BY GREG WAGNER Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Autumn mushroom hunting in Nebraska can be a rewarding experience.

Fall edible fungi hunting has many benefits. It offers a refreshing walk in the woods amid fall foliage, a chance to better understand forest ecology and an opportunity to see a variety of woodland wildlife, as well as an avenue to collect some delicious, healthy food.

Did you know there are a variety of delectable wild fungi species with different flavors and textures that can be harvested in the Cornhusker State in autumn, especially during October?

A search for edible fall fungi tends to be more like a scavenger hunt if you are used to picking morel mushrooms in the spring. One place to begin looking for fall mushrooms is on or around fallen trees and dead wood, most notably after rain. Wild edible fungi in the fall tend to be found in fewer numbers and farther apart than spring morels.

High in vitamin B2, niacin and copper, and low in calories, wild mushrooms are a nutritious addition to almost any diet. Make certain you positively identify a mushroom before consuming it because the wrong fungi may cause extreme sickness — or worse. Check with reliable sources for correct identification.

Giant puffballs, oyster mushrooms and chicken of the woods are the principal mushrooms to know in the fall, and have emerged already in the river and creek bottom woodlands of eastern Nebraska.

Giant puffball mushroom is by far among the most recognizable of all fall fungi. It is white, large, round and smooth in appearance, and can have a diameter larger than a basketball. It is rated “choice” for eating. The fruiting body of a puffball grows directly from its root system in the ground. This mushroom grows primarily in open timber, but can appear in pastured ground and even in some urban areas.

Oyster mushroom gets its name from its shape, not taste. However, it is a very tasty mushroom. It is prolific in the fall. The broad cap of the oyster can be white, gray or brown. The gills are whitish or yellow-tinged and are usually attached to deciduous trees in shelf-like clusters. The oyster mushroom is one of the many fungus species that live on decaying wood.

Chicken of the woods are easily recognized by their impressive size and large clusters of overlapping brackets, vibrant yellow-orange to orange cap colors and bright yellow tips. The colors of chicken of the woods will fade and the fungi becomes tougher as it grows older. This mushroom grows in clusters on living and dead trees, stumps, logs and buried roots overlapped in a shelf-like way, and often in great quantity.

Before venturing onto private property, know that you must have permission from the landowner or his or her agent, whether the ground is posted or not.

Hobby picking for edible wild fungi is allowed on properties owned and controlled by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, unless signed or indicated otherwise. A current, valid state park permit is required on motor vehicles entering state park lands. On state wildlife management areas and certain state park lands, hunters most likely will be present, so be seen by wearing some blaze orange clothing. Take appropriate safety measures and respect others utilizing these areas and lands.

Remember, autumn, even more so than spring, is when we can best reap the edible rewards of our wooded environs, and mushrooms make nearly all of it taste better.

Full Article: Journal star.

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