There’s nothing better than food you can pluck from your—or your neighbor’s—backyard, cook, and serve for dinner. (Just make sure you ask your neighbor if you can pluck said snacks. Or at least do it under the cover of night, and wear good running shoes.) Wild mushrooms are among our favorite yard-to-table foods, not only for their versatility and flavor, but also for their wide variety of shapes and hues. They make any dish look cool and high-end, no matter what you’re serving.
Beyond their ability to pump up the plate, most mushrooms are ridiculously healthy. They’re fat-free, low in sodium and calories, and contain fiber, protein, potassium, antioxidants, minerals, B vitamins, and cancer-pummeling compounds like linoleic acid. Some of our favorite wild ones include the porcini, morel, gypsy, and—sigh—the delectable but harder-to-find chanterelle.
The only caveat, and it’s kind of a biggie, is that you can’t just pick your new fungal friends indiscriminately. Poisonous mushrooms like amanitas and false morels can cause everything from stomach upset to—gulp!—death, so it pays to be informed. Run an Internet search for your local mycological society (yep, they exist—ours is the Berkshire Mycological Society) and contact them for positive identification. Even if you do find edible ones, always cook them before eating and have a small portion first, then wait 24 hours to make sure you don’t have a reaction of anything other than the “This tastes amazing!” variety.