Black Trumpet Mushroom (Craterellus cornucopioides )
Range: Across North America, especially in mossy hardwood forests (oak and beech are favorite neighbors). They often grow near washes and streams, preferring damp and dark areas.
Harvest Season: Summer and fall, through the winter in southern areas.
Identifying Characteristics: These mushrooms grow in leaf litter and can be very hard to spot. They grow in clusters, though, so if you find one, you’re in luck! The cap of this mushroom is inky black, dark brown, or grey and vase- or trumpet-shaped. The underside is smooth with no gills, pores, or teeth. The top of the cap might have small scales, but the texture overall is smooth or slightly wrinkled.
Dangerous Lookalikes: None – this species is a good one for beginning foragers! The black urn mushroom is cup-shaped and not poisonous, but definitely not tasty!
Preparation: These mushrooms have a rich, smoky flavor. Wipe clean, as they’re often quite dirty. A quick rinse is ok, but don’t drown them! They hold their flavor well if dried. They’re delicious sauteed with garlic and oil, or powdered on soup or grains.
When it comes to mushroom hunting, be sure to keep the Dunning-Kruger effect in mind. This effect reminds us that we often have high confidence in our skills when our skills are in fact low, and only become humble when we realize how complicated something is!
Be sure to get help from an expert and use gills, spore prints, and cuttings to identify mushrooms properly. There may be some dangerous lookalikes in your area, so local expertise is a must!