It's a pretty bad idea to just go off in the hunt of free food on your own if you're not an experienced forager. At best, you could end up making yourself sick, and at worse you could kill yourself. The best advice I can give you is to first buy yourself a few really good books (you can find links to some good ones on the homepage) and secondly to go out with an expert so you can get a feel for which foods are poisonous and which ones aren't. There are quite a few people running these courses now and you should be able to find one near you without too much difficulty.
If you're faint hearted, don't be too put off, it's absolutely worth the thrill of the hunt even if you don't eat what you find and as you get used to foraging your confidence will grow... it just takes a while if you're a scaredy cat like me!
- Buy some books and/or DVDs
- Start out by going out with an expert
- Never pick anything you aren't absolutely sure is safe to eat
- Check your pickings again when you get home and if you aren't sure, don't eat it - it's not worth it
- Start out with things that are easily identified
- Don't pick very young mushrooms. Even field mushrooms look similar to Death Caps when young.
- Always cook wild food before you eat it. As you get more confident you will begin to know which need cooking but until then COOK EVERYTHING!
- Eat only a small amount of something the first time you eat it and always keep a little of whatever you eat back to one side. This is your "belt and braces" should the worst happen and you need to try and explain to a medical professional what you've eaten.
- Don't just go off sight alone. A series of pictures are a fantastic help to identify mushrooms but a spore print, an odour your recognise from experience are also very useful. The colour in pictures is something I often find very misleading as they vary greatly depending on whether they are over or under exposed and whether the printer was carrying too much red ink at the time.
- Don't take anyone's word for it that something is safe to eat. You need to make these decisions for yourself - only you can say whether something is safe for you to eat... it's your call