The 9 most common edible mushrooms in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is an excellent state to forage for mushrooms as it is home to several edible varieties like chicken of the woods, black trumpet, wine cap mushrooms, hen of the woods, and reishi mushrooms. 

What mushrooms are edible in Massachusetts?

Foragers get a little shy about mushroom hunting, and there is a good reason for that – a few species possess a very close and dangerous look-alike.

To be sure that a mushroom is not one of these confusing species takes real expertise. In addition, the more one knows about mushrooms, the easier it is to identify them based on the details on which they are based.

Here is a list of edible mushrooms in Massachusetts you should look out for:

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1. Lobster mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum)

The lobster mushroom is not exactly a species but more of a symptom. This fungus does not produce mushrooms itself, but it is a parasite that feeds on mushrooms found in the genera Russula and Lactarius

When to look for lobster mushrooms?

August, September, and October are typically the peak months.

Where to find them?

Lobster mushrooms are often associated with mixed woodlands and hardwood forests (oaks, maples, and other hardwoods).

Lobster mushrooms
Lobster mushrooms, Image Number 440594 at Mushroom Observer


Whatever the host species, lobster mushrooms are easily recognized and have a subtle, seafood-like flavor that is enhanced by drying or proper cooking. The lobster mushroom is always safe to eat. 

How to cook with lobster mushrooms?

  1. Sauté or Stir-Fry: Sauté in butter or oil until golden brown, or use in stir-fries for a seafood-like flavor.
  2. In Pasta Dishes: Add to pasta dishes for a unique taste and meaty texture.
  3. Soups and Stews: Enhance soups and stews with lobster mushrooms for added flavor.
  4. Grill: Marinate and grill lobster mushrooms for a smoky twist.
  5. Quiches and Frittatas: Include in quiches or frittatas for a hearty addition.
  6. Risotto: Infuse risotto with the distinctive flavor of lobster mushrooms.
  7. Pair with Seafood: Combine with seafood dishes for a surf-and-turf experience.
  8. Casseroles: Add to casseroles for a flavorful element.
  9. Stuffed Mushrooms: Use as a filling for stuffed mushrooms for a tasty appetizer.

2. Wine caps (Stropharia rugosoannulata)

The cap surface is smooth and may vary in color, often displaying shades of wine-red to reddish-brown. The gills are crowded, free, and initially pinkish before turning dark purple-brown as the mushroom matures.

When to look for wine caps?

These mushrooms are found in Massachusetts around late May and June.

Where to find them?

Wine caps often colonize wood chip beds, and they may appear in areas where wood chips have been used for landscaping or ground cover.

Wine caps
Wine caps, Image Number 183478 at Mushroom Observer


The taste, size, and texture are similar to portobello mushrooms.

How to cook with wine caps?

  1. Sautéed Wine Caps: Slice and sauté in olive oil or butter until golden brown. Season with garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper.
  2. Grilled Wine Caps: Marinate in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and herbs. Grill until tender and serve as a side or topping.
  3. Wine Cap Risotto: Add sliced Wine Caps to risotto during the last few minutes of cooking. Finish with Parmesan and herbs.
  4. Pasta with Wine Caps: Sauté and mix with pasta and sauce for added texture.
  5. Stuffed Wine Caps: Remove stems, stuff with breadcrumbs, herbs, and cheese, then bake until golden.
  6. Wine Cap Stir-Fry: Include in vegetable stir-fries for a unique flavor and texture.

3. Chicken of the woods (Polyporus sulphureus)

Chicken of the woods grows in large, shelf-like structures, often overlapping and resembling shelves or brackets. It is a yellow to orange mushroom with pores on the underside.

When to look for chicken of the woods?

The chicken of the woods is most abundant in June and August all the way to September and October.

Where to find them?

Chicken of the Woods is often found growing on hardwood trees, particularly oak, but it can also appear on other hardwoods. Check dead or dying trees, stumps, or logs.

Chicken of the woods
Chicken of the woods


The taste is often described as mild, savory, and with a somewhat chicken-like or poultry flavor.

How to cook with chicken of the woods?

  1. Sautéed Chicken of the Woods: Sauté in olive oil or butter until golden brown. Season with garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper.
  2. Grilled Chicken of the Woods: Marinate in olive oil, herbs, and spices. Grill until tender with grill marks.
  3. Chicken of the Woods Tacos: Sauté slices with taco seasonings. Serve in taco shells with toppings.
  4. Chicken of the Woods Stir-Fry: Include in vegetable stir-fries for added texture. Pair with your favorite stir-fry ingredients.
  5. Chicken of the Woods Sandwich: Sauté and use as a sandwich filling. Add lettuce, tomatoes, and condiments.

4. Chanterelles (Cantharellus)

Chanterelles are trumpet-shaped mushrooms with ridges instead of gills with various flavors. In Massachusetts, you can find:

  • Golden chanterelle: It has a vibrant yellow to orange color, a funnel-shaped cap, and a fruity fragrance.
  • Smooth chanterelle: It has a pale orange to buff color, and its cap surface is smooth rather than wrinkled.
  • Pacific gold chanterelle: It has a yellow to orange color and a distinctive fruity aroma.

When to find chanterelles?

July to August are often a prime time for chanterelle foraging.

Where to find them?

Chanterelles grow in association with oak trees, and they are sometimes found in pine forests as well.

Watch our video on when and where to look for chanterelles.


Chanterelles have a delicate taste with fruity and sometimes floral notes. They are also umami and mildly peppery.

How to cook with chanterelles?

  1. Sautéing: Sauté in butter or olive oil with garlic, shallots, or herbs until golden brown.
  2. Roasting: Roast in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper for a rich, concentrated flavor.
  3. Grilling: Place larger chanterelles on the grill for a smoky taste and distinctive texture.
  4. Creamy Sauces: Add to creamy sauces or risottos for a decadent and earthy flavor.
  5. Pickling: Preserve chanterelles by pickling them with vinegar, herbs, and spices.
  6. Soup or Stew: Enhance soups, stews, or broths with chanterelles for depth and umami.
  7. Omelets or Quiches: Incorporate sautéed chanterelles into omelets or quiches for a gourmet touch.

5. Black trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioide)

The black trumpet, also known as black chanterelle, is trumpet-shaped with a hollow and deeply wrinkled cap. Its color ranges from dark brown to black, often resembling a small, dark horn.

When to look for black trumpets?

The peak season for black trumpets in Massachusetts is September to October.

Where to find them?

Look for them in areas where oak trees are present. Black trumpets prefer habitats with rich leaf litter and organic matter on the forest floor. Search under deciduous trees, especially in areas with a thick layer of decomposing leaves.

Black trumpets
Black trumpets


Black chanterelles are known for their strong, earthy, and smoky flavor.

How to cook with black trumpets?

Sauté, roast, or incorporate into dishes for rich, earthy flavor.

6. Velvet foot (Flammulina velutipes)

Velvet foot mushrooms have a unique appearance with long, slender stems and small, delicate caps. The caps are typically small and convex, with a creamy to white color.

When to look for velvet foot?

Look for them late September to November, especially after periods of rain or snow.

Where to find them?

Look in wooded areas, especially those with a good amount of dead or decaying wood. Explore locations near streams, damp depressions, or areas with decomposing leaf litter.

Velvet foot
Velvet foot


The flavor of velvet foot mushrooms is delicate, mild, and slightly sweet.

How to cook with velvet foot?

  1. Stir-Fry: Sauté velvet foot mushrooms with colorful vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots. Add soy sauce, ginger, and garlic for flavor. Serve over rice or noodles.
  2. Soup: Prepare a clear mushroom soup by simmering velvet foot mushrooms in a broth made with miso paste, soy sauce, and vegetable or chicken stock.
  3. Tofu Hot Pot: CombinE velvet foot mushrooms with tofu, bok choy, and other vegetables in a flavorful broth. Serve with dipping sauces.
  4. Salad: Toss fresh velvet foot mushrooms into a salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and a light vinaigrette dressing. Top with sesame seeds for added crunch.
  5. Noodle Bowl: Combine cooked noodles with velvet foot mushrooms, baby spinach, and a savory sauce made with soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili paste. Garnish with sesame seeds.
  6. Tempura: Dip velvet foot mushrooms in a light tempura batter and fry until golden. Serve with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a touch of honey.

7. Bear’s Head Tooth (Hericium americanum)

Bear’s head tooth resembles a bear’s head because of its long, hair-like teeth rather than gills. 

When to look for bear’s head tooth?

You can start looking for bear’s head tooth mushrooms around August, continuing through the fall months, potentially until November.

Where to find them?

Bear’s head tooth mushrooms can be found in hardwood forests on the trunks or branches of living or dead trees, particularly hardwoods like oaks and beeches.

Bear's head
Bear’s head tooth


Bear’s head tooth has a mild and slightly sweet taste, similar to lobster or crab.

How to cook with bear’s head tooth?

  1. Stir-Frying: Stir-fry in a hot wok or pan with your favorite vegetables. Add soy sauce or other seasonings for flavor.
  2. Grilling: Brush bear’s head tooth with olive oil or marinade. Grill over medium heat until lightly charred and cooked through. Season with herbs and spices.
  3. Adding to Soups and Stews: Add to soups, stews, or broths during the last few minutes of cooking.
  4. Noodle Replacement: Due to its noodle-like texture, bear’s head tooth can be used as a pasta or noodle substitute in various dishes.

8. ​Morels (Morchella)

Morels have an easily recognizable cap that is honeycomb or sponge-like in appearance. The cap is composed of pits and ridges, resembling a mesh or net. The color of morel caps can vary and includes shades of tan, brown, yellow, or black.

When to look for morels?

Look for them late April to early June, when daytime temperatures consistently reach the 50-60°F (10-15°C) range.

Where to look for them?

Look for locations with oak, elm, ash, poplar, and other hardwood trees. They favor burned sites and disturbed areas. Also, check along riverbanks and creek beds.



Morel mushrooms taste rich, earthy, nutty and umami.

How to cook with morels?

  1. Sautéing: Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add butter or olive oil. Sauté cleaned and sliced morels until they are golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs like thyme or parsley.
  2. Creamy Sauces: Add sautéed morels to creamy sauces for pasta or risotto. Create a rich mushroom cream sauce using ingredients like garlic, shallots, white wine, and heavy cream.
  3. Grilling: Larger morels can be threaded onto skewers and grilled. Brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill until they are tender with a smoky flavor.
  4. Stuffing: Stuff morels with a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs, cheese, and cooked sausage or bacon. Bake until the stuffing is golden brown and the morels are cooked through.
  5. Eggs and Omelets: Incorporate sautéed morels into scrambled eggs, omelets, or frittatas. The earthy flavor of morels pairs well with the richness of eggs.
  6. Pasta Dishes: Toss cooked morels into pasta dishes, such as carbonara or Alfredo. Their unique flavor adds depth to the overall dish.

9. Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa)

Hen of the woods has a distinctive frilly or layered appearance, resembling the fluffed feathers of a nesting hen, hence its name.

When to look for hen of the woods?

Keep an eye out for it from August through October.

Where to look for them?

Look for hen of the woods in hardwood forests, particularly around the base of oak trees. This mushroom is known to form large clusters at the base of the trunk or on the roots of hardwood trees.

Hen of the woods
Hen of the woods


Hen of the woods is known for its rich and savory taste, often associated with umami.

How to cook with hen of the woods?

  1. Roasting: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Toss hen of the woods with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until the edges become crisp, usually for about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Grilling: Thread smaller clusters onto skewers. Brush with olive oil, season, and grill until tender and slightly charred.
  3. In Pasta or Risotto: Add sautéed or roasted hen of the woods to pasta dishes or risotto for a rich, earthy flavor.
  4. Stir-Fries: Include hen of the woods in vegetable stir-fries for a unique taste and texture.
  5. Stuffed Mushrooms: Use larger clusters for stuffing with a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs, and cheese.

Are there any poisonous mushrooms in Massachusetts?

Yes, There are several harmful “look-alike” mushrooms that we hear about at the Northern New England Poison Center.

These include:

  • Jack o’ lanterns
  • Pigskin poison puffballs
  • False morels
  • Destroying angels

It is important to be aware that there are two types of fungi in Massachusetts that are particularly poisonous. 

One of these mushrooms is so poisonous that it has earned the nickname “destroying angel” or “death angel.” It is known that the Amanita bisporigera mushroom species is one of the most lethal species of fungi in the world. 

This deadly mushroom can kill you in just a few bites – it kills more people yearly than any other fungus.

Jack-o-lantern mushrooms are another toxic mushroom that is popular in Massachusetts. 

Omphalotus olearius is an orange fungus that resembles chanterelles. Although this type of mushroom is less deadly, it is extremely dangerous due to its easily mistaken identity as an edible mushroom.

Check our video on the 7 most poisonous mushrooms growing in the US (mushroom details and ingestion symptoms included)!

What about psychedelic mushrooms in Massachusetts?

Psychedelic mushrooms abound in Massachusetts, and even though there is some research that psilocybin has therapeutic effects, the mushroom species containing it are considered illegal.

Magic mushrooms like fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) are technically poisonous though thrill seekers do ingest them. Shrooms can be found outside Boston and in other states like Oregon and Rhode Island.

Amanita muscaria
Amanita muscaria

As with any mushroom, if you ingest one that makes you feel unwell, consult a healthcare professional immediately and always check a field guide before eating wild mushrooms if you are not certain.

Tips when foraging for mushrooms

  • The best time to go foraging for Massachusetts mushrooms is between April and November.
  • You can minimize where you are looking by searching for the plants or habitats in which the mushrooms grow.
  • Begin your foraging journey with easily identifiable and distinctive mushrooms.
  • Pay attention to scent, as some mushrooms have distinctive odors.
  • During mushroom foraging, you should consider the timing, the weather, and, most importantly, where the mushrooms are likely to grow.
  • Use a knife to cut mushrooms at the base rather than pulling them out

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