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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Being safe with wild mushrooms

I'm looking for sources of locally cultivated mushrooms.  I haven't found any yet.  In the course of searching I've found several references to mushroom poisoning in New Jersey.

It's really not a good idea to hunt funghi without training or someone with you who knows what's what.

I grew up in rural New York state.  My families hunted and fished and collected a variety of wild foods.  My father picked field mushrooms when we happened on them on our treks.  They were big, looked a lot like portabellas and tasted like them.  My mother always had a fit about him bringing them home and especially about feeding them to my sister and I.  I loved them. 

At one point, probably when I was in high school, I asked him to show me how to tell which mushrooms were safe.  He tried but, to this day, I can't tell so I don't try.  I let someone else find them.

This is the little I know about wild mushrooms.  Don't pick or eat them unless you know exactly what you're doing.  Don't take wild mushrooms from anyone you don't know very well.

I lived in California for nearly 20 years and met a very interesting woman who knew mushrooms.  There are some different varieties there than here.  There are some that are the same.  I went on a mushroom hunt with her and several people and we ate what we collected at the end of the day.

Don't ever pick, touch or collect any nearby funghi to these:

These are Fly Agaric or Amanita muscaria - THEY ARE POISONOUS.  Very beautiful but poisonous.  They send tiny threads through the soil to collect nutrients.  The threads contain the same poisons.  If normally safe mushrooms are growing close enough, they could contain the same poison.  Don't take the chance.  If an expert reads this and can refute it, so be it but, better safe than sorry.  There are people who peel the caps and injest small amounts of the amanita for their own reasons.  I suggest not.

I saw one of these

 on our hunt:  Amanita ocreata - death angel mushroom.  Also very beautiful, the one I saw was about 2 1/2 inches tall, translucent, almost glowed in the light that touched it.  It was very delicate.  I took a photo with a friend's camera and have never seen the shot but I remember it.  I've seen less than half a dozen in my life.  They are Amanita - poisonous.

We found quite a few Chanterelles:

As far as I know there is nothing else that looks like them.  They are edible.  I found them nearly tasteless but they add color and substance to dishes.  I tasted them raw and sauteed. 

These are the field mushrooms I remember

my father collecting.  We sliced the cap horizontally, fryed them in butter on bread with butter.  Delicious - like portabella - lots of flavor, meaty.  There are, I understand, other mushrooms that look like them that are NOT safe.

So, don't pick wild mushrooms on your own.

There are plenty of tasty varieties of mushrooms available at markets, and, I'm still looking to see if there are mushroom growers in New Jersey.  I haven't found any yet.

(all photos collected as public domain photos online)

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