When it comes to wild food, proper ID is essential. The following are important guidelines that will be helpful for ensuring you can enjoy the best foods on the planet. This is an excerpt from our Wild Food Wisconsin Facebook group.
- Use 3-5 reliable identification methods. The books below are some that I like and recommend.
- Google is not an ID method. This many times results in misidentification- you’re at the mercy of incorrectly categorized photo tags and every random person on the internet with an opinion. Google can be helpful for getting a general feel for things, but still use 3-5 other ID methods on top of it. There are some good websites, however, including http://www.mushroomexpert.com, http://www.rogersmushrooms.com, http://wisflora.herbarium.wisc.edu/ , and http://www.dnr.wi.gov. Just make sure it’s legit before trusting a site.
- Know toxic/inedible lookalikes. For example chanterelles may look like jack o’ lantern mushrooms.
- Use all of your senses (smell, texture, spore sprint, colors, etc). No book, picture, website, will ever teach you what mindfully handling a plant or mushroom can.
- Learn habitats- you won’t find watercress in a desert, and you won’t chaga on a willow tree.
- Learn when this plant/mushroom is edible, and what parts. Some plants have edible fruits but the rest of the plant is toxic, some edibles are toxic or inedible at certain points during growth, some are toxic raw but healthy cooked, etc.
- Knowing the growing seasons can help narrow down ID. For example morels don’t fruit in fall, maitake doesn’t fruit in spring.
- Use Wild Food Wisconsin to bounce ideas off of! When posting an ID request, please share detailed info including pics of caps/stem/undersides of mushrooms, any flowers or leaves, habitat (on a dead pine, growing in a swamp, etc), and any observations you have about it. Once you have some good ideas from members, I’d recommend referring to a couple other ID methods for confirmation.
Happy & safe foraging!
Megan & Matthew Normansell
Our ever-growing book recommendations, with links to purchase:
Native Plants of the Midwest by Alan Branhagan
Mushrooms of the Midwest by Michael Kuo
Month-by-Month Gardening in Wisconsin by Melinda Meyers
Incredible Wild Edibles by Samuel Thayer
Wildflowers of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Region by Merel R. Black and Emmet J. Judziewicz
The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer
Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer
Wisconsin Medicinal Herbs by Phyllis Heitkamp
Spring Flora of Wisconsin by Norman Fassett
Trees of Wisconsin Field Guide by Stan Tekiela
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms by National Audubon Society
Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America by Roger Phillips
American Household Botany by Judith Sumner
Medicinal Mushrooms – A Clinical Guide by Martin Powell
Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada by Timothy J. Baroni
The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl
Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets
A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages by Lesley Tierra
Mushrooms: More than 70 Inspiring Recipes by Jacque Malouf
Native American Medicinal Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary by Daniel Moerman
Maple: 100 Sweet & Savory Recipes by Katie Webster
Native American Food Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary by Daniel Moerman
Herbs to the Rescue- Herbal First Aid Handbook by Kurt King
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers by National Audubon Society
Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and James A. Duke
Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants by Bradford Angier
Mushrooms for Health by Greg Marley
The Homebrewer’s Garden by Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher
The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
Peterson Field Guides: Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson
Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America by David M. Brandenburg
Chanterelle Dreams and Amanita Nightmares by Greg Marley
Toxic and Hallucinogenic Mushroom Poisoning: A handbook for physicians and mushroom hunters by Gary Lincoff and D. H. Mitchel
Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants Second Edition (plants only) by Lewis S. Nelson, Richard D. Shih, Michael J. Balick
AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants First Edition (mushrooms and plants) by Kenneth F. Lampe, Mary Ann McCann
Mushroom Playing Cards by Paul Stamets
The Famous Herb Playing Cards
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan Wild Berries & Fruits Field Guide by Teresa Marrone
Food for Free by Richard Mabey
Others we’ve added to our collection:
Mushroom Word Guide: Etymology, Pronunciation, and Meanings of over 1,500 Words by Robert Hallock PhD
Mushroom in the Rain by Mirra Ginsburg
Sweety by Andrea Zull
A Kids Herb Book by Lesley Tierra
The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel
The Herb Fairies Series by Kimberly Gallagher
Book 1: Stellaria’s Big Find (about chickweed)
Book 2: Secrets in the Scotch Broom (about violets)
Book 3: A Fairy Festival Surprise (about plantain)
Book 4: Treasure by Hopping Frog Pond (about lemon balm)
Book 5: The Secret Trail (about chamomile)
Book 6: Cally’s Summer Extravaganza (about calendula)
Book 7: Through the Mists (about elderberry)
Book 8: The Heart of Dwarf Mountain (about marshmallow root)
Book 9: A Magical Ride (about burdock)
Book 10: The Root of Kindness (about pine needles)
Book 11: Fireside Stories (about rose hips)
Book 12: Zeylani’s Tropical Oasis (about cinnamon)
Book 13: Healing the Heart of the Forest (about dandelion)
Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH
Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide
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