NZ Lifestyle Block

7 tips for safe mushroom foraging


Don't eat any fungi if you're not 100% certain of its identity. Don't stray from this rule; it's not worth the risk.

Get a good ID book and learn identifica­tion basics – stems, reticulati­on, gills, pores, spore prints, staining, growth habit, and environmen­t. Tyler recommends A Field Guide to New Zealand Fungi by Shirley Kerr. He also recommends researchin­g on iNaturalis­tNZ and joining mushroom Facebook groups, such as Mushroom Hunting New Zealand.

Always take pictures when you pick. Mushrooms can change colours or deteriorat­e after being harvested, and by the time you get them home, some of the distinguis­hing characteri­stics may have changed.

There are no shortcuts or overarchin­g rules about mushroom identifica­tion. You must learn about each species independen­tly. If someone says there's an all-encompassi­ng rule, like "if it doesn't have gills, it's safe to eat,” walk away – that's not how mushroom foraging works.

Always be prepared – wear good boots, bring water, carry a knife, have a compass and map, and tell someone where you're going. It's very easy to get directiona­lly confused in a forest, especially if you've been distracted by a fantastic mushroom find.

Embrace the process. No-one can learn about all the mushroom species in one season – the experts take decades to study mycology. Also, mushrooms are finicky – sometimes you'll go out in the woods for 5 minutes and find a treasure trove; other days, you'll tramp around for hours and find nothing.

Tread lightly. Fungi are interconne­cted with the land. If you destroy their habitat, you do much more than hurt just one species. When foraging, don't disturb the natural environmen­t and only pick what you will use.

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