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With local reports of mushroom poisoning, WVXU goes foraging with an expert for some tips

Ann Thompson
Ohio State Parks and Watercraft Naturalist Erin Shaw has an office at Caesar Creek State Park and has been foraging since she was a child.

If there was ever a hobby where knowing what you’re doing was super important, it’s foraging for mushrooms.

This fall, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center tweeted it was treating multiple patients for mushroom poisoning.

The science publication ars Technica reported on the poisonous fungi in this article.

Ohio State Parks and Watercraft Naturalist Erin Shaw knows what she's doing. She has been hunting for mushrooms since childhood.

“There’s a lot of newbies out there, which is good. We have to be really careful with mushrooms in particular because there are ones that are deadly toxic that will kill you,” she says.

At Caesar Creek State Park, where Shaw has an office, we head out to go foraging. And she knows exactly where to go — The Bluebird Trail. The mushrooms she expects to find had already been harvested, but we find a polypore that smells like watermelon. She thinks this one is Dryad’s Saddle.

“It’s definitely a polypore. It does smell like watermelon, so I would look it up in my book by the picture by the back of it; by the tree we found it on; by the season; and cross-reference,” she says.

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Ann Thompson
A patch of mushrooms on the Bluebird Trail at Caesar Creek State Park Naturalist Erin Shaw thinks is turkey tail.

Shaw is careful. She had a scare in 2021 when “I found a patch on a tree that were gnocchi. And so, I was picking them off. And in that mix of gnocchi were a couple of the deadly Galerinas and they were growing together. So, I came home. Luckily, I did a few spore prints before I put them in the pan.”

Getting a spore print involves cutting the mushroom cap off, placing it on a piece of foil and putting a bowl over it overnight so you don’t lose the spores and capture the print, like a fingerprint. The spore print will help you determine what kind of mushroom you foraged and help you identify whether or not it is poisonous, as described in this video.

Introduction To Wild Mushrooms with Adam Haritan (Learn Your Land)

Shaw has some tips if you do decide to try foraging for mushrooms:

  • Have a healthy respect for mushrooms
  • Make sure you are in a place where you are allowed to forage
  • Be a responsible forager (don’t upend logs and compact the soil)
  • Use books and apps to identify
  • Take spore prints
  • Don’t eat anything you don’t know what it is
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Ann Thompson
Finding mushrooms isn't always easy. In the fall they can be camouflaged.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.