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Human uses and tips on collecting

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Some species, like the Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus), are cultivated
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal

Human uses of mushrooms

Mushrooms have many uses for mankind. Certain microscopic mushrooms play an important role in the production of foodstuffs like wine and cheese. Others, like penicillin, have vital medical uses.

The mushrooms visible to the naked eye are used mainly as food. Some species, like the Button mushroom, the Oyster mushroom and the Shiitake, are cultivated. Polypores may be used as curios. The Artist’s conk gives artists a chance to show off their talent. It was recently discovered that the pigment of certain mushrooms can be used to make dyes.

Tips on collecting

Leave well equipped: that’s the fundamental rule for every mushroom collector. A flatbottomed basket, paper bags and a knife are the mycologist's basic gear. Cardboard boxes, small plastic containers and waxed paper are useful for protecting small or fragile specimens.

When collecting a species of mushroom it's best to pick several specimens, some young, some mature, so the different stages of development can be observed. The whole specimen should be collected by digging out the entire foot so its macroscopic characteristic can be studied.

Mushrooms should never be put in plastic bags. That causes rapid deterioration. When collecting, it's best to select several species and wrap them separately in paper bags or waxed paper twists. Specimens will break up if piled on top of one another, which makes later identification very difficult.

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