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Mushrooms are a truly magnificent thing to behold. According to mycologists (people who study mushrooms), there are over 10,000 known species of mushrooms, and there are even more which are undiscovered. Identifying mushrooms is a challenging and rewarding hobby, even if you don't set out to consume any of your findings. Learning about different structures and features can seem overwhelming, but once you can start to put the pieces together, simply identifying different species feels extremely gratifying.
At the time I created this video, my actual mushroom hunting or identifying experience was zero. I had spent some time reading online mycology forums and Reddit threads. I quickly became engrossed with the pursuit of fungal knowledge and set out into the northern woods of New Hampshire to see what I could find.
Just a few steps off the beaten path revealed a hidden world that left me in shock. There was so much life and variety in the mushrooms I was able to find.
The chanterelle was one of the first mushrooms I tried to identify... and I got it wrong. I mistook a false chanterelle for a true one. If I had chosen to harvest and eat this mushroom, I wouldn't have suffered any ill-effects, but it would also not be very tasty either. This is what makes mushroom hunting so challenging.
Just how confusing is it? Check out 1:30 in the video above as well as the image above. Then compare it to a photo of a true chanterelle (below).
Being able to discern the difference between any mushroom and its lookalikes is just one example of what makes this hobby so difficult and exciting.
If you would like to tell the difference between a chanterelle and a false one, you'll need to do a bit of dirty work. The two look very very similar, so it shouldn't be your first and last identifying factor. True chanterelles smell like apricots. Another thing that sets them apart is the inside. Take a knife and cut through one down the middle. If the center is pure white, it has false gills, and has the other visual aspects, you've found yourself a chanterelle. False chanterelles will have an orange, muddy, dirty, or other non-white interior.
Indian Pipes (Not A Mushroom)
Ask anyone who doesn't know what these are and they'll probably say, "Some kind of mushroom." This is one identification that I didn't get wrong, but it's also not a mushroom. This is actually a flower called Indian Pipe.
Golden Jelly Fungus
It wasn't until more than halfway through my video that I had made a positive identification, and it wasn't even a specific one. However, even getting close felt like a major victory as a newcomer to the hobby. That being said, there are several different species of "Golden Jelly Fungus," so the ID isn't as close as it could be.
The Crown Jewel, A Crusty Old Chicken
Nine minutes and fifty seconds into the video (and quite a bit longer into the exploration itself), I stumbled upon my final identification of the day, and it was a doozy.
Chicken of the woods is considered a choice edible. The one in the photo above is on the older side, but mine was even further along in its life. Young chicken of the woods mushrooms have a fluffy, almost bubbly appearance.
I wasn't able to reach the specimen in my video. Had I been able to reach it or cut it down, I would have been able to catch a glimpse of the stunning upper-side of the fungus, which has a bright orange and yellow appearance that is truly a sight to behold.
Top Products For Your First Mushroom Hunt
- A Guide Book or Field Guide - Get yourself a mushroom identification book or field guide. They will help you find and successfully identify any unknown mushrooms you come across.
- A Mushrooming Knife - Being able to quickly and easily cut into mushrooms will help in harvesting edible species and identifying or confirming IDs of other mushrooms.
- Bug Spray - If you're heading out into the woods for spring or summer mushroom hunting, apply some bug spray as the ticks and mosquitoes are likely to be out in force.
So what are you waiting for? Hit the trail, go on an adventure, and see what mushrooms you can find!