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.
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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.
Also, check out our video below on the 7 best tools to forage mushrooms.
Here is a list of edible mushrooms in Massachusetts you should look out for:
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.
The parasite alters the host mushroom’s color, texture, shape, and even taste, making it challenging to identify the species. Together, the parasite and its altered host form the lobster mushroom.
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.
These mushrooms can be found in woods and forests. They are most likely to appear under hemlock trees in September or October.
They can grow single, in pairs, or in clusters.
2. Wine caps (Stropharia rugosoannulata)
These mushrooms are found in Massachusetts around May and September. This one is unique because it’s easy to grow.
Wine caps can be continually grown by transplanting the mycelium from leaf litter or wood chips into fresh wood chips or cardboard.
The taste, size, and texture are similar to portobello mushrooms. The cap is burgundy to white if it’s in the sun, and the underside is purple-black.
A partial veil is usually present, and the stem is thick and white.
3. Chicken of the woods (Polyporus sulphureus)
Chicken of the woods is a yellow to orange mushroom with pores on the underside. The mushroom grows on living or dead wood, but they are most commonly found on fallen decaying logs.
The chicken of the woods is most abundant in September and October but can be found as early as May through the summer.
It features a bright orange cap with either white or yellow pores on the underside. The fruit can grow very large, sometimes weighing more than 30 pounds in a single flush.
4. Chanterelles (Cantharellus)
Chanterelles are trumpet-shaped mushrooms with ridges instead of gills with various flavors.
Chantarelles are usually referred to as members of the Cantharellus genus, although there are some exceptions – the Craterellus genus, for instance, produces trumpets, but some are called chanterelles.
Red chanterelle (Cantharellus cinnabarinus) is the only true chant in Massachusetts.
Easy to find between June and November, they grow in shaded areas in the woods and prefer hollows, creeks, springs, or ponds.
Watch our video on when and where to look for chanterelles.
5. Black trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioide)
This small, black mushroom grows out of moss or leaf litter. Trumpets are in season from July to September. It is a delicious mushroom that dries well and has a strong smell.
Look for trumpets along the edges of trails with moss, particularly after heavy rains. They can also emerge from leaf litter where hemlock trees and beech saplings grow.
The black trumpet mushroom grows in large groups that pop out once it is spotted.
6. Velvet foot (Flammulina velutipes)
This is a well-known edible, although it shares its habitat with a deadly-poisonous look-alike (Galerina marginata), making proper identification of this species imperative.
The velvet foot mushroom is a cold-weather, late-season gill mushroom. The species appears in deciduous and mixed forests and woodlands in the late fall.
7. Bear’s Head Tooth (Hericium americanum)
The bear’s head tooth mushroom grows vertically on the bark of deciduous hardwood trees during the late summer and fall.
It is a little easier to understand the awkward common name bear’s head tooth when one considers that “Bear’s Head” is a compound adjective. The mushroom resembles a bear’s head because of its long, hair-like teeth rather than gills.
The fruiting body of this species is composed of several branches covered in fleshy, white, or yellowish hair. It tastes similar to crab.
8. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi mushrooms come with a bright red varnished appearance. Initially white, it turns vibrant yellow, then a deep red before returning to all white.
Reishi can be found in Massachusetts in two different primary types. Hemlock reishi, which fruits on dead hemlock between May and July, and hardwood reishi, which grows between September and October.
This white mushroom can be cooked and consumed when young and all white.
9. Maitake or Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa)
Maitake grows exclusively on oak trees. It typically fruits at the base of old living or dying oak trees. It is possible to find multiple fruiting bodies at the base of a single tree.
The hen of the woods comprises many overlapping fronds that grow from a single stem. On the surface, it is black to white and has white pores on the underside.
Maitake fruits between the end of August and the beginning of October.
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.
- 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 species of mushroom 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.
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.
- During mushroom foraging, you should consider the timing, the weather, and, most importantly, where the mushrooms are likely to grow.
- Massachusetts is home to thousands of species of mushrooms. Foraging effectively requires learning a few basics and then going out looking for them.