Black Trumpet Mushroom

Black Trumpet Mushroom

Friday, November 21, 2014

How I learn to stop worrying and love the shrooms

Destroying Angels - Beautiful but deadly
When I mention my passion for foraging edible mushrooms to the uninitiated the reactions run the gambit from enthusiastic to polite interest to complete abhorrence, ‘You take mushrooms you find in the woods and eat them??’ with the unspoken and sometimes spoken ‘Are you out of your mind?!’ 

With this last group I've found that trying to explain that most of the choice edibles are not difficult to identify doesn't convince them in the least. 

It goes something like this...
"But how do you know? How can you be sure?"
"Once you find a few chanterelles its hard to mistake them for anything else. Their only look alike is the Jack O' Lantern mushroom but..."
"Jack O'Lanterns? Are they poisonous."
"Well only mildly...They wouldn't kill you." 

This only serves to increase their mycophobia. All they hear is the uncertainty inherent in this hobby and I can see that I've lost them. 

So this time I’m going to try a different tack. I’m going to start off by showing you the deadliest mushrooms out there, what they look like, and what they can do to you.

The two mushrooms responsible for the great majority of fatal poisoning in North America are the Destroying Angel and Death Cap. Both of these mushrooms have an extremely toxic enzyme that, once ingested, will attack and break down your liver and kidney functions and lead to a bad case of well, death. Even will all modern medicine can do only 50% of the people poisoned by Destroying Angel survive.

Here’s a fascinating survivors story that occurred right here in Ithaca…

Terrified yet?

Well you shouldn't be and here’s why…Take a look at the photos. Note the obvious similarities. They're both white and gilled, right? Now here’s a simple truism that will keep you alive for years of mushroom foraging: Nobody but nobody should ever collect and eat a white gilled mushroom! Sure there are a few experts out there who know some edible lookalikes but even these people will do careful analysis including spore prints. Furthermore, there’s no reason to even be tempted because there are no choice edibles that look remotely like these so why would you bother? 

Now to be sure, I'm not advocating going out there and indiscriminately eating any non-white mushroom. There are a whole host of mushrooms out there that will give you a bad belly ache and even worse.