How to distinguish edible from poisonous varieties

How to distinguish edible from poisonous varieties

Many mushrooms look very similar.

© Yusev/
Many mushrooms look very similar.

The mushroom season is already in full swing. But especially newbies should be careful when collecting. According to the German Society for Mycology (DGfM), there are over 10,000 different types of large mushrooms in Central Europe. These are mushrooms that can be seen with the naked eye. About 200 species are edible and 150 are poisonous. Ten of them, such as the green cap mushroom, are even deadly. The problem: many poisonous specimens have an edible doppelganger. What protects against mushroom poisoning? “Only your own knowledge,” explains Dietmar Krüger from DGfM to the news agency spot on news.

A book on identifying mushrooms can be found here.

Identifying mushrooms: there is no general rule

Nevertheless, collectors do not have to be absolute mushroom experts to start a search: “Naturally occurring mushrooms can also be recognized by beginners, depending on their level of knowledge,” says Krüger. There are no generally applicable rules to distinguish poisonous from edible mushrooms. However, mushrooms can be identified by certain characteristics. The DGfM recommends therefore, unscrewing unknown mushrooms and not cutting them off. This ensures that all characteristics are available for determination. Some types of mushrooms can be identified from the style base.

Mushroom guides and corresponding mushroom apps can help with the determination. But: “To use a mushroom book or an app correctly, you need specialist knowledge and correct operation,” says the expert. “Because these are specialist books and not picture books.” According to Krüger, it is important to always consult a mushroom expert “if I have found mushrooms and am unsure.”

Determine in peace at home

There are no deadly poisonous specimens among the tubular mushrooms, like the DGfM in the flyer “Little 1×1 of mushroom picking” describes. To determine it, a comparison of images in the mushroom guide is usually sufficient. In the case of lamellar fungi, however, identification is much more difficult. Mushroom pickers should therefore carefully and carefully study the characteristics. There are no contact-toxic mushrooms in Germany.

If a collector is unsure about a mushroom, the DGfM recommends taking it home and determining it there in peace. It is essential to transport the unknown mushroom separately from the rest. If the fungus subsequently turns out to be poisonous, all the fungi have to go to the rubbish bin. Because even small parts of the fungus could cause poisoning.

What to do with mushroom poisoning

Despite the annual warnings, mushroom poisoning occurs every year in Germany. “The number of unreported cases is unknown. In Germany, however, due to the link between poison emergency call centers and experts, remedial measures can be found quickly,” says Krüger. The symptoms are different depending on the type of fungus: “They range from malaise to vomiting, dizziness to diarrhea, colic but also states of intoxication.” In the worst case, poisoning could lead to death. Therefore, “just don’t eat undefined mushrooms,” advises the mushroom expert.

If poisoning occurs, it is according to the German Society for Mycology important not to panic. No home remedy helps with mushroom poisoning, so if you suspect it, alert the poison control center and go to hospital immediately. It is best to take the remains of the mushrooms you eat with you for diagnostic purposes.

The most common cause of mushroom poisoning, however, is not the consumption of poisonous specimens, but that of old or rotten edible mushrooms. This is usually referred to as “fake mushroom poisoning”. The resulting food poisoning can lead to diarrhea, fever, and nausea. Also important: fry or stew the mushrooms long enough when preparing. Because most of the forest mushrooms are poisonous when raw. Only a few species, such as boletus or cultivated mushrooms such as champions, can be eaten raw.


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