The Allure of Wild Mushrooms

2019 A Voice in the NELA Wilderness Christopher Nyerges Columnists Editions February January

A Voice in the NELA Wilderness
by Christopher Nyerges

With the recent rains, I have gone in search of mushrooms in wild and not-so-wild spots in NELA and the Arroyo Seco.
My study of mycology began in the ’70’s. I wanted to try every wild mushroom I could find until I learned the meaning of the phrase “this mushroom is known to disagree with some people” which really means, “do not eat this one.”
So, here is my word of caution: Do not experiment with wild mushrooms. Learn about them before you gather and eat them. If the first question you have to ask when you see a mushroom is whether it is edible or not, leave it alone.
Here are the mushrooms I have found during my recent walks in the Arroyo Seco. Some are edible and some are not. The edible ones are delicious sautéed in butter.

Chlorophyllum rhacodes (sometimes called the parasol mushroom). EDIBLE. This one appears as a white gilled mushroom, with brown patches on the cap, a ring on the stem, a bulbous base and a hollow stem. It stains orange when cut or bruised. It’s an excellent, mild-tasting mushroom.

Agaricus campestris and related species are the wild variety of the common store-bought mushroom. EDIBLE. This one has pink gills which turn a chocolate color as the spores mature, a ring on the stout stem and a stem that breaks freely from the cap.

Clitocybe nuda (also called the blewit mushroom). EDIBLE. This one has an unmistakable violet color and a stout stem with free gills. Very young ones taste the best.

Boletus chrysenteron has a light brown cap and a yellowish, somewhat swollen stalk. There are no gills, but pores. There are many varieties, and most are safe, but not all, so make sure you know what you are eating. Sliced and sautéed, it has the flavor and texture of eggplant.

Coprinopsis atramentaria, also called Inky Caps, are abundant in wet conditions. NOT EDIBLE, especially if consumed with alcohol. But they are interesting because as they age, they decompose into a black ink.

Little Brown Mushrooms, (or LBMs), a generic name for many mushrooms that look so similar they are hard to identify. Most, but not all, are edible.
Christopher Nyerges, the author of “Guide to Wild Food” and other books, also hosts a weekly podcast at Preparedness Radio Network. He can be reached at School of Self-reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041 or 

Christopher Nyerges is the manager of the Old L.A. Farmers Market in Highland Park.

Classes by the School of Self-Reliance
February Class Schedule

Saturday, February 2, 10 a.m.
Here’s a chance to practice all the basic skills as we explore the Upper Arroyo. You will learn about uses of plants for food and medicine, primitive fire-making, cooking, water purification, shelter, making cordage, and more. A great day to get into the mountains with like-minded people. From Altadena, drive to the extreme west end of Altadena Drive (a few blocks west of Lincoln Ave.), and park. Location 1. Bring a bowl, knife, and water. Dress comfortably.

Saturday, February 9, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
part of our certificate and certification program. Call for details

Sunday, February 10, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., $20.
This class will cover the basics of tracking to include print identification, gaits and their corresponding patterns, and animal signs such as scat, trails, homes, and other evidence. Then we’ll take a short walk to practice our newly learned skills. Of course, we’ll look at plants and their uses (to both people and animals). This is an information-packed class with hands-on experience. Led by tracker Rob Remedi. Location: You will be told where to meet when you RSVP.

Saturday, February 23, 10 a.m.
part of our certificate and certification program. This is a 4-part series which will occur on the third Saturday of each month, including February 23, March 23, April 27, and May 25, and continuing on an on-going basis. Session one begins with a plant walkabout, getting to know some of the common local plants. We’ll then cover some basic botany, so you have a sense of context of the types of plant groups, as well as their relationships. You will be instructed in the use of the plant press, and how to make field records for your own use. Bring a notebook.
Pricing: $65 per class; if you pay in advance for all 4 classes, you pay $195, meaning, you get the 4th class FREE. Location 2, Hahamongna Watershed Park. Books and products will be available for sale.

For updates and registration, go to, or call 626 791-3217. Private classes and private consultation available.