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How to Clean Wild Mushrooms

Making the most of your pickings…

We’re into that time (depending where you live I suppose) when the new season mushrooms begin to appear. It is a fine time for the chef and gatherer, there are wonderful fungi to be found throughout the countryside and, when picked in their prime it is vital that they are treated with the care and respect they surely deserve.

Wild mushrooms (and cultivated for that matter) grow in soil and soil contains all kinds of bacteria which is mostly unpleasant and not the kind of seasoning you want to taste in your main course. I’ve taken a picture (see below) of the varieties of mushrooms we receive in our kitchens and I’ve used a macro lens to better show the dirt that comes with them. There is a big difference between wild mushrooms which are picked in the wild and ‘wild’ mushrooms which are cultivated in Holland and such places. Why they are called wild I do not know, I can only presume they wish to differenciate between those and the standard button variety.

So we have mushrooms which contain a bit of residue soil. Now you have to be careful in the way you handle them because soil traces can cause food poisoning so remember that when you buy a muddy leek from your local farmers market. Unlike leeks however you cannot leave wild mushrooms under a cold water tap. The whole esscence of wild mushrooms are their fabulous taste and excess water will ruin that.

The best way to clean a glut of mushrooms is to rinse a tea towel under cold water and lay flat on a work surface. Carefully pick through your mushrooms and remove any excess debris such as small twigs, moss etc. Take another towel and rinse under cold water squeezing out the remaining water. Now gently wipe each mushroom with your damp towel and place carefully on top of the other towel. Check underneath the caps for dirt and trim off the bottom of the stems. Once finished rinse your towel out again and place gently on top of the mushrooms, store in the refrigerator until required.

Finally, scrub your hands and nails with an anti bacterial soap and get ready to enjoy some great mushrooms…..


  1. Cid says:


    I love full flavoured wild mushrooms and have always found them difficult to clean. Some say just brush them, others wash under a running tap but I reckon the best way has to be yours.

    Does this mean I have to stop putting them in the dishwasher? :)

    I’ve enjoyed my Sunday after a hectic week and later I plan to catch up on some reading in front of the fire if it turns chilly. Since ridding the house of excessive chocolate and other tempting treats, I find I never seem to have any nibbles in when people call. With that in mind and after checking in the baking cupboard, I found I had lots of odd packets of nuts and some dates. So I’ve made a large batch of cantuccini (or biscotti) because they last a long time and because I like one every now and again with a cup of good coffee or tea. Like I do with most things now, I wondered if our gluten free friends can cook biscotti with a suitable flour? What say you Melissa?


    April 26, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

  2. miles says:

    Dishwasher?! I love biscotti, it’s one of life’s great pleasures dunked in a strong black coffee.


    April 26, 2009 @ 9:33 pm

  3. Melissa says:

    Gosh Miles, it seems if you’re out scouring the countryside for wild mushrooms that I’d be able to keep up with your blog posts. But, nooo — I still find myself 3 days behind.

    I LOVE this post. I enjoy it so much when you share practical culinary tips with your readers (groupies?). Unlike Cid, my dishwasher doesn’t have a mushroom basket, but I’ve always run them under cold water and used a little soft vegetable brush on them. Being a mushroom amateur, I’ve never collected my own as I’m afraid I’ll end up singing old Jefferson Airplane songs while hallucinogenically dancing my way through the forest, never to be heard from again. I don’t know my wild mushrooms well enough to “dig” in and collect them myself.

    I have some shiitake mushrooms on hand which I plan to use tonight in a rice stuffed acorn squash dish.

    Another great photo, by the way.

    P.S. I woke up to 4 inches of snow on the ground this morning so if there are any wild mushrooms around here, they’re not ready for prime time yet.

    April 27, 2009 @ 11:30 am

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