When you think of gourmet mushrooms names such as porcini, chanterelle, and morels come to mind. Buying these mushrooms in the store can cost a small fortune, but picking them yourself from the wild can save you money and is  great way to get outside. As a beginner mushroom collector in Colorado, the easiest gourmet mushroom to identify is the Porcini. The porcini grows between 8000 and 10000 feet hear in Colorado and are most often found underneath small Albert pine trees in moist soil. Identifying mushrooms can be tricky, but Porcini’s are one of the easiest to identify. Mushrooms are identified using their cap, gills, and stalk. A Porcini’s cap is a rusty red color with no white spots on it. The stalk is pure white with no skirt attached, while he gills are white and sponge-like with no ridges. You can see in the top picture, the rusty red cap and smooth white stalk of the Porcini. When identifying Porcinis there is only one mushroom which can cause harm in Colorado that looks similar to the Porcini. This mushroom is known as the Fly Cap. The Fly Cap looks similar to the Porcini, but on closer inspection it differs in many ways. First, the Fly Cap’s cap is bright red with white dots, and the white gills look like ridges instead of a sponge. Lastly the fly cap is not bulbous looking like the Porcini. The second picture is an example of a Fly Cap which upon consumption can make you very sick. Mushroom hunting is a fun and easy way to gather edible gourmet mushrooms for your table.

If you want more information on mushroom hunting in Colorado a good book to read is Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains. 

-written by Mike Wolf, Water Quality Intern, Fall 2011

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