Is It a Mushroom, Morel, Truffle, or Toadstool?

Author: Meera, November 27, 2012




Toadstool with a cap, gills, and stem



I wouldn’t call myself a gastronome when it comes to mushrooms–my taste and enjoyment of them is not that discriminating. I like them in food, but I am not fond of finding them popping up all over the farmette after a rain. My displeasure at seeing them in the lawn, around the raised planter boxes, on the pathways, or in the orchard and garden stems from my not readily knowing which types are beneficial s and which are harmful. There are literally hundreds of different species, some are poisonous.


The mushroom (often called a toadstool) is the visible sign of the presence of a fungus in the soil. The toadstool generally has three parts–a stalk or stem, a cap, and gills. You might think of the hookah-smoking caterpillar perched on top of one in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by English author Lewis Carroll.



Mushroom color varies with the species of fungus that produces the fruiting body. While many have neutral coloring, some, like the poisonous fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) that you would find in the woods associated with conifer and birch trees, has a brilliant red cap with white scales.



Toadstools can have strange shapes


Don’t eat mushrooms or toadstools you find growing in the wild unless you are an expert on fungi.


The majority of fungi won’t harm the garden (although some do). If I don’t recognize the type of fungi that is growing, I either ignore them or use a spade to dig them out. I dispose of them in the garbage. Some toadstools are actually beneficial to the soil, adding back in certain nutrients. Such fungi have a symbiotic relationship with garden plants. However, others can have spores harmful to humans.


Seek help in identifying mushrooms
if you don’t know the type


I’ve used a lot of soil amendment and compost on the property. There may be pieces of rotting wood buried under the dirt. Fungi need a food source to grow. In packed soil and the damp conditions following a rain, toadstools pop up, seemingly everywhere.


Alas, I cannot as yet tell the toadstool from the truffle or morel, so highly desired in the French and English culinary traditions, so I won’t eat any of them. And as for sitting on one, well . . . I leave that  for the hairy worm of Lewis Carroll’s imagination.


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