Commonly called the "fungus among us" mushrooms come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Brightly colored mushrooms, deadly toadstools and branching fungi are a delight to see on any nature trail. Mushrooms can be seen in natural settings in any season, but are more abundant in warm, wet conditions.
Some mushrooms are edible and delicious, while others contain toxic compounds that can make a person very sick. People have died from eating toxic mushrooms. Eating wild mushrooms is a delicacy that only the trained eye can afford to enjoy. That being said, many people report that wild mushrooms are delicious.
If you are so adventurous to try your hand at mushroom hunting, do yourself a favor and read Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms by Barbara Bassett. A naturalist from Missouri Ms. Bassett shows how to identify the most common edible mushrooms that may be found on a walk in the woods. She describes possible collecting times and places, shows how to identify the edible and poisonous mushrooms, and gives advice on cooking ten edible mushrooms.
If you are unsure of the identification of your mushroom, take the safe road and follow Ms. Bassett's advice, "When in doubt, throw it out"!
The Mushroom Council has lots of great info pertaining to the business of producing and selling mushrooms. Production statistics, proper handling and storage, nutrition of mushrooms, and growing agaricus mushrooms are some of the interesting pages you might want to check out.
The Lab Notes page of sporeworks.com gives some growing advice for producing rare and exotic mushrooms under controlled conditions. Sporeworks offers mushroom spores, grow kits, cultivation tools and media.
The Shroomery claims to provide all the info you'll need to grow your own mushrooms — and they are probably right! Mushroom cultivation guides, discussions of substrate types, and how-to grow gourmet mushrooms are some of the topics you'll find at the Shroomery.
The North American Mycological Association has a few photo galleries of mushrooms. The photos are fantastic close-ups of many kinds of mushrooms. Be sure to check out the links to the photographers' personal Web sites of mushroom photography — especially Taylor Lockwood's FungiPhoto.com gallery. The images in the "Mushrooms for Impact" grouping are stunning!
While you are here, check out the NAMA affiliated clubs to find a group of mushroom seekers in your area.
Start learning the major groups of fleshy fungi by using the Fungi of California simple mushroom key provided by Michael Wood's mykoweb.com. Clicking on a group name, like Club and Coral Fungi, takes you to a page that further subdivides the group. Clicking on a species name, like Sparassis crispa – the cauliflower mushroom, gives a picture, physical characteristics, comments on the edibility of the species, and links to other pictures and sources of info for that specific kind of mushroom.
Exotic mushroom varieties are highlighted with a small picture, their scientific names, means of cultivation and culinary uses. Mushrooms included are the common white button mushroom, cremini, the popular portobello and portobellini, shiitake, oyster, enokitake, maitake and morel.