Review: “Mushrooming Without Fear”

Be a fun-gi and safely forage for mushrooms with this field guide

Natalie‌ ‌Dean‌ ‌|‌ ‌Entertainment‌ ‌Editor‌

Nature-lovers alike can appreciate any field guide that is safety-oriented ⏤ especially one that is in-depth and provides full-color pictures. This quick read by Alexander Schwab is full of thorough information; “Mushrooming Without Fear: The Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms” includes detailed steps on the proper way to hunt for these hidden gems in the area. 

Throughout the three main sections, the reader can explore the components of a mushroom and how to tell the difference in its anatomies — such as its gills, tubes, spines and ridges. Since there is such a variety of species and toxicity levels, it is important to go through Schwab’s recommended steps for positive identification. The guide breaks into sections for different types of fungi, which has a full overview and highly stresses their “safe method,” and consists of these guidelines:

  1. When first starting off, leave most mushrooms alone.
  2. Closely evaluate which specific markings are present, and keep in mind which identifiers are absent.
  3. Follow the rules and take the identification process step-by-step.

This safety method ensures that the forager will avoid deadly species or ones that can cause permanent damage, such as ones with gills, which are highly poisonous and should be avoided completely. Further in the book, there are eight rules that should also be studied before picking or consuming. 

Aside from the bounty of safety information found in this guide, readers can also check out the twelve types of mushrooms and their species — like the King Bolete, Chanterelles, Common Puffballs, Hen of the Woods and Bay Boletes. One especially useful part of the positive identification checklist is a scale of colors along the top of the page, which represents the correct color the cap should be when picked.

Other details on the checklists include the average size across the cap, what time of the year they make an appearance, their location and other tips. 

With the identification checklist readily available for each type of mushroom, there are also plenty of details for how to handle, store, season and cook them. Out of all the field guides out there on the market, this one is very beginner-friendly, affordable and definitely worth taking along while foraging. 

Rating 4/5 because I will now be spending all of my money on mushroom field guides. 

Contact the author at ndean17@wou.edu

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