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Mushrooms in Missouri

Foraging is a fun way to spend time outdoors and enhance ecological awareness of a specific area. If you appreciate the nutritional benefits and enjoy experimenting with unique flavors, mushrooms are little natural wonders. There are hundreds of different species and varieties of mushrooms that often look very similar to each other but differ in toxicity and use. Since there are so many different sizes, shapes, and colors, it is important to study some of the main identifying features or take someone with you that is familiar with what to look for before embarking on your nature excursion.

This is an example of a toxic “false” morel. Some, like this one, won’t cause immediate harm when consumed but will encourage slow-developing health issues over time. On the other hand, a true morel is full of nutrients and antioxidants that can protect your body from certain diseases.

I was fortunate to find a group of women that were planning to go foraging together through I invited a coworker, Bee, we really had a fun time and plan to attend a lot more events with them this summer. Check them out if you’re an adventurous outdoorsy lady and want to hang with other like-minded individuals. It’s refreshing to be reminded that we’re all beginners at something and that’s exactly what this group offers.

We started the meetup at MyCo Planet KC with the owner, Robin. Here is a short but very educational Spotify interview I did with her about mushrooms. She is a very informative, fascinating lady if you’re in the KC area, check her out.

Robin started us out with a tour of the grow facility, which is open to the public and a very cool experience. It’s unbelievable how much can be grown in a warehouse in the middle of the city with the appropriate environment. They are currently selling their products at 3 different farmers’ markets so far this year. Her plans are to gradually grow that number over time and encourage more individuals to experiment with growing their own at home. She was generous enough to send us all home with our own grow kits, which you can purchase through the website. The grow kit was also accompanied by a bag of some once-used substrate, which should be fertile enough still for another harvest. I was shocked to learn how little space the kits actually require and will be attempting to grow my first harvest in my tiny apartment!

Photo of grow kit and a once-used bag of inoculated substrate

After an educational chat, followed by a Q&A, we headed out to Parma Woods, which is a shooting range. This seems like a wild place to go looking for mushrooms, you can hear shooting practice going on close by but I suppose not many people are looking for mushrooms out here. Bee went off trail on her own and came back with a basket full of morels while I stayed on the trail with the group and discovered a large Dryad’s Saddle growing on a decaying log. I opted to only harvest 1/2 of it because it was huge and I was glad that I did because I got tired of eating mushrooms!

Robin and some of the other experienced ladies in the group were giving us pointers on how to find a good harvest and helping us identify the fungi that we found. The most helpful takeaway I gained was to learn what trees your mushrooms like to grow on. Learn the habitat they grow best in and that is how you find the mushrooms. Some helpful ways to identify mushrooms, plants, and trees if you are foraging on your own are Google Lens (the little camera icon next to your Google search button), as well as the Seek app by iNaturalist. Both are free. There are also tons of books and trail guides that easily fit in a hiking backpack.

The little brown mushrooms are very common but are most likely poisonous. Bee plans to dehydrate and use the Turkey Tail in tea and was generous enough to share her morels with me since I had never tried them before, despite having lived in Oregon/CA for 5 years. Morels are very thin and cook quickly so I fried them with my eggs and tomatoes and put them in a breakfast sandwich. They had the texture of little chicken nuggets and the flavor of the Adobo seasoning I used on my eggs.

The Pheasant Back or Dryads Saddle was very thick and dense so I wasn’t entirely sure how to tackle preparing it. It smelled like a crisp summer fruit or vegetable, sweeter and way different texture than the other mushrooms I had experienced. It is fairly protein-rich, with 17 g of protein/100 g portion. I recommend cutting it into very small sections considering its density. The texture could be described as being similar to calamari. I ended up steaming 1/2 and frying the other 1/2 after dividing it into smaller pieces. I then drizzled honey over it the pieces and left it in the fridge for a few hours. The honey is absorbed and it does turn into a sort of candy, a sweet treat.

I hope this helps in your own foraging endeavors. Please let me know if this post inspired you to try anything new and what your experience was. Happy foraging!


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