Some mushrooms are delicious, others are deadly.
Mushrooms are classified as being members of a very large group of organisms known as fungi. Scientists are increasingly interested in the differences in the cell structure of fungi that make them distinct from both plants and animals. Most of the estimated 1.5 million species of fungi are invisible to the naked eye because of their small size and the fact that they live in water, in the soil, and in rotting vegetable matter, but the lordly mushroom stands out on the forest floor. Some even more dramatic fungi live as parasites on various living trees and plants.
Typically, in everyday english, a mushroom has a stem and a cap and usually the underside of the cap has gills. You can see these elements in the mushroom in the picture above, but for the scientist there are mushrooms that come in a wide variety of shapes and forms. Some people differentiate between edible and non-edible mushrooms by calling those that are poisonous toadstools, but the term is not a precise one. All mushrooms have roots which the scientist calls mycelium. Some of these root structures can be very old and span a very great distance. One mushroom root structure in eastern Oregon is thought to be 2,400 years old and to cover 2,200 acres! It is interesting to consider that the oldest living thing in the universe and perhaps the biggest as well might be a mushroom!
It is obviously very important to know the difference between a culinary treasure and a poisonous fungal mistake. An unintended error can make you very, very sick and might even kill you. Just handling some varieties and then eating something that you have touched can cause illness or worse. We collect and enjoy eating the right wild mushrooms and will be happy to share and compare recipies. Our part of the world is full of the delicacies if you know where to look, but if you do not know what you are doing you would be better served to buy the mushrooms that you have for dinner in the super market and just enjoy the visuals of the ones you encounter in the wild.