The 7 Best Mushroom Foraging Books of 2022

Learn how to find mushrooms in the wild and where to go for the best varieties.

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Foraging is a rewarding hobby, allowing you to not only find food in the wild, but also develop a skill connecting you to past generations. It can be a fun and rewarding challenge on its own merits, a way to supplement your diet with unique flavors, or even preparation for a cinematic survivalist situation.

Don King has been foraging for mushrooms for more than 15 years, using his skill for finding wild edibles in his award-winning vegan cuisine. In YouTube videos, on guided mushroom hunts, and on his website, The Mushroom Hunter, King has shared his passion for wild foraging.

“With a good field guide and a little patience, anyone can do it,” King told Treehugger. “Start by focusing on one or two easy to identify species such as morels, oysters, lion’s mane. Then add a few more to your repertoire each year. Before you know it, you’ll be confident enough to find and identify dozens of delicious species.” 

While an experienced forager knows what is and isn't safe to harvest from nature, everyone should exercise caution when foraging for wild edibles, especially mushrooms. There are many dangerous species of mushrooms that look remarkably similar to tasty, edible mushrooms. An experienced mushroom hunter uses a variety of factors to make an assured identification, including small, tricky indicators like the color of spores, the shape of gills beneath the mushroom cap, whether or not a mushroom changes color when cut, where the mushroom is growing, and whether it is growing alone or in a cluster.

"Remember: there are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters. There are no old, bold mushroom hunters," clinical toxicologist Rose Ann Gould Soloway warns on the National Capital Poison Center website.

But while there are certainly risks, foraging guide books can start you down the path to expertise, bringing you closer to the knowledge necessary to make an assured identification. The right book can be the beginning of your wild foraging journey.

Below you'll find the best mushroom foraging books, authored by people with decades of combined experience.

Best Overall: The Complete Mushroom Hunter

The Complete Mushroom Hunter

Courtesy of Walmart

One of the world's most famous mushroom hunters, Gary Lincoff spread his knowledge and love for mushrooms for more than 40 years, until his death in 2018. In his obituary, The New York Times described Lincoff as "a pied piper of mushrooms."

In addition to authoring the National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, Lincoff pioneered practical approaches to wild foraging, leading walks through New York's Central Park and teaching at the New York Botanical Garden.

The Complete Mushroom Hunter is his final work, and it provides an exceptional overview of the hobby. The book covers the history of mushroom hunting, provides a guide to the most common wild edible mushrooms (and poisonous lookalikes), and also delves into their medicinal benefits. The Complete Mushroom Hunter even takes you from the woods to the kitchen, with 30 wild mushroom recipes included.

Best for Beginners: Mushrooming Without Fear: The Beginner's Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms

Mushrooming without Fear: The Beginner's Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms

Courtesy of Walmart

Author Alexander Schwab makes mushrooms approachable in Mushroom Without Fear. Taking the opposite approach of Lincoff's wide-ranging overview, Schwab's guide keeps the focus narrowly on finding and identifying the most accessible and delicious wild mushrooms. Plus, at just 150 pages this is an easy guidebook to carry with you into the field.

In addition to helping you identify boletes, hen of the woods, chanterelle, common puffball, and other mushrooms with color photographs and ID checklists, Mushroom Without Fear also gives you quick access to info about the best times to forage, handling, storage, and cooking.

Best for Rare Mushrooms: Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America

Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America

Courtesy of Walmart

While practical guides focused on foraging mushrooms have their place in your rucksack, a more comprehensive reference work can be invaluable for making tricky identifications, learning new species, and expanding your knowledge of the wider world of fungi. The Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America is wildly comprehensive, covering 685 species in its 400 pages.

The field guide also includes detailed, wheel-shaped schematics that will walk you through the identification process by analyzing one mushroom feature at a time, without the need for a microscope. While it's quite thorough, the Peterson Field to Mushrooms of North America isn't fusty or academic, and its pages are full of beautiful watercolor illustrations.

Best for Edible Mushrooms: Wild Mushrooms: A Cookbook and Foraging Guide

Wild Mushrooms: A Cookbook and Foraging Guide

Courtesy of Amazon

For Wild Mushrooms: A Cookbook and Foraging Guide authors Kristen and Trent Blizzard not only share their practical knowledge (expanding on their website Modern Forager), but also collect the wisdom of more than 20 other foragers from around the country.

While many other books in this roundup prioritize identifying mushrooms, Wild Mushrooms primarily organizes itself around culinary approaches, diving deep into techniques like pickling and smoking, or providing a raft of recipes centered around specific species. The result is part field guide, part foraging guide, and part cookbook, with more than 100 recipes.

Best for New England: Mushrooms of the Northeast: A Simple Guide to Common Mushrooms

Mushrooms of the Northeast: A Simple Guide to Common Mushrooms

Courtesy of Amazon

All-around field guides can overwhelm with options, making regional guide books a useful tool for anyone who knows exactly where they'll be mushroom hunting. Authors Teresa Marrone and Walt Sturgeon zoom in on the mushroom species of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

In addition to its regional focus, Mushrooms of the Northeast also hews closely to scientific identification, rather than recipes, making it a better pick for the amateur mycologist in your life than the kitchen experimenter.

Best for the Pacific Northwest: Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest

Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest

Courtesy of Barnes & Noble

Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest covers the following areas: Oregon, Washington, southern British Columbia, Idaho, and western-most Montana. It tackles 460 of the most common mushrooms in this region, helping you learn how to identify each one while also providing info on fungi ecology, collecting, and how to avoid poisonous species. There are more than 500 detailed, color photos, which can help you with all the little nuances that go into identifying a mushroom. It’s one of many regional mushroom field guides available from Timber Press, which also offers guides to mushrooms of the north eastern United States, the southeast, and the Rocky Mountain region.

Best for Morels: Morel Hunting: How to Find, Preserve, Care for, and Prepare the Wild Mushrooms

Morel Hunting: How to Find, Preserve, Care for, and Prepare the Wild Mushrooms

Courtesy of Amazon

While several other guidebooks in this roundup tackle specific regions, Morel Hunting by Theresa and John Maybrier narrows its focus to a single genus of popular mushrooms: the morels. Resistant to cultivation and prized by gourmet chefs, morels are some of the most coveted wild mushrooms. Morel Hunting beaks down the hunt into five different categories—black, half-cap, gray, yellow, and big-foot—while also helping you weed out false morels. Beyond foraging, Morel Hunting offers tips on cleaning, preserving, and cooking with this prized mushroom.

Final Verdict

Gary Lincoff's book The Complete Mushroom Hunter (view on Amazon), offers a wide overview of the mushroom foraging world, plus the chance to learn from one of the best. Anyone who is more inerested in the kitchen than the forest will want to opt for Wild Mushrooms: A Cookbook and Foraging Guide (view on Amazon) instead.

What to Look for in Mushroom Books 

ID and Photos 

A mushroom book is only as good as its photos and/or illustrations. If you’re learning how to identify mushrooms for the first time, then every little detail matters. Look for guidebooks that combine exceptionally clear images with a taxonomic approach you can wrap your head around. Check the table of contents first to see how a guide book approaches categorizing mushrooms. Some, like the Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America, include visual systems for identifying a mushroom part-by-part. Depending on your preference, you might find this useful, or jut baffling, so it helps to check out the contents in advance to find the guide book that will most aid your preferred approach to foraging.

Region 

Are you buying a book that will cover your region? Most guidebooks in this roundup focus on North American species, but if you'd rather avoid stumbling mushrooms a thousand miles from your own stomping grounds, then opting for a regional guide book can help you narrow your search.

Author 

Many different types of people are attracted to wild mushroom foraging, so checking out the author can be a good way to get a sense of whether a specific guide book will be right for you. Some of the authors in this roundup are mycologists, suggesting a more scientific approach, while others are outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, psychonauts, or a combination of enthusiasms. Before picking a guidebook, you should know if you'd prefer a dry, clinical approach, or to hear from someone with a more experiential perspective on mushroom foraging.

Why Trust Treehugger?

Treehugger wants to support all your hobbies around sustainability. Our writers have decades of collective experience in outdoor activities, combining expertise with our insatiable desire to learn more about our world. The writer, Stacy Tornio, loves foraging where she lives in Wisconsin, and is sometimes lucky enough to receive morel mushrooms foraged by her brother in the woods of Oklahoma.