Also known as lamella, a gill is the underside structure of a mushroom cap. It's composed of narrow, paper-like structures which function in two ways; produce and disperse spores. Although not all mushrooms have gills, lamellae are essential in identifying the mushroom species.
There are various types of mushroom gills. Some are poisonous, and others edible. To distinguish the non-poisonous mushroom, it’s necessary to understand the various structures of a mushroom. The color, shape, and habitat.
Having a field guide can help forage mushrooms. With it, you’re confident the mushrooms you’ll gather are safe. Also, never forget the golden rule in mushroom foraging, NEVER eat a mushroom until you’re 100% sure it’s safe.
This article guides you through all you need to know about foraging edible gilled mushrooms and whether it’s okay to eat mushroom gills.
Table of Contents
There are various types of mushroom gills under the umbrella of Agaricales (or gilled mushrooms), each growing in various parts of the world. Now, you don’t need to be a mycologist or master all the mushroom species to forage the right mushrooms. However, that doesn’t mean you’re to be careless.
Understanding the basic mushroom structure is very important. If you’re not confident, take a field guide with you during a forage.
Always check the following in a mushroom:
- The color of the underside of the mushroom cap
- The spacing of the gills
- Some mushrooms have decurrent gills in the gill pattern, while others are notched
The golden rule for foraging wild mushrooms is NEVER eating a mushroom if you’re not 100% sure it’s safe.
If you find a gilled mushroom you don’t know, research it and note the color, the stipe, and the spore-bearing structure. Also, take note of the location where you’re foraging. The information helps distinguish the mushrooms and know if it‘s edible or not.
For example, polypore mushrooms only grow on trees and stumps, not on soil.
Gill Color, Stipe Attachment & Spacing
Although not all mushrooms have gills, lamellae are essential in identifying the mushroom species.
Now, let’s consider some categories of unique gill attachments in mushrooms.
1. The Gill Color
Different gilled mushrooms produce different spore colors.
The colors range between:
- dirty yellow
- lilac gray
- a combination of these colors
Performing a spore print test can help identify the type of mushroom and whether it’s edible or not. Note a spore print alone is not enough to prove the safety of a mushroom.
Some poisonous and edible mushrooms have the same spore print. It would be best if you were certain.
How Do You Perform A Spore Test?
Cut the mushroom cap, and place it over a white or black piece of paper. Cover the cap with a bowl to prevent wind from blowing the spores away.
Then, wait for about 5 hours, and the spore will have formed on the paper. It’s that simple.
3. The Gill Spacing
The gill spacing depends on the hymenium which forms the fruiting bodies; that’s the mushroom cap, the gills, and the spores. If the radius of the mushroom cap is small, the gills are closely packed, radiating from the stipe single-lined.
On the contrary, if the cap is large, the lamellas are well spaced out. However, to accommodate more spore production, the mycelium develops secondary gills between the primary gills.
A good example of a mushroom with large spacing is the Lactarius mushroom.
4. Gill Stipe Attachment
Mushroom gills can be grouped into 6 categories;
- Decurrent gills
- Adnate gills
- Adnexed gills
- Sinuate gills
- Emarginate gills
- Free gills
Is It Okay To Eat Mushroom Gills?
Yes, it’s okay to eat the lamellas underside of the caps. Although, the gills from portobello mushrooms can make a recipe unappealing due to the mushroom’s dark color. However, the gill has no negative effects on your body.
So eating mushrooms gills depends on your personal preferences. Moreover, removing the gills is easy.
First, cut the stipe at the top near the cap, then use a spoon to scrape off the lamellas.
Edible & Inedible Gill Mushroom Species
Gill mushroom species can be grouped into:
1. Amanita Mushrooms
It’s best to avoid Amanita mushrooms if you’re a new mushroom forager.
This is because some Amanita mushrooms are poisonous, such as the deathcap mushroom, which has similarities with the edible Amanita vaginata.
2. Grilled Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms mostly grow on trees. These are edible and preferred for commercial sale. Oyster mushrooms feed on nematodes.
3. Cortinarius Mushrooms
Cortinarius mushrooms are not edible. The Cortinarius mushroom is mainly known for its size; it’s one of the largest mushrooms in the world.
Plus, its violet color makes it attractive.
Most Common Edible Mushrooms With Gills
1. Cantharellus Cibarius (Chanterelle)
It has an irregular margin cap with a diameter of 3 inches. It’s funnel-shaped, therefore, easy to spot.
Chanterelle mushrooms are light yellow. Although, the color can vary to an egg yolk yellow.
Its habitat is in deciduous forests or under beach trees.
2. Oyster Mushrooms
Its color varies from light to dark brown. The gills are decurrent with a yellow whitish running down the stipe halfway. The cap is 3-9 inches in diameter.
Oyster mushrooms prefer rotting logs and stamps and are mostly found in deciduous and beech trees.
3. Lactarius Delicious (Saffron Milk Cap)
It’s orange. The cap diameter is about 2-5 inches long and grows on the forest ground.
4. Honey Mushroom
The honey mushroom is yellow or yellowish-brown when it matures. The cap is white. It’s a parasitic fungus that grows on trees, especially the broadleaf trees.
How Do You Clean Mushroom Gills?
Cleaning helps remove debris and dirt from the mushrooms, especially the gill area, where dirt can hide between the paper-like lamellas.
First, wash the gilled mushrooms with cold water. If the mushrooms are large, wash each at a time. Ensure water runs through the gill spacings. Rinse the mushrooms a second time if needed.
Alternatively, you can remove the gills by cutting the edges of the mushroom to reveal the gills, then use a teaspoon to scrape off the gills.