Edible mushrooms are recognized through close examination of their gills, cap, stalk, spores and size, according to Twin Eagles Wilderness School. Once a mushroom is found, its key identifying factors are noted and cross-referenced with a mushroom hunting guide or other field resource that can confirm or rule out whether a mushroom is edible or not.
There are many poisonous look-alikes when it comes to mushrooms, according to Twin Eagles Wilderness School. By verifying all the different parts of a mushroom, a mushroom hunter is able to ensure that the fungus is edible and safe before consuming it. Habitat, range and season also play a role in mushroom identification, as certain ones grow in particular types of environments, such as under trees, among leaf litter, in sandy soils, in grassy fields or on rotting wood.
Spores play a key role in mushroom identification, as their color and appearance are indicated in most mushroom guides available. Take a spore print to help in identification by removing the stem of a mushroom and placing it with its cap facing downward onto a piece of white paper. Cover the mushroom with a cup and wait 24 hours. Remove the cup and mushroom to see the spores left behind on the paper to assist with identification through the help of a guidebook. Many varieties of poisonous mushrooms produce green spore prints, while edible mushroom spores are usually a brown or cream color. This technique works most effectively with mature fungi.