By Bob Jamison

          Collecting wild mushrooms might be quite similar to bird watching. To really enjoy either or both, you would certainly want to read some good information. Though I don’t know of any local birds that are deadly but be careful, some mushrooms are.

          Serious mushroom hunters and collectors sometimes offer the appearance of like serious birders. They dress the part with boots, outdoor clothing and big hats. Why so many men have beards I haven’t a clue. While birders have binoculars and a half dozen cameras or lenses around their necks, mushroomers are equipped with a reference (bible) of variety photos as birders have ID books. Also mushroomers have an ample supply of wax paper, a collection box and note pads. One thing is for sure, they both are out to pursue their sport and entertainment so more power to them.

          Be that as it may, we do have several verities of mushrooms that are safe and quite edible. Truthfully, the only true group of mushroomers I have encountered in this country were searching for a certain kind of mushrooms in the Aransas Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio Bay. That’s the principal wintering grounds for the famous Whooping Cranes.

          The other very interesting group of mushroomers is in France. These, of course, are searching for the delicious and gourmet truffle mushrooms. Their methods are equally fascinating in that many use animals in the search as the small truffles that are often under fallen leaves of certain trees and can’t be seen. Most famous of these animals are pigs that are equipped with special muzzles to prevent them from enjoying eating their find. Dogs are also often used after being trained as mushroom hunters.

          Collected truffle mushrooms come with a certain requirement whether legal or practical. They must take their find to a designated pharmacy for identification purposes. As in this country, the many mushrooms that are edible have look-a-likes that could make you sick and some could kill.

          Now whether a squirrel knows the difference I can’t say. However, while sitting in a deer blind recently and watching nature pass by and hoping for a deer, a grey squirrel played up and down a nearby tree barking at my considered ‘invisible’ hiding place. Then the squirrel jumped off on the ground and began eating a mushroom that resembled a tiny white umbrella. I guess he’s ok because I didn’t see him vomit.

          The squirrel selected the mushroom that looked almost exactly like the “Destroying Angel” mushroom that is deadly. It looks like the one he ate that is called “Smooth white Lepliota” which is edible for most humans. Again, check with an expert or maybe the squirrel. Remember, you have to be right l00% of the time.

          A real neat looking mushroom often found in lawns has a rounded white top at the end of a white stem. It has little bumps on it and it too is considered very poisonous.

          If mushroom collecting is your desire, you might consider the many opportunities to grow you own mushrooms. Order a mushroom kit. They come in several verities with pre planted spores such as Shitakes, Oyster and others. Simple instructions like when to apply water, temperature and darkened room should do the trick.

          So if the tasty fungi are on your mind, order the kit with the mushroom variety of your desire and stay away from the toadstools.