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BEAR'S HEAD TOOTH MUSHROOM and equally delectable sibling species
Scientific name: Hericium americanum, H. coralloides, H. erinaceus, etc.


IMPORTANT NOTICE
The TEXT on this Webpage regarding
EDIBLE WILD MUSHROOMS
is as important to your SAFETY as the photographs!

IF IN DOUBT, THROW THE MUSHROOM OUT!

I assume responsibility for the accuracy of information provided at americanmushrooms.com regarding edible wild mushrooms. However, I cannot assume responsibility for the integrity of your use of the information I present here regarding edible wild mushrooms. It is up to you to exercise your own best judgement in the event that you choose to consume edible wild mushrooms. Specifically, it is encumbent upon you to read all the text presented here that relates to the particular edible wild mushroom species involved to ensure that you have effectively ruled out dangerous poisonous/toxic wild mushrooms. Hurriedly comparing wild mushroom specimens to photographs of known edible wild mushrooms in hopes of determining that they are indeed the edible species can readily be FATAL!
 
Keep in mind that some of these pages include photographs of poisonous mushrooms which resemble edible wild mushroom species; again, reading the accompanying text and applying that information is absolutely vital to your safety!

 
Note that even with some of the best, safest, most popular edible wild mushroom species, it is possible for an individual human being to have an allergic reaction to a particular species. This happens with the grocery-store button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), it happens with edible wild morel mushrooms, and it happens with strawberries.
 
It is also possible for illness to result from consuming mushrooms that are decaying, contaminated by pollution, or otherwise not in good condition. Before perusing the section of this Webpage that presents photographs of and text about edible wild mushrooms (and some of their toxic "look-alikes"!), you must read "The Mycophagist's Ten Commandments," which explains several hazards and provides advice on how to avoid those hazards.
 
Most importantly, be doubtful and be skeptical: Use the mushroom's description to seek evidence that the mushroom you've found is NOT the edible wild mushroom species whose photograph it resembles!
 
David Fischer, Author of Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America (1992, Univ. of Texas Press)
 


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BEAR'S HEAD TOOTH MUSHROOM and equally delectable sibling species
Scientific name: Hericium americanum, H. coralloides, H. erinaceus, etc.

Image - Photo of Bear's-head Tooth mushroom (Hericium americanum)
Bear's-head Tooth mushroom (Hericium americanum).

The Bear's-head Tooth mushroom (Hericium americanum, see photo, above) and its sibling species are some of my favorite mushrooms for several reasons, not the least of which is their wonderful and rich flavor when broken into nuggets, baked until they're about one-half their size before baking,* then dipped into melted garlic butter… absolutely delightful! Some people prefer this mushroom lightly sauteed, which does leave it considerably more tender. Folks say the taste is very "seafoody," reminiscent of lobster. I don't think that's far off the mark, but it is truly a unique flavor, so I shan't waste words trying to explain it.
     * -- Keep an eye on them to ensure they don't get dried out!
 
I shall, however, warn that you'll be disappointed with specimens that aren't fresh—by which I mean still growing when picked—once they have ceased growing, sometimes even after being picked and stored in the refrigerator, they become bitter with an unpleasant aftertaste.
 
The great news is that these delicious fleshy fungi are among the safest, most unmistakable of all of North America's species of edible wild mushrooms: If it looks like a cluster of white fungal icicles hanging off a decaying log, stump, or dead tree trunk, and it seems very fresh, bake it (or fry it slowly in a mix of butter and oil) and enjoy!
 
Distinguishing between the species is a little tricky, but it doesn't matter to the chef, as they're all quite good. Hericiums are also common, in part because they fruit on a number of different kinds of deciduous trees, particularly beech, maple, birch, oak, walnut, and sycamore, from the later part of summer through autumn. Sometimes a dozen or more specimens can be found on a single large dead tree trunk each year for several years in succession.
 
Unfortunately, Hericiums often grow quite high up on dead tree trunks, which can make harvest difficult—or even dangerous! And many wild-picked specimens harbor bugs, sawdust-like bits of decayed wood, or both. Fortunately, these mushrooms are easily cultivated (see the Fungi Perfecti Website).

Image - Photo of Comb Tooth mushroom (Hericium coralloides)
Comb Tooth mushroom (Hericium coralloides).

The scientific names and the common names have gotten confused "from book to book," and from Website to Website, after solid taxonomic research by the Canadian department of agriculture's Dr. Jim Ginns (demonstrating that we were misusing the European species names ramosum and coralloides) was complicated by some mushroom field guides clinging to the previous species delimitations. Here are the "Ginnsian" species concepts used in Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America:
 
Bear's-head Tooth (H. americanum, see FIRST photo above—downward-pointing spines half an inch or more in length and grouped in bundles; specimens generally fairly compact overall but with numerous branches revealed when the specimen is sliced, only found east of the Rockies.
Comb Tooth (H. coralloides, see photo just above)—spines mostly under half an inch in length that are at best inconsistently downward-pointing; specimens much more branched than compact.
Bearded Tooth (H. erinaceus, see photo below)—lacking branches, it is a cluster of downward-pointing spines growing from a solid central wad of whitish fungal tissue. Only found east of the Rockies, most common farther southward, usually on wounds of living trees, especially oak.
Hericium abietis looks similar to the Bearded Tooth, but grows only in the Rocky Mountains and westward. Unlike the other Hericiums, it grows on conifers and is a noteworthy parasite (it causes Yellow Pitted Rot of better than half a dozen species of hemlock, fir, and spruce).

There's a lot more information about the Bear's Head Tooth Mushroom
and other choice edible wild mushroom species in my best-selling book,
Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America.

Image - Photo of Bearded Tooth mushroom (Hericium erinaceus)
Bearded Tooth mushroom (Hericium erinaceus). Photo by Kathie Hodge.


AMERICA'S BEST, SAFEST
EDIBLE WILD MUSHROOMS!

HEN OF THE WOODS (also known as MAITAKE or SHEEPSHEAD MUSHROOM)
Scientific name: Grifola frondosa

BEAR'S HEAD TOOTH MUSHROOM and equally delectable sibling species
Scientific name: Hericium americanum, H. coralloides, H. erinaceus, etc.

GEM-STUDDED, PEAR-SHAPED, and GIANT PUFFBALLS
Scientific names: Lycoperdon perlatum, L. pyriforme, Langermannia gigantea and others

THE SULPHUR SHELF or CHICKEN MUSHROOM
Scientific name: Laetiporus sulphureus

THE SHAGGY MANE MUSHROOM
Scientific name: Coprinus comatus

THE YELLOW and BLACK MORELS
Scientific names: Morchella esculenta and M. elata

THE BLACK TRUMPET and HORN OF PLENTY Mushrooms
Scientific names: Craterellus fallax and C. cornucopioides

THE SWEET TOOTH or HEDGEHOG Mushroom
Scientific names: Hydnum repandum and H. umbilicatum


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To contact David Fischer, send an e-mail to…
to contact David Fischer, send an e-mail to 'mycology@aol.com'

All content at americanmushrooms.com is Copyright 2006, 2007 by David W. Fischer. All rights reserved.