Shrimp of the Woods Mushroom Hunting Guide
If you’ve ever spent time in the woods in the fall hunting for deer or just taking a nice long hike, then you most likely you might have run across an unusual white fungal mass growing in patches. Chris Matherly coined the name “Shrimp of the Woods” many years ago during a fall foray in Ohio. Why? Because who wants to eat “Aborted Entolomas”? Prior to then, few foragers would partake in this amazing mushroom species for fear of getting poisoned, or simply due to the strange name. This species of wild edible mushroom will be the closest you will ever come to having a real shrimp substitute. The size, taste, and texture will fool even the most advanced foodie’s pallet. More than a decade later, “Shrimp of the Woods” is a common term used by all foragers. It has become a very popular edible foraged mushroom and is one that many amateur mycologists love to search for as its relatively easy to identify and can be seen from a long distance away. If you’re looking for more information on shrimp of the woods, stay tuned and read on below to learn more about this mushroom and how you can find it.
What is Shrimp of the Woods?
The biggest question that you are most likely wondering however, is if you can eat shrimp of the woods.
Are Shrimp of the Woods Mushrooms Edible?
Yes, but there’s a bit of a catch to how edible they really are. That’s because there are some occasions that you will not want to eat the Shrimp of the Woods mushroom depending on what condition they’re in when you harvest them. If they’re in the right condition and in the right place, congratulations, you’ve found a delicious wild edible mushroom that you’re sure to enjoy. Shrimp of the Woods has a flavor profile and texture that tastes and feels so similar to real shrimp that many people are unable to tell the difference between the mushroom and the crustacean itself, unless you tell them your secret.
Now that you know Shrimp of the Woods is in fact edible, let’s talk about the times that you are going to want to avoid harvesting this white fungal mass and enjoy a natural treat.
So, are Shrimp of the Woods Poisonous?
There are some mushrooms like false morels that many people will eat but can be poisonous when consumed in too great of a quantity. However, this isn’t the case with Shrimp of the Woods. Many people believe that this is the case however when people become sick from eating Shrimp of the Woods, it’s normally for one of two reasons.
Can You Eat Shrimp of the Woods Raw?
No, you should never eat this mushroom raw. This is for a few different reasons. Nearly all wild edible mushrooms contain enzymes and mushrooms will not break down properly during digestion without first being cooked.
Second, as mentioned above, these mushrooms can often harbor insects, insect eggs and larva. So, while you may not see any insect activity on initial inspection, just imagine how it would feel to have larva crawling around after taking a bite.
So, since you can’t eat them raw, what’s the most common way to enjoy Shrimp of the Woods?
Cooking Shrimp of the Woods Mushrooms – A Beginner’s Guide
As is the case with many different mushroom species, there are a whole lot of different ways you can cook Shrimp of the Woods mushrooms. Everyone has their own unique favorite recipe based on their region, heritage and how they’ve enjoyed them in the past.
Chris has fixed thousands of batches of these mushrooms over the years and his preferred method that he claims is often the easiest for newcomers to the mushroom is to simply substitute the mushroom in place of actual Shrimp in a variety of different recipes with the simplest being a breaded, fried, and dipped in cocktail sauce Shrimp of the Woods.
If you’d like to learn how to make Chris’ fried Shrimp of the Woods dish, take a minute to watch the video below.
More Delicious Ways to Prepare Shrimp of the Woods:
There are numerous other delicious recipes that you can incorporate these mushrooms into. Just a few you should consider that can be found for free online include:
If those recipes aren’t enough to keep your wild mushroom meals new and engaging, you can also find over 80 wild mushroom recipes including several more Shrimp of the Woods recipes in Chris’ Mushroom Hunter’s Cookbook.
There’s one key thing that you must do before you can ever worry about how you’re going to cook your mushrooms. That thing being the simple fact that you must first find a nice batch of them growing in the wild.
How to Find Shrimp of the Woods Mushrooms
To have the best luck hunting, there are a few things that you need to consider before heading out into your local woods. First, you need to know when these delicious treats arrive. Second, you need to know where you should be looking to have the most success possible and finally, you need to make certain you’re harvesting the right kind of mushrooms.
Thankfully there aren’t too many other species in the woods that resemble Shrimps, but more on that below. For now, let’s talk about when you can expect to find Shrimps in your area.
Shrimp of the Woods Season – When do they grow?
Shrimp of the Woods will appear mainly in the eastern areas of the United States from early September through early November. However, they can come out earlier in far northern areas and can also stick around for a way longer in the south.
In the deep southern areas of Florida and Louisiana, you can often find them growing during the winter from December through February.
In the southern US, you can often find Shrimp of the Woods starting in early October, and then a nice peak season in late October and early November. If an extended warm weather cycle occurs, they may continue through the end of December.
In the northern US, you can normally find them in September and early October.
In the midwestern US, you can normally find them in September and late October.
Now that you know when you should be hunting these mushrooms in your area, let’s go over a general guide on where you may be able to find them.
Where do Shrimp of the Woods mushrooms usually grow?
Shrimp of the Woods are parasitic and are found near or on fallen trees and logs as well as at the base of living trees.
They actually attack and eat Honey Mushroom Mycelium!
How to Identify Shrimp of the Woods
Thankfully, this mushroom is considered one of the easier wild mushrooms to identify. This is primarily due to the fact that there are no poisonous look alikes. Instead of gills, you will find that they have a fairly smooth underside. Often you will find “non-aborted” entolomas with gills growing right next to the aborted ones. All species of this mushroom will leave a white spore print when collected. Also, these mushrooms normally grow in patches and will return each year around the same time.
They will typically be bright to pale on top and on the bottom, and when broken open there will be a tinge of pinkish shrimp-like coloring.
Below are additional photographic examples of Shrimp of the Woods that you can reference for positive identification.
ALWAYS REMEMBER: If you’re unsure about any mushroom’s identification, be certain to get it confirmed before consuming. The best way to do this is to first go on a guided mushroom foray. You can find guided forays in many areas locally, or sign up for one of our guided forays that Chris hosts all over the United States. If you’re already a member of the Morel Mushroom Hunting Club, you can text Chris directly for identification confirmation. You can also purchase Chris’ new 250 species full-color field guide!
Once you know how to successfully identify and cook shrimp of the woods you’re probably going to want to find as many as possible. Below are just a few great tips to help your harvest increase to an entirely new level.
Hunting Tips to Find More Mushrooms
Below are just a few tips to help you increase your shrimp of the woods yields time after time.
Remember Where They Grow –Remember that Shrimp of the Woods is always found growing on or near logs that have already fallen, and often in very thick ground litter of decaying sticks because this is also where Honey Mushrooms like to grow. You will never find them on the ground or in fields and other similar areas.
Remember Where You First Found Them –Shrimp of the woods will often return year after year.
Start Eating Slowly –Just start slowly until you’re certain you enjoy the taste and aren’t allergic to the mushroom.
Find Young Specimens –Shrimp of the woods become soggy and mushy with age and have a better taste when harvested young. Look for smaller specimens for the best results.
Once you start finding larger yields of Shrimp of the Woods, it’s important that you know how to properly harvest them. Below is a quick video from Chris that will show you how to harvest Shrimp of the Woods quickly and easily.
What Hunting Equipment Should You Use to Harvest?
Some mushrooms, like morels, are best carried in mesh bags to allow for better spore distribution. Shrimp of the Woods however, should be placed in a large basket or bucket bag to better transport the mushroom as they need air and ventilation.
Additionally, a large kitchen knife, a hunting knife, or a mushroom knife is advised to harvest Shrimp of the Woods rather than using your hands. With a knife, you van trim off the tiny base that holds a bit of soil which will keep your finds as clean as possible and ready for the kitchen.
This should be all you need aside from a comfortable pair of shoes to begin harvesting your own Shrimp of the Woods mushrooms.
How to Clean Shrimp of the Woods Mushrooms
Once you have collected all the Shrimp of the Woods you like, it’s time to get them home and prepare them for either cooking, as covered above, or storing. Either way, the first thing you’re going to need to do is to clean and cut your fresh harvest.
To clean your Shrimp of the Woods, just rinse them with cold water and NEVER soak them. This is because they will absorb the water, affecting taste and increasing preparation time significantly. You can use a brush to remove excess dirt, but Shrimp of the Woods is normally a very clean mushroom already.
After you have thoroughly cleaned them, it’s time to either store or cook them. For cooking tips, please see the recipe section above. For storage, you have a few options available.
What’s the Best Way to Store Shrimp of the Woods?
While there are several different ways that you can store Shrimp of the Woods, Chris recommends breading them, frying them lightly, and then vacuum sealing and freezing ready to drop right into the hot oil and finish cooking them until golden brown. Chris states this will allow your mushrooms to keep for up to 5 years and come out of the freezer tasting like you just picked them yesterday.
Can You Freeze Shrimp of the Woods?
As mentioned above, not only can you freeze them, it’s the most recommended way to preserve the mushrooms.
Can You Dry / Dehydrate Shrimp of the Woods?
Yes, you can dry / dehydrate Shrimp of the Woods, but there’s a bit of a catch to this method of preservation. Larger specimens should not be dried as they will often not reconstitute well and remain hard and tough when cooked which makes them almost non-edible.
To successfully dry Shrimp of the Woods, you must have very young, fresh specimens that are sliced very thinly and slowly dehydrated using a food dehydrator. Using this method, Chris has found that they do reconstitute well, especially when used in soups.
We hope that you now have a far greater understanding about the Shrimp of the Woods mushroom. Hopefully, you now feel confident going out to find your own.
You should be able to not only identify them, but also clean, cook, preserve and share this wonderful wild treat from nature with those closest to you.
Have You Ever Hunted Shrimp of the Woods Before?
Have you had the opportunity to hunt or eat Shrimp of the Woods? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please take a moment to share your stories, photos and recipes in the comments area below and thanks for stopping by!
Planning to Go on a Hunt?
Are you planning an upcoming hunt for Shrimp of the Woods? If so, don’t forget to also be on the lookout for some other great mushrooms you may find along the way like:
Hen of the Woods
Shrimp of the Woods
Common Oysters and Golden Oysters
Always be certain that you know exactly what mushroom you’ve found before eating it. When in doubt, get confirmation from someone familiar with mushroom hunting. You can also check with others in your local area for guided mushroom hunts or sign up today for one of Chris’ guided edible mushroom forays where you can learn more about your own native edible mushroom species.
Join the Club!
Are you ready to take your mushroom hunts to the next level? Are you tired of trying to find someone to help you identify the mushrooms you in the woods? If so, take a moment to sign up for the Morel Mushroom Hunting Club. By doing so, you can enjoy benefits like:
Member Submitted Photos
Mushroom Questions and Answers
Places to Hunt
Identification Help: Text Chris directly with pics of your finds you need help identifying. Chris will respond within 24 hours!
… AND MORE! Check out the membership page for more information.
(Please Note- If you registered and paid for a 2020 foray postponed due to the pandemic, you are automatically included in on any 2023 foray and will be emailed the itineraries)
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