urbpan: (dandelion)
Seven Ways You Can Make Yourself Sick Eating Wild Mushrooms

This is a speech I give during mushroom walks when there’s a lull between cool discoveries. I’m doing a mushroom walk for the first time in a few months this weekend so I could use a refresher, and hey maybe you’ll like it too.

1. The mushroom was poisonous. There’s a significant number of mushroom species out there that are poisonous. You can’t necessarily tell by the way they look, taste, or smell, or by cooking them with silver spoons. The only way to tell is to positively identify the mushroom, to species or at least species complex. It’s a difficult skill that can only be developed though study and especially experience. When in doubt, throw it out.

2. The mushroom itself wasn’t poisonous but it grew somewhere that provided some poison that the fungus put in the mushroom. There are some perfectly edible mushrooms out there that become sickening when they grow on Eucalyptus or Pine. There is one case I know of where a morel hunter gave himself heavy metal poisoning by collecting and eating lots of morels that all happened to be growing in old apple orchards that had been treated with Lead Arsenate decades earlier. Some people avoid collecting mushrooms along roads or railroad tracks for fear of fuel additives and other contaminants.

3.The mushroom wasn’t poisonous until you had booze with it. There are a few kinds of mushrooms that are considered edible but when you eat them within some time after (OR BEFORE) drinking alcohol, the reaction can make you sick. The anti-alcoholic drug Antabuse works the same way. Also, alcohol is a known poison, so if you drink more than you are used to you can make yourself sick—just because you happen to throw up mushroom fragments doesn’t mean the mushrooms are the culprit. If you are trying a new wild mushroom that you have positively identified, don’t have booze at the same time.

4.You are allergic. Some people are sensitive to some species of wild mushroom that are considered edible. Don’t try more than one new wild mushroom at a time. Did I mention that it should be positively identified as an edible species yet?

5. The mushroom is too old. Imagine you found a steak or a carrot in the woods—it just has a little slimy rotten part on it, just cut it off and eat the rest right? An old mushroom is probably growing bacteria, and you have no way of knowing if it will make you sick. Eat only fresh mushrooms that you have positively identified as an edible species.

6. You ate too much. But I had three pounds of chanterelles! The dry weight of mushrooms is mostly chitin, the indigestible polysaccharide that also forms the skins of insects, the beaks of squid, and the horrible mouthparts of some parasitic worms. If you load your stomach with it, it’s as if you ate a heaping casserole of shredded newspaper. Also keep in mind that the dose is the poison—people who die from Amanita poisoning usually ate a ton of them. Survivors report that they taste good. There are some edible Amanitas, but I will never eat them, why chance it?

7. You didn’t cook it long enough. Some cultures call certain mushroom species edible—but only when they are cooked. I avoid these. Remember the chitin? The longer you cook it the more digestible it becomes. Chicken mushroom (Laetiporus sp.) is a highly prized edible—I lightly sautéed some because I didn’t want to lose the chicken-like texture, and got made myself real sick. If you are going to collect wild mushrooms for food, get a reputable guide—something made of paper, not some weirdo’s web page—and follow the most timid instructions. I should have cooked the Chicken mushroom for at least 20 minutes at high temperature. Now I know.
urbpan: (dandelion)
Let me know if you want to go on a mushroom walk with me--here's the link to sign up at Mass Audubon: http://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/program-catalog#program:program_code=41031
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Here we are, the May 2nd 2015 mushroom class! Let it be known that it was insanely dry and sunny out there. Old dry crispy Trichaptum biforme were the main mushrooms we found. It seemed like a lot of the participants were interested in going out under better conditions, and I hope they join Urban Nature Walk or the Boston Mycological Club to deepen their interest.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Exidia recisa, also known as elm brain or brown witch's butter. I had fungi on my own brain because earlier I had done a zookeeper training class on mushrooms.

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One of the students spotted this group of attractive agarics! I plucked one, bisected it to show that the gills were free (not connected to the stalk) and brought half of it back to take a spore print.

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The spores were dark brown. This, along with the habitat (growing directly on the ground), the prominent ring, the free pinkish gills, the tan and white cap, and the thick stem all added up to the genus Agaricus, the same group that grocery store buttons and portobellos belong to. However a combination of other characteristics including the scaly top darkest in the middle, the fact that the flesh bruised reddish when handled, and tand geography (northeastern US) leaned it toward A. placomyces, a species known to be poisonous, at least to some people. In the future I'll know to look for a phenolic smell and bright yellow color inside the base of the stem to positively identify mushrooms to this species.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Here's my four person mushroom class from this past weekend! I was surprised to have such a small group since this time of year is great for mushrooming, but small groups like this get to learn more. I like actually knowing their names and what their interested in, and staying together in one group rather than spread out so I have to repeat myself to the stragglers. Good, interested group!
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Hey it's my Fungi Field Walk group! Thanks for coming along everyone.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I was frankly dreading today's Fungi Field Walk, because we're in the middle of a drought. I don't think it's rained in over 2 weeks. I expected to find maybe some polypores and perhaps some little forest mushrooms like this one--probably Dacryopinax spathularia.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Here's half of my mushroom class from last Sunday. I'm getting less shy about saying, when my alarm goes off, "it's three o'clock, I'm going to take a picture then we should head back--if you don't want to be in the picture let me know!"

2 bugs one mushroom )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Here's the gang from the June 15th mushroom walk! Another great batch of folks who really were engaged and interested and asked questions that showed that they were listening to me and cared what I said. I hope they take me up on my offer to answer any lingering questions or attempt to id any mushrooms they get good pictures of. I know I at least have to address the question of what mushrooms are the most dangerous to dogs in the yard.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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*Alarm goes off*
Mushroom walk leader (casually) "I'm just going to take a picture of the path behind us..."

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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While doing my mushroom walk for the zoo staff, we came across a group of dog stinkhorns.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
Read more... )
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I can't remember if this was before or after I fell in the river.
Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
Snapshot hidden to protect the suddenly and surprisingly included in the snapshot project without proper notice )
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Before the class I walked around looking for mushrooms--it had been extremely dry, and I wanted to make sure we were going to find some! I passed this guy on the path and we went our separate ways.
Also some mushrooms )
urbpan: (dandelion)
Last week I led the earliest and driest fungi field walk I've ever done. When I say dry, I don't mean that I wasn't scintillating and poetic in my presentation, I mean that it had been sunny and breezy for several days running, and the soil and leaf litter and dead wood was all dry as dust. Fungi need moisture to produce mushrooms, so most of what we found were old dry specimens, crispy relics from the previous fall. But I had the idea to look inside an old rotten straw bale and...
IMG_0747

Coprinoid mushrooms! These were still intact within the wet innards of the bale.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
Back in October I took a mushroom class and took some notes. I'm writing them here--maybe not too interesting in this format but maybe there's something useful here for you.

Clitocybe robustus is an all-white mushroom with a thick stalk and a "nasty smell" (which I couldn't detect) that grows in pine duff and leaf litter (pretty sure I know of two locations where it grows at the zoo, and I probably mis-identified it). Unscrupulous foragers will store it until the smell goes away and sell it to restaurants (not poisonous but not a great edible either).

The umbrella shape of a mushroom protects the spores from drying out from the sun as well as being ruined by the rain (proper humidity levels are required for the spore-producing cell to release the spore correctly).

Fungi are better at nitrogen intake than plants are (this is one of the benefits plants receive from mycorrhizal associations).

18-20% of the photosynthates (the sugars generated by photosynthesis) are given to the fungal partner(s) in a mycorrhizal relationship.

In the autumn, plant growth stops and fungal fruiting happens.

Wood holds moisture better than soil.

Windy weather helps dry out soil and wood, resulting in fewer mushrooms.

BROWN ROT is the same as cubical rot. Brown rot fungi digest cellulose, leave lignin behind. (This fact won't seem to stay in my head).

WHITE ROT fungi digest lignin, leaves cellulose behind.

Bark peeling at the base of a tree, and leaves falling early are signs of a fungal infection. (For trees, silly!)

Lichen are more properly called "lichenized fungi."

Old man's beard lichen has no apothecia (fruiting bodies) but instead reproduces vegetatively with wind-blown broken pieces.

Some graveyard groundskeepers routinely apply bleach to gravestones to retard lichen growth.

Acid rain provides nitrogen to trees, causing trees to dismiss their fungal partners. (That doesn't seem quite right--it must be that trees nourished by acid rain are less likely to form mycorrhizae).

Lawrence Millman is working on red-listing New England fungi species. (Should have explored this further--what's involved in "red-listing?")

My identification of lilac-gray crust is probably wrong. (Check entry later). Peniophora incarnata may be what I've been calling lilac-gray crust. Larry said there's no way to confuse the two. I FOUND A WAY.

Woodpeckers help spread fungi from tree to tree.

The mushroom growing from my picnic table is probably Gloeophyllum sp., not whatever I said it was.

Mollisia cinerea is a tiny gray cup fungus.

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