When mushroom hunting, separate fact from fiction, and rely only on authentic scientific and verifiable information to determine if a mushroom is safe to eat. For instance, an old wives take abound that any mushrooms with pink stems are edible, when it is actually not the case. Consult a good field guide with color photos, for specific identifying features. The National Audubon Society's Field Guide to North American Mushrooms is a good pocketbook to take along on field trips. Another good option is David W. Fischer and Alan E. Bessette's "Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America: A Field-to-kitchen Guide" (ISBN 978-0-292-72080-0)
Never go by the appearance alone when selecting wild mushrooms. Some edible species and poisonous species share the same characteristics and appearance, and only an examination of the interior and understanding where the mushroom grows allows for a definite identification. Therefore, cut the mushrooms off close to the ground, but do not uproot them. Make a note of the location, such as a dead log, under an oak tree, on plain ground, or anywhere else. Leave old, bug-infested and very small mushrooms behind.
Never eat wild mushrooms raw. Some species are not considered poisonous nevertheless contain toxins, which are destroyed by heat. Before cooking, always cut the mushrooms lengthwise to view the inner structure, and carefully examine the mushrooms under bright light. Do not consume mushrooms that change color when cut, seeps liquid from the cut surface, of if infected by insects.
Before storing or preparing wild mushrooms, trim away any damaged areas, wipe away soil and soak for a few hours in salt water to cause any insects hidden between gills and in crevices to come out. Rinse thoroughly before using. Wild mushroom have a shelf life of a few days under refrigeration. For long-term storage, boil the mushrooms for few minutes, allow to cool, drain completely and freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet for a few hours. Alternatively, dry the mushrooms in a food dehydrator or oven set to 100F to 150F. Dehydrate thoroughly until the mushrooms resemble potato chips. Slice mushrooms to about 1/4 inch thick before drying, and dehydrate thoroughly. Reconstitute by soaking in warm water before using
An old saying goes, "There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters". As a rule of thumb, when in doubt, avoid. Consume only those mushrooms whose identity is beyond doubt. Poisonous mushrooms may cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps or serious illness. A few deadly species may even cause death.