Mushrooms are delicious and healthy foods, but a lot of people are a little wary of them and want to check that they are safe to eat before they cook with them or add them to a salad. If that sounds like you, brown spots on your mushrooms might make you pause.
Brown spots on your mushrooms are a sign that the mushrooms are starting to turn bad, so if there are lots of spots or the mushrooms show other signs of decay, you will want to get rid of them rather than consume them. However, one or two dark spots can usually be safely ignored.
It’s not always easy to tell when mushrooms are and are not safe to eat, so we’ll explore some of the key signs that mushrooms are going off, and discuss how to store your mushrooms to make them last as long as possible.
How Do You Know If Mushrooms Are Going Off?
Like any food, mushrooms are potentially dangerous if you eat some that have begun harboring certain kinds of bacteria. Any moldy food can make you sick, and although plant-based foods are usually less concerning than things like meat and fish, you still need to be cautious.
A lot of people are particularly wary of fungi, perhaps because they have soft, slightly damp surfaces that are prone to breeding mold and bacteria. If you aren’t sure whether your mushrooms are okay to eat or not, you aren’t alone – so let’s explore some key signs that you should look out for.
Mushrooms have often gone off if:
- They have a slimy texture, even if only parts of them have gone slimy
- They have dark spots on them, particularly if there are numerous spots
- They have shriveled up and turned wrinkly
- They have gone dark all over
- The texture has become spongy and soft
- The smell of the mushrooms has become very strong and possibly unpleasant
- Mold spots have started appearing on the surfaces (usually in clumps of white fluff, but other colors may form too)
- You have stored them for 2 weeks or more (most mushrooms will not last this long, although there are some exceptions)
You should use the above factors to determine whether the mushrooms are still safe to eat. If one or more of these is present, be cautious about the mushrooms.
Can You Still Eat Raw Mushrooms If They Have Brown Spots?
Raw mushrooms present a higher risk than cooked mushrooms, so you will need to assess them with more care. This is because cooking will kill off some kinds of bacteria and make the mushrooms safer to eat. If you don’t want to cook the mushrooms, you need to be more rigorous about making sure they are fresh.
Brown spots are an early indication that the mushrooms are starting to go off. If the mushrooms have a lot of brown on them, you may want to throw them away even if there are no other signs of decay. However, if the brown spots are small and localized, you might want to look for other indicators.
You should check the texture first, as this is the biggest tell. If the mushrooms are still firm and good, you may be able to wash them and use them, but if they have started to turn slimy, they need to be thrown away. Mushrooms should have firm, dry surfaces, and they should not be remotely sticky.
If you have had the mushrooms for a long time or you are otherwise doubtful about them but they show no visible signs of mold, don’t eat them raw. You can use them up in cooked food more safely.
Can You Still Eat Cooked Mushrooms If They Have Brown Spots?
Cooking mushrooms does make them safer to eat, but you should be aware that it does not make moldy mushrooms edible again. It will kill off bacteria in the mushrooms, but it will not get rid of the toxins that the bacteria produce – so if a lot of bacteria were present in them, the mushrooms will still be unsafe to eat.
You can cook mushrooms that have a few brown spots provided that none of the other warning signs are present and you wash and cook them thoroughly. They should then be safe to eat. However, you should not cook mushrooms that smell bad, that are slimy or wrinkly, or that have gone dark all over.
Similarly, if you see spots of mold on the mushrooms, you must not eat them. Because mushrooms are often stored in a damp environment, it isn’t unusual to see mold growing across old mushrooms. They will need to be thrown away if this happens.
Even if you could cut off the moldy area and use the rest of the mushroom, you should not do so, because if one part of the mushroom has turned moldy, it’s quite likely that the rest has too. Throw the mushrooms away instead.
How Should Mushrooms Be Stored?
Keep mushrooms in the fridge, either in their original packaging or in a brown paper bag. They should last for around a week provided that they were fresh when you purchased them, but be cautious and check on them regularly.
You should aim to use them up within the first week if possible, although some mushrooms will last for a little longer than a week.
Don’t keep mushrooms in a damp spot, as this will promote mold, and don’t freeze fresh mushrooms. If you aren’t going to use the mushrooms up in time, saute them first and then put them in your freezer.
Some people panic when they see brown spots appearing on their mushrooms, and it’s true that these are an early sign of decay. However, one or two brown spots shouldn’t be an issue. If you see a lot of browning or if the mushrooms show other signs of going off, such as sliminess or a bad smell, you need to throw them away.