Saturday, April 23, 2011

More Mushrooms Musings

posted by Melissa

This past Thursday night's PSMS mushroom ID class focused on what the teacher called "Tonight's Tough Topic: Toxic Toadstools."  That title may clue you into the atmosphere of the class, yes, there was quite a bit of humor involved.  And while I was not in the mood for laughter when I got to class, it only took a few quips to bring a smile to my face.  I think my favorite one of the night was this quote about what happens if you eat a poisonous mushroom.
"The bad news is, you need a new liver.  The good new is, you jump the line."
I know, it doesn't seem as funny to me right now either, but with his delivery and the class response, it really worked in that mushroom people crowd.

Amanita muscaria (I did not find this one.)
The teacher was Daniel Winkler.  He has a business, Mushroaming, taking tour groups to Tibet, looking for mushrooms.  I can't wait for Good Luck with That to be able to take trips to Tibet during mushroom month!  Maybe someday.

*off daydreaming*
*ok, I'm back*

He started off our class, like any mushroom class should, with a beautiful picture of the Amanita muscaria.  Everyone is familiar with the look of this red and white, Alice in Wonderland, looking mushroom.

Maybe it's because of its flashy colors, maybe it's the book deal it got with Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson) in 1865, but something sure is alluring about this mushroom.  Upon further research into the subject, I found a picture here from the original Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, illustration by John Tenniel.  As you can see, this mushroom is not the fancy red capped with white spots like we often associate with the story.  Any readers have an idea what magical mushroom Tenniel was intending to illustrate for Alice to nibble?

Back to the pertinent poison posting.

The Amanita muscaria, or fly agaric as it is sometimes known, is considered poisonous and psychedelic due to the ibotinic acid and muscinol content.  Our teacher said that you could parboil (is that the same as boiling?) it twice for ten minutes, each time dumping out the water, and then eat it safely.  I can't say I will try that, or bring it to my next potluck.

Another mushroom in the same genus is also well known, but mostly only in the mushroom community.  Or at least that is my take, given the fact that I didn't know much about it before this class.  It is Amanita phalloides, also known as Deathcap.  Now there's a good band name that I have no idea why someone hasn't used yet.

Amanita phalloides, from Wikipedia
The scary thing about this mushroom (besides the fact that it will kill you) is that the symptoms can take up to 10 hours to show up.  The poisonous constituent are the amatoxins, which account for 50% of all mushroom poisoning, and 95% of all mushroom fatalities.

It can be mistaken for other mushrooms, but one way to be sure is to wait a day after picking it before eating.  While most mushrooms that it can be mistaken for have gills that turn colors (most likely brown), this mushroom always keeps white gills.  It will also always have at the very least remnant of its universal veil, the ring you see near the top of the stem in the picture to the right.

In Europe, some cases have been given injections of silymarin, from the plant milk thistle, with good results.  Although, as our teacher pointed out, there aren't many volunteers for a study of this kind to be peer-reviewed and published.

Hypholoma fasiculare
Other poisonous mushrooms covered in class were:

  • Hypholoma fasiculare - Produces severe gastro-intestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting.  can cause paralysis and proteinuria (protein in the urine.)  It tastes very bitter, so people are not likely to eat it.  Which reminds me, if you simply taste the mushroom, apparently you do not get poisoned.  It is only when you swallow.  (I am resisting a "that's what she said joke" right now.)
  • Gyromitra esculenta (or False morel) - Eaten raw, it can kill you.  Most mushroom, actually our teacher said all mushrooms, should be cooked first.  The protein in mushroom is not easily digested in human until is it broken down by the cooking process.  It contains gyromitrin and MMH (monomrthylhydrazine) which is a carcinogen also found in rocket fuel.  This toxin is a volatile compound, so it should not be breathed in as well.
  • Gyromitra esculenta
  • Verpa bohemica (Spring morel) - This mushroom grows near cottonwood trees in the Spring.  You should always cook it and dump the water.  It is edible at that point, but start small.  And our teacher recommended that if you eat a questionable mushroom to eat it in the morning or afternoon.  That way, if you get all freaked out about it being poisonous, you can stay busy instead of lying in bed quietly panicking about the fact that you might be dying.  (pictured below)

Verpa bohemica

A couple other tips worth mentioning are:

  • Mushrooms can be heavy metal concentrators.  Be careful about where you are foraging, make sure it isn't in a place where there could be a lot of toxins in the ground or environment.
  • Don't eat a Bolete with red pores. (If you learn more about mushrooms in the PNW, you'll quickly learn about boletes.)
  • If you pick a mushroom and it stains blue, it is hallucinogenic.  And on the contrary, you should feel safe that if a mushroom doesn't stain blue (turn blueish when you touch it) then it is not psychedelic.

Fastidious Fungi Foraging Folks,

No comments: