How to distinguish edible mushrooms from poisonous ones?

The mushroom season is approaching and before you start collecting you must take into account the danger of not distinguishing edible from poisonous. The simple answer to this is that you cannot tell the difference without identifying the fungus that you have found. Some poisonous ones can kill, so you must know them precisely and be completely sure what it is before consuming them.

There are some legends about edible mushrooms, but they are nothing more than that, legends, and in certain cases very dangerous:

  • “It’s good if you can peel off the hat.” It is also easy to peel the hat of a poisonous mushroom.
  • “Those that grow on wood are safe.” Not all are and some are deadly, like the “toxic funeral bell”.
  • “If you see that other animals eat them, they are fine.” This rule is not true, many animals can eat poisonous mushrooms without ill effects.

Rules to avoid poisonous mushrooms if you are a newbie

  • Avoid mushrooms with white galls, a skirt or ring on the stem, and a bulb or sac-like base call back. You may be missing out on some good edible mushrooms, but that means you’ll be avoiding the mortals of the Amanita family.
  • Avoid mushrooms with red on the top or stem. Again, you will miss out on some good ones, but more importantly, you won’t pick the poisonous ones.
  • By last, do not consume any unless you are absolutely sure what they are. It is by far the most important rule.


A good way to help identify mushrooms is to learn which family they belong to:


Edible members of the Agaric family have pink to brown or black gills, a white hat, and generally a robust stem with a skirt. However, there are toxic members of this family that look a lot alike. Once you’ve established that you have an agaric bruise on the lid, if it is stained bright chrome yellow, it is probably poisonous; if stained pale yellow, pink or red, it is probably edible. But there is another test to establish toxicity: you must smell the fungus, edible agarics smell good, some with notes of anise or almonds; Toxicants smell like Indian ink, iodine, chemicals and unpleasant.

Mushroom of the Agaricos family


For example, the boletus, suillus, and leccinum families are easy to identify as they do not have gills but rather sponge-like pores and generally thick stems.
There are two checks to be done once you have identified a mushroom as a bolete to determine its edibility. First, Are there any red parts on the fungus, including the cap, stem, or pores? If there is, treat the fungus as poisonous.

Second, cut the mushroom in half vertically, if the meat turns blue immediately or quickly, it is probably poisonous. If the bolete in question passes the tests above, it is not a toxic fungus. Complying with the above rules means you will miss out on some good edible mushrooms but more importantly, you will avoid poisonous Boletes.

Boletes family mushrooms


They mostly exude a milky substance from the gills when touched or damaged. This milk can be very acrid and / or hot, so it should not be tasted unless you are familiar with them.

Most of these milk mushrooms are toxic, so until you learn to recognize individual members of this family, stay away from any fungi that shed milk from the gills.

Lactarius family mushroom


Brittlegills or Russulas have very fragile gills and stems. There are many different members of this family, some poisonous, some delicious, and some that just don’t taste very good.

It is difficult to identify individual russulas without studying them in depth. However, a good test for edibility is the taste test, if a small amount is placed on the tongue and it causes a burn as with chili, it means that the fungus is poisonousA pleasant mushroom taste means it’s edible and an unpleasant taste means you don’t want to eat it anyway. This test should only be attempted when you are sure you have a Russula family mushroom.

Mushroom of the Russulas family


The amanita family have white gills and spores and, more importantly, most grow from a bulbous or sac-like structure called volva that can be hidden by leaf litter or below the soil surface, making it It is vital to check the base of any mushroom you are testing to identify it.

There are some edible amanitas, but the most poisonous belong to this family, the “destroying angel” and the “death hat”, so the novice gatherer must avoid this family completely.

Amanita family mushroom