June 23, 2008


Meet Frank Spinelli, Author of The Glorious Mushroom - A photographic view of the mushroom in its natural environment. The specimens in the collection were photographed within three square miles of the author's home in the Catskill Mountains in 2003 and 2004.

Stalking the Wild Mushroom

Foraging for wild mushrooms should only be done with a knowledgeable expert. Here is how photographer and fungi-lover Frank Spinelli goes about determining if a mushroom he is unfamiliar with is edible…

Once he gets it home, he immediately decapitates the specimen and places the cap, gill side down, on a sheet of white paper in order to make a spore print. This important step is to determine the spore’s color. Then he covers it with a jar or drinking glass so that no air currents can disperse the spores. In a few hours he comes back to examine the pattern and color. He uses these to identify the mushroom from a good field guide. However, if there is any doubt, he will use a microscope to make a final determination.

Frank advises, “never eat an unknown species of wild mushroom unless it has been analyzed through a battery of categorical observations and can be clearly identified.” He goes on to note that even then there is always a possibility of an allergic reaction. He personally sticks with the eight or so species he can unequivocally identify as edible.

One of the most pleasurable ways to learn more about the mushrooms that grow in the Catskill Mountains is with Frank’s gorgeous book,
The Glorious Mushroom

Information excerpted and paraphrased from TheGlorious Mushroom, by Frank Spinelli (Catskill Press)

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