can Help You Pick Mushrooms Safely

To educate yourself regarding the mushrooms that you can often find in your area, consider these ideas and tips:

Take part in the local mycological groups. These will be good sources of information and knowledge about the basics of shrooms foraging. Likewise, joining these groups will help you master the art of picking edible mushrooms.

Get a local field guide. It is a small booklet that can easily fit into your pocket. It will give you more information about the wild mushrooms that might be growing in your area. Don’t forget to bring the book whenever you go to the woods to find edible mushrooms.

While you’re getting more experience in finding edible mushrooms from the forest, you may benefit as well in learning to recognize trees. That’s true because the majority of mushrooms grow with specific tree species that serve as hosts for edible mushrooms. Getting familiar with the trees in your neighborhood will not just help you understand where to get those edible mushrooms you love, but it will also help you recognize more difficult varieties.

Whenever you’re in doubt, have someone else who is more familiar with edible mushrooms to help you out. It is best to consult a professional before consuming any unknown mushroom you picked. If expert help is unavailable, you better discard the mushroom.


Knowing how to pick mushrooms safely is very important to ensure your safety while enjoying the experience. If you’re after the so-called hallucinogenic mushrooms, then you should be extra careful. Follow the tips given above for a worry-free mushroom foraging experience.