The state of Kansas is home to more than 1,000 types of mushrooms. Those are the ones that have been identified. Of these, only 10 are common edible mushrooms. Edible mushrooms are easy to identify, but mistaking the wrong species of mushroom for an edible one can be deadly. Fortunately, there are distinct characteristics to look for in each of the 10 edible mushrooms found in the state of Kansas. Be sure to check with an expert at your county health department, county extension agency or even a high school science teacher for confirmation before preparing an edible mushroom for the first time.
Puffballs and Bearded Tooth
These mushrooms look like puffs on the ground. Puffballs are white, tan or gray, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, and often do not have stalks. A true edible puffball is completely white on the inside without any patterns, gills or other features. Bearded tooth mushrooms look like clumps of hair on the ground, like the paw of a polar bear, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Eat them while they are white because yellow ones are sour.
Shaggy Mane and Morels
A mushroom with a truly shaggy cap, the shaggy mane is white with brown scales that form the shaggy part of the mushroom. The gills underneath are white. You must pick it before the gills and cap turn black. Any black on the mushroom aside from dirt should be a sign to avoid it. Morels look like a stalk with a sponge on top. The spongy cap has pits and is dark brown with white ridges around the pits. The stalks are white. The spongy cap can be black with gray or tan ridges. The cap of a true morel is not separated from the stalk.
Coral Fungi, Sulfur Shelf and Hen of the Woods
Not all mushrooms look like the average button mushroom. Varieties like the coral fungi, sulfur shelf and hen of the woods are also shapeless, unlike the puffballs and bearded tooth mushrooms. Theirs is a distinct group amongst edible mushrooms. Coral fungi look like tan, white or yellow coral. They may also appear pink or purple. Avoid the coral fungi if it is jelly-like on the bottom, or seems to have brownish bruises on it. Sulfur shelf mushrooms are a brightly-colored red, orange or yellow. They grow on the sides of trees and logs. The hen of the woods looks as though it has feathers. It is gray, brown, or white. The hen of the woods can grow to be very huge, but does not have gills under the feather-like tops.
Oyster, Chanterelles and Boletes
These mushrooms more closely resemble the traditional idea of a mushroom. The oyster mushroom is white or tan with white gills that go down the stalk. Chanterelles are orange, yellow, black or brown. They have gills underneath a cap that may seem ruffled at the ends. Only eat these mushrooms if they grow on the ground and not wood as these have look-a-like toxic twins that grow on wood. Boletes have fat stalks and traditional-looking caps that do not have gills. They are brown or red with pores. Stay away from the orange or red boletes as they have poisonous twins.