Basic Mushroom Prep

Things To Do Before Eating Mushrooms

Rules to Remember

We can't stress it enough: be absolutely certain of your identifications, and that the mushrooms you have are edible. Some types of edible mushrooms listed in our Field Guide include:

  • morels
  • chanterelles
  • hen of the woods
  • chicken of the woods
  • lobster mushrooms
  • black trumpets

Wild mushrooms should never be eaten raw. They can be difficult to digest, and cooking will destroy any potential toxins.

The first time you eat any wild mushroom, put a few aside in the refrigerator. This way if someone has an allergic or poisonous reaction, an expert can make a clear identification and use the correct remedy.

All wild mushrooms should be cooked and eaten immediately, or preserved right away.

Some mushrooms may last a few days in the refrigerator stored in a container that lets in air and moisture, such as a glass or plastic bowl with a damp towel over the top.

Insects, Slugs, And Other Tiny Creatures

Morel mushrooms soaking in salt water
photo by David Stonner, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Before cooking, most mushrooms should be cut in half from top to bottom or torn apart, and then checked for insects.

After cutting morels lengthwise, many people soak them in lightly salted water for a few minutes to get insects out of the pores and hollow stem. (You can verify your morels’ ID if you see a hollow stem.)

Cleaning Off The Dirt

Some mushrooms are more delicate or dirtier than others. You can use a damp cloth or buy special mushroom brushes. If you can't brush off the dirt, you may have to rinse them with water.

Opinions vary about using water to clean mushrooms. Sometimes, they're so dirty you need to use water, but try not to get them too soaked. (Best of all is prevention: When you're out collecting them, put only clean mushrooms into your basket. Cut off the dirty, below-ground portions before they even go into your basket.)

If you use water to clean them, let them drain before cooking them. (Mushrooms are mostly water, so adding more water during cooking is unnecessary.)

Of course, trim off any rotting or unwholesome parts.

Now that your mushrooms are clean, check out our delicious recipes like morel-asparagus fettuccini and wild mushroom and vegetable soup.