TOADSTOOL! An Introduction to Edible Wild Mushrooms of New England

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Their growth was rapid and they seem to suddenly appear overnight as if from nowhere. Thus, their origin appeared to be magical. Some glow in the dark Figs. Many have bizarre shapes, and are ephemeral.

They became part of the lives of fairies, elves and witches. Figure 3a: Fairy ring" of Chlorophyllum molybdites. Note grass is greener inside the fairy ring. Figure 3b-c: Pictures in middle and on right are of Omphalotus olivascens. This species is noted for its gills that glow in the dark. Middle picture is cluster of mushrooms in its habitat, growing at base of Madrone tree. Picture on right is the same cluster of mushrooms showing how the gills can glow at night.

Figure 4b: Tremella mesenterica , "Witch's Butter". Because so little was known about mushrooms, many misconceptions concerning the edibility of mushrooms have developed. Some of the more common ones are briefly discussed below: There is a fool-proof test for distinguishing edible from poisonous mushrooms. The most common ones that can be heard are that "a poisonous mushroom will turn silver black while it is being cooked", "if you can peel the cap of the mushroom it is safe to eat" and "observing which mushrooms foraging animals consume will tell you which species are safe to eat".

While there are some generalizations that can be made within certain groups of mushrooms, there is no fool-proof test that can be used for all mushrooms. Those species of mushrooms that are edible are known to be edible because someone at one time had tried it and discovered it to be safe to eat. Most mushrooms are poisonous. Of the thousands of species known, perhaps 60 or so are poisonous, and of these only a handful will be fatal if consumed these numbers will vary depending on your source. However, it does not require a lot of mushroom to poison a lot of people.

The remaining species, however, are not necessarily good to eat. I am using edible here to means non-poisonous and not necessarily good to eat. Thus, an edible mushroom may have a strong bitter, peppery or some other unpleasant taste, be bland or have no taste at all.

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There are a large number of people that die from mushroom poisoning each year. If we are talking about the number of people that go out collecting for mushrooms each year, in this country, then the number of people that die as a result of mushroom poisoning is few relative to that number. Poisonous mushrooms must taste bad.

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As indicated above, many mushrooms that are non-poisonous may have a very bad taste. The opposite can also be true. Amanita phalloides is said to have a quite pleasant taste, but is one of the most deadly species of poisonous mushrooms. You can be poisoned by touching a poisonous mushroom. As deadly as some toxins may be, touching the mushroom is harmless. The harmful toxins in mushrooms must be consumed in order to harm you. Collecting mushrooms for consumption is unsafe and even experts have died from picking the wrong mushrooms. This last misconception is the one that continues to be perpetuated by the news media every year.

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However, upon closer examination of such a story it is often the case that the person that died is far from being an expert. Even those who are avid collectors that have been foraging for wild mushrooms, for only a short period of time, are unlikely to die from mushroom poisoning, if they have even had a minimum of training in the do's and don'ts of mushroom collecting and if common sense is used. There are a number of species that are very good to eat that cannot be mistaken for other species. If collectors stick with those species, mushroom poisoning is highly unlikely.

New to fungus forays?

New species can be tried through interaction with other collectors who have eaten other species. Species determined to be edible are always safe to eat. Whenever a new species is tried for the first time, even if it is one that is highly regarded and is said to be being very tasty, it is best to be cautious. Try only a few bites and wait 24 hours before consuming more. There are a vast number of compounds that occur in wild mushrooms that may cause adverse reactions, when consumed by a few individuals, but are safe for the general public.

New to fungus forays?

Toadstool!: An Introduction to Edible Wild Mushrooms of New England: Leonard Defusco: Books - Find helpful customer reviews and review ratings for TOADSTOOL! An Introduction to Edible Wild Mushrooms of New England at Read honest and.

There is also the possibility of an allergic response to a particular species. Other precautions that should be taken: When preparing mushrooms for a meal, always inspect the mushrooms to determine if it is firm and fresh. Bacterial and fungal decomposition may be taking place in old mushrooms. Avoid eating raw mushrooms.

Proper identification can mean the difference between life and death.

Many edible species have toxins that are heat sensitive and will be rendered harmless by cooking the mushroom. Also, the cell wall of mushrooms is composed of chitin, which the human digestive system cannot break down.

5 Common Mushrooms That Can Poison Your Pet

If the cell walls remain intact, the nutrients in the mushrooms will simply pass through our digestive system. Cooking will break down the cell wall and release its contents, which are digestible. Mushroom are of no nutritional value. Nutritionally speaking, mushrooms fall between the best vegetables and animal protein source. However, all essential amino acids are present in mushrooms, as well as water-soluble vitamins and all the minerals that our bodies require are present.

A generous serving of mushrooms 0. Why Eat Mushrooms? While some people may hype the nutritional value or even medicinal value, of mushrooms, as the reason for consumption, that does not appear to be the main reason for going out to collect wild mushrooms.

Presently, there are a good number of species that have been cultivated. Many of these have had research carried out indicating their high nutritional value as well as medicinal value. So, why not eat only cultivated mushrooms rather than taking the risk of possibly being ill eating an unsafe mushroom or perhaps even being fatally poisoned? As far as individual collectors are concerned this seems to be an impossible question to answer.

Perhaps, it is the thrill of the hunt, or the idea of going back to nature and collecting non-cultivated food. There are probably numerous reasons as to why an individual would participate in collecting and eating wild mushrooms. However, if we look at this question from a cultural perspective, according to R.

Gordon Wasson, the father of ethnomycology in its simplest definition it is the study of the relationship between people and fungi , how readily a person will collect and consume wild mushroom is dependent upon the culture in which they were raised. Wasson believed that cultures could be divided into two categories, with respect to mushrooms: 1. Those that are mycophobic may despise and regard them all as being poisonous and would surely cross the road just to stomp the life out of them.

With the exception of possibly a single species that has been cultivated Agaricus bisporus , those cultures that belong to the latter category will usually have nothing to do with mushroom. While Wasson truly believed that there was this dramatic like or dislike of mushrooms, Benjamin has pointed out that there are cultures that neither like nor dislike mushrooms, with respect to their use as food. In a few cultures mushrooms have even been regarded as being magical and utilized in religious ceremonies.

This is another topic that will be discussed in later lectures. The observation that different cultures may vary as to their attitudes concerning mushroom consumption was made in the late s by R. A somewhat humorist recount of this observation was made by Wasson, in , in his book, Soma, The Divine Mushroom of Immortality: We had been married less than a year and we were off on our first holiday, at Big Indian in the Catskills.

On that first day, as the sun was declining in the west, we set out on a stroll, the forest on our left and a clearing oil the right. Though we had known each other for years we had never discussed mushrooms together. All of a sudden she darted from my side, with cries of ecstasy she flew to the forest glade, where she had discovered mushrooms of various kinds carpeting the ground.

Since Russia she had seen nothing like it. Left planted on a mountain trail, I called to her to take care, to come back. They were toadstools she was gathering, poisonous, putrid, disgusting. She only laughed the more: I can hear her now. She knelt in poses of adoration. She spoke to them with endearing Russian diminutives. She gathered the toadstools in a kind of pinafore that she was wearing, and brought them to our lodge. Some she strung on threads to hang up and dry for winter use. I refused to touch them. After this incident, the couple talked about the difference in their attitudes toward mushrooms.

Upon further conversations with close friends, from various cultures, they discovered a relationship between their ethnic identity and their like or dislike concerning mushrooms. Their fascination with this topic would turn out to be a life-long interest and would lead to the origin of a new field of study, ethnomycology. Some of the attitudes of different cultures are briefly summarize, below, from Benjamin , to demonstrate some of these differences.

Anglo-Saxon Historically, the British and their colonies, i. It is also true that these cultures are for the most part reliant upon domesticated food rather than foraging for wild food.