Fungus: Armillaria tabescens, Ringless Honey Mushroom
To be honest, we came across a lot of honey mushrooms while hiking the Appalachian Trail, but we didn’t eat any of the honey mushrooms we came across. While hiking across the country, it was important to us that we stuck to only mushrooms we were absolutely 100% sure wouldn’t kill us. The honey mushroom is a choice edible, but if it’s not cooked very thoroughly, it can cause an upset stomach. There are also three look-alike, one being deadly. On the trail, it just wasn’t worth the risk. But just yesterday, while we were taking a walk in my parents’ backyard, we came across several patches of beautiful ringless honey mushrooms! Now that we’re not on the trail and we have more access to resources to conduct extensive research and we have our camp stove to be able to more thoroughly cook mushrooms, it was time to give them a try!
Just a Few of Honey Mushroom’s Benefits:
1. Antioxidants! Honey mushrooms are traditionally used in China for their anti-oxidant effects!
2. They improve brain function! Studies have shown that honey mushrooms have reduced characteristic signs of brain degeneration. Like many edible mushrooms, they aid in neural connectivity and improve overall brain function.
3. It could help with depression! Returning from life in the woods, it seems honey mushrooms are just what I need to help keep my spirits high these days! Extracts from honey mushrooms have been shown to modify levels of key neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter and those who suffer from depression are found to have reduced levels of dopamine.
4. They can reduce inflammation! Honey mushrooms contain the molecule xylosyl, which has shown to reduce inflammation, and also aids in managing diseases characterized by inflammation such as diabetes and arthritis.
Warnings: Honey mushrooms have 3 toxic look-alike, one of them being DEADLY. Before foraging honey mushrooms, do your research to be sure you have accurately identified this mushroom! Some people have stomach sensitivities to honey mushrooms, so be sure to only try a small amount when first foraging them. Also, they need to be cooked THOROUGHLY.
Edible Parts of Honey Mushrooms: Caps
How to Eat Honey Mushrooms: First, you will want to remove the caps from the stems. Then place your wild mushrooms in a container with salt water to draw out any maggots or insects who might be enjoying the mushroom (hey, if it’s a good mushroom, you think you’re the only one who wants it?). Let the insects go back to the earth. They didn’t do anything wrong. Now cook the mushrooms on high heat in a pan for at least 10-15 minutes.
Taste to Expect: Sweetish, nuttyish, tasty…it might be bitter if not cooked well enough
Where to Find Ringless Honey Mushrooms: There are several different kinds of honey mushrooms, but ringless honey mushrooms can be found in eastern North America from the Great Lakes southward and as far west as Texas and Oklahoma. They are found growing on roots of trees, generally oaks in the south. They will also parasitize living trees by penetrating the tree’s root system and inhibiting the flow of water and nutrients to the tree. They grow exclusively on root wood.
When to Find Honey Mushrooms: Honey mushrooms tend to fruit year round in warmer locations, but in most parts of North America, the best time to find them is late summer to early fall.
Things to Consider When Foraging:
1. Forage responsibly. Please do not trample on plants or mushrooms when going off trail to forage mushrooms.
2. Do NOT eat honey mushrooms unless you are absolutely sure they are honey mushrooms! Eat small amounts until you know how you’re body will react to a new wild food.
3. When foraging mushrooms, keep in mind that if you take only what you need, the mushroom will have a better chance of coming back to continue providing you with more food.
Identification: Ringless honey mushrooms can initially be identified by their caps’ golden honey-like color. The caps are generally 1.1-2.3 inches across at maturity. They are lighter on the outside and darker in color toward the middle. When young, the caps are generally convex in shape, but become broadly convex or flat as they age. When they are young, they are covered in darker brown scales. They have decurrent gills that nearly run down the stem, but not very far. The gills are whitish with a pinkish hint, and they bruise slightly pinkish or brownish. The stem can be 2-3 inches in length and 1/4-1/3 of an inch in diameter. The stem tapers to the base and is grayish to brownish in color. The flesh of the mushroom is whitish to tan and does not change color when sliced. The final identification factor is the white spore sprint and non-distinctive odor. None of the toxic look-alike have a white spore print.