Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hunting for the gun-shy - Mushrooms!

I've been asked about identifying and locating Morel mushrooms in Minnesota. While I'm not familiar with the locations for foraging this particular species, I realized that I have seen some beautiful mushrooms on my walks along the Mississippi, and decided to dig some up for research and experimentation.

I packed my camera, a few mesh bags, and waited for ideal conditions. The best time to look for mushrooms, I've been told, is after a decent amount of rain. I read that I should forage near bodies of water, fallen trees, and organic debris. One of my usual walking spots fit the bill perfectly.

After a good rain, I walked down to the shore of the Mississippi and followed the walking trails South. Two hours and a few miles later, I found my very first foraged mushroom!

Close to downtown Minneapolis, the trail I walked along turned up 2 more decent sized mushrooms, which I gathered and took home to identify.

The specimens I found were large in size (over 4 inches across the cap), had thick stalks, and pink to dark brown gills. They were found growing out of the soil, among grasses and debris from nearby trees.

I looked up their characteristics on a few sites:,, and As far as I can tell, what I have found are a species of Agaricus, which are said to be edible.

(An official photo of Agaricus Arvenesis, from

But first, it's time for the Universal Edibility Test, adapted from the U.S. Army Survival Manual.

9:00 AM - Upon waking, I eat only saltine crackers and water. For the duration of the test, only water is typically allowed, but I'm not looking to go on a fast here. I touch a small part of the largest mushroom to the inside of my arm, and wait 4-5 hours to check for any reaction.

2:00 PM - No visible or tactile skin reaction. I slice the largest mushroom, and soak it in water to rinse away any dirt or insects.

2:30 PM - Chewed, but did not swallow, a piece of the largest mushroom to check for sensitivity. Tastes good, like a portobello.

3:00 PM - Took a tiny piece of the largest mushroom, about the size of a pea, and ate it raw.

3:30 PM - Tired of eating crackers, I compromise the integrity of the Edibility Test by eating some lasagna. I ate some yesterday as well, so I know if I'm sick it won't be from that.

2 days later, I have had no adverse effects, so I proceed with making my Wild Mushroom and Shrimp Risotto.

Here's the recipe:

1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used the ones I foraged, but portobellos are good)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 Tablespoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon sea salt (omit the salt if you are using salted stock or broth)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 Tablespoons chopped chives
1 cup salad shrimp, preferably raw
1/4 cup heavy cream

Brown the rice in the butter, and heat the stock.
Add the stock to the rice, a half-cup at a time, stirring constantly or at least fairly often.
When each half-cup of stock has soaked into the rice, add another. Repeat until rice is cooked, but not super soft. It should still have a "bite" to it.
Saute the mushrooms in the truffle oil, and add the shrimp and seasonings to the pan. The shrimp will cook fast, so remove the pan from the heat once they're added.
Mix the mushroom mixture into the rice, add the cream, stir, and serve.

I'm considering joining the Minnesota Mycological Society, so I can do this again without the possibility of poisoning myself.

Remember, don't try foraging at home unless you or someone you know can positively identify your wild mushrooms.

Happy Hunting!