DENVER (KDVR) — After an extra snowy winter and record-breaking precipitation in the spring, this year’s mushroom season is abundant in Colorado.
Many of the fungi growing in your yard, around the neighborhoods, in the woods and at high altitudes are edible, but experts say you should be cautious about which ones you eat.
Whether you are an experienced fungi forager or have never picked one before, you can find a variety of colorful and edible mushrooms.
Jennifer Bell is a mycologist and the president of the Pikes Peak Mycological Society. She told FOX31 that some of the ones you might find in your neighborhood are the same species as what you will find at the grocery store.
“The ones that you’ll find in your neighborhood, most of them are quite good to eat but don’t even think about it without getting together with someone who really does know,” she said.
Bell referred to these as landscape mushrooms. She said the caution with those is that you need to be sure that the lawn or landscape you found it on is not treated with cancerous weed killers.
It can be easy to tell in many cases. Bell said, “If you run across a lawn that is one kind of grass and there are no weeds and it is super green, chances are they are using something cancerous.”
Here are some of the many edible mushrooms that you can search for, some you might even come across without trying.
Though the morel season is mostly over this year, Bell said you could get lucky and find a few. The trick with eating them is to make sure you cook them properly because they can otherwise make you sick.
According to Jon Sommer, the president of the Colorado Mycological Society, these edibles are mostly found in riparian and riverside habitats near cottonwood trees.
Morels have large heads that look like a sponge. They are tan-brown in color and sometimes have a darker head. The stem is pale, and the inside of the mushroom is hollow.
These mushrooms are in the same species as those you might see in the grocery store, like portobello and crimini.
They are very common and easy to find, Bell said, but some of the many varieties can be questionable.
“There are some Agaricus that look like they are ok unless you go to pull it out of the ground, and you just take the top and you don’t dig all the way down and see that it’s yellow on the bottom and has a weird smell,” she said.
They have pale stems and rounded tops that are light brown or pale in color. Often times they are found in grassy areas or forests.
If you found a mushroom that you are unsure of, Bell said to contact someone from your local mushroom club to get help before you eat it.
Also known as the “Rocky Mountain Red,” these are particularly good for beginners because they are easy to find, she said.
“In Colorado, there’s really only one mushroom you can eat raw and that is boletes,” Bell said. “Most of them have a red top and they grow at high altitudes, and they’re really really nice to eat.”
They thrive at higher altitudes, 7,000 feet and above. Bell said you can find them in the woods, particularly near spruce trees.
Features to look for include red and brown in color on the top with a large pale stem. The spores evolve in color, they are white in youth but turn yellow and green as the mushroom matures.
“In the fall we are going to start seeing chanterelles too, which is a really pretty mushroom that people love a lot,” Bell said.
She described it as a beautiful colorful mushroom that is often yellow or orange. She said it looks like apricots, and they are plentiful as soon as August.
These grow in clusters and are found at high altitudes in forests where there is plenty of moisture.
Bell said these are fairly easy to find, and she expects that they will be able to forage for them at the Telluride Mushroom Festival next month.
The wet spring was not only good for mushrooms, but it was also good for ticks.
“As mushroom hunters, we deal with bears, we deal with moose, elk, we deal with all kinds of wild creatures,” Bell said. “But the things that really scare us are the ticks.”
Tick-borne diseases are on the rise in Colorado this year, so Bell said it is especially important to thoroughly look on your body, through your hair and your pet’s hair.
Bell advises mushroom hunters to wear protective clothing, like hiking pants, long sleeves, long socks and boots to avoid ticks and injuries while scavenging through twigs and rocks and dirt.