After a very dry May, complete with a wildfire close call, Swan Hills has received an abundance of rain as the summer has progressed, which seems to have created favourable conditions for mushroom growth in the region.
In early July, Swan Hills resident Leslie Kagi found some large mushrooms that she described as being about the size of a dinner plate. While Leslie has experience foraging for edible mushrooms, she was unfamiliar with the variety she had found and wisely left it alone. After consulting a mushroom identification book, she thought that it might be Macrolepiota rhacodes (which has been reclassified as Chlorophyllum rhacodes since the printing of this particular mushroom identification book), commonly known as “Shaggy Parasol.” After submitting a picture of the mystery mushroom to the Alberta Mycological Society Group Facebook page, a member listed as a group expert tentatively seconded this opinion with the caveat that she couldn’t be entirely sure without being able to check the underside of the specimen.
While foraging for edible wild mushrooms can be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby, it cannot be stressed enough that great care and some education on the subject is necessary before engaging in this endeavour. Alberta is home to a variety of wild mushrooms, some of which are edible and some of which are poisonous. Mushroom poisoning can range from very unpleasant gastric symptoms to organ failure and death. This is not something to take lightly.
Swan Hills residents Brandon and Jill Simms started mushroom foraging about four years ago. They had gone camping in the Kananaskis with friends who introduced them to this hobby, after which Brandon took a two-part course at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden to further his knowledge. Mushroom foraging has become a family activity for the Simms, with their kids getting into the fun as well.
Some of the edible mushrooms in the Swan Hills area include the slippery jack (Suillus luteus) and coral tooth fungus (Hericium coralloides), but Brandon and Jill are always on the lookout for the prized morel (Morchella angusticeps). They prefer to dehydrate their mushrooms to concentrate the flavour and then rehydrate them later to use in their cooking. Brandon warns that wild mushrooms must be cooked before being eaten, warning that eating them raw can lead to cramps.
So keep an eye out for mushrooms if you’re out in the woods, but please don’t eat any of them unless you are 100% certain of their identification and edibility.
By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jul 26, 2023