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Ian Sutton

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Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by Ian Sutton » Tue Nov 07, 2006 12:55 pm

Well we're both still here after three separate meals using a giant puffball. We've have it sliced fried covered in egg and breadcrumbs and twice as part of a chunky mushroom sauce with cream. What we couldn't eat (about half of it) has gone onto the compost heap.

The puffball itself has quite a creamy texture and is not especially strong tasting.

Michelle picked a few more mushrooms on her walk today and we're pretty confident we've identified at least one other (edible) sort accurately and indeed another (edible) one we're pretty sure about. I'm over-cautious though, as one false move with wild mushrooms and it's your last :shock: . We've got one very good book by a local mushroom hunter, but before we get over confident, we're planning to get on an organised mushroom foray. There is NO point in taking chances.

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Ian
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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by ChefCarey » Tue Nov 07, 2006 1:26 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:Well we're both still here after three separate meals using a giant puffball. We've have it sliced fried covered in egg and breadcrumbs and twice as part of a chunky mushroom sauce with cream. What we couldn't eat (about half of it) has gone onto the compost heap.

The puffball itself has quite a creamy texture and is not especially strong tasting.

Michelle picked a few more mushrooms on her walk today and we're pretty confident we've identified at least one other (edible) sort accurately and indeed another (edible) one we're pretty sure about. I'm over-cautious though, as one false move with wild mushrooms and it's your last :shock: . We've got one very good book by a local mushroom hunter, but before we get over confident, we're planning to get on an organised mushroom foray. There is NO point in taking chances.

regards

Ian


Very wise of you. Still...I've read where poisoning is quite common among experienced mycologists as they tend to get too casual after a few years of foraging.
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Karen/NoCA

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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by Karen/NoCA » Tue Nov 07, 2006 1:42 pm

Good idea. Our community just had such an event. No picking was allowed but from what I heard, it was a great learning experience for those who attended. A few years ago on the coast, three hours from here, an entire family perished from eating mushrooms they collected, and incorrectly identified.
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Robin Garr

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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by Robin Garr » Tue Nov 07, 2006 2:29 pm

Karen/NoCA wrote:Good idea. Our community just had such an event. No picking was allowed but from what I heard, it was a great learning experience for those who attended. A few years ago on the coast, three hours from here, an entire family perished from eating mushrooms they collected, and incorrectly identified.


Wasn't there a very sad story in recent years about a California wine maker, or maybe the young adult son of a prominent wine maker, who met a particularly awful and quick demise by eating wild mushrooms that essentially liquefied his liver? He was considered an expert, as I recall.
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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by Stuart Yaniger » Tue Nov 07, 2006 4:22 pm

Yeah, that's why no matter how much I think I know, I restrict my consumption to can't-possibly-miss species. And stay out of geni like Amanitae that have both yummy and deadly members.

Too bad; that means I'm restricted to morels, chanterelles, porcini...
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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by Jenise » Wed Nov 08, 2006 1:55 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Karen/NoCA wrote:Good idea. Our community just had such an event. No picking was allowed but from what I heard, it was a great learning experience for those who attended. A few years ago on the coast, three hours from here, an entire family perished from eating mushrooms they collected, and incorrectly identified.


Wasn't there a very sad story in recent years about a California wine maker, or maybe the young adult son of a prominent wine maker, who met a particularly awful and quick demise by eating wild mushrooms that essentially liquefied his liver? He was considered an expert, as I recall.


Yup, one of the Sebastiani clan.

I don't even need the poisoning stories: a friend of mine went hiking with a visiting English bloke (this was in Alaska) and they brought back a bag of mushrooms to cook for their dinner. When the mushrooms were plopped into the hot skillet, all sorts of vermin jumped to their deaths. I would find that impossible to deal with.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Bob Ross

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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by Bob Ross » Wed Nov 08, 2006 2:36 pm

The New York Times had a very useful article at the time of his death, Jenise. I was surprised to read that 95% of the reported deaths are casued by the same species of mushrooms.

HOW safe is it to pick and eat wild mushrooms? The dangers were underscored last week with the death of Sam Sebastiani Jr., 32, a member of one of California's most prominent wine-making families, who ate mushrooms gathered near his home in Santa Rosa, Calif.

The recent torrential rains in the San Francisco Bay area have led to a bumper crop of mushrooms, and nine people have been hospitalized in the last month after having eaten poisonous ones they apparently picked themselves.

Experts who know an Amanita muscaria from a Boletus edulus (the first is poisonous, the second is not) are warning inexperienced mushroom enthusiasts to leave the picking to trained mycologists, who will not be fooled by poisonous varieties that closely resemble their nonpoisonous cousins.

''Sometimes even experts need to examine spores under a microscope to know what they are doing,'' said Roseanne Soloway, the administrator of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, a nonprofit educational corporation in Washington, which maintains that most people should not pick and eat wild mushrooms at all. ''A level of presumed expertise is not enough to save your life.''

But consumers who buy mushrooms in stores or eat them in restaurants need not be alarmed.

''Of all the millions of pounds that go into commercial production, I've never heard of a single poisoning,'' said John Gottfried, an experienced mycologist and a partner in Gourmet Garage, the discount market that supplies wild mushrooms to 160 restaurants in New York day in and day out.

The mushroom Mr. Sebastiani is thought to have eaten was an Amanita phalloides, also known as the death-cap mushroom. It is the cause of 95 percent of lethal mushroom poisoning worldwide and is fatal more than 35 percent of the time; toxins in its cap destroy the victim's liver by rupturing the cells.

Mr. Sebastiani was one of three victims awaiting a possible liver transplant at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center when he died. Several of his relatives stepped forward as would-be donors for a partial liver transplant (in which part of the donor's liver is grafted onto the patient's liver, and the healthy liver often helps the damaged cells to regenerate). A liver transplant was ruled out in his case because his body was too heavily infected.

The most common poisonous mushrooms, and some of the most deadly, are of the genus Amanita. ''They are the prettiest things you ever saw,'' said John Trestrail, the managing director of the Blodgett Regional Poison Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. ''And they should all be totally avoided.''

Amanita are tall gilled mushrooms with long stems, which grow around trees in pine forests. They range in appearance from vivid orange (the edible Amanita caesarea, which is highly prized in Italy) and shiny white (the deadly Amanita virosa) to the classic fairy tale mushroom, with bright red spotted cap (Amanita muscaria), which is also poisonous).

''Eating Amanita is Russian roulette,'' Mr. Gottfried of Gourmet Garage said. ''It gives some people the same thrill as eating fugu fish in Japan. Despite my years of collecting, I don't play with them at all. For all their culinary legend, I would just as soon be safe. The death cap is doubly dangerous because people can pick it in the infantile stage before its characteristics become clear.''

To identify a mushroom they are unsure of, mycologists take a spore print by placing a cap, gill side down, on white or black paper and leaving it for a few hours. The print that is left will mirror the spaces between the gills, which aids identification. But this is not a job for amateurs.

''I call the Amanita phalloides the prime seductresses of the forest,'' said Jack Czarnecki, author of ''A Cook's Book of Mushrooms'' (Artisan/Workman, 1995) and the chef and owner of Joe's Bistro 614 in Reading, Pa. ''They are bright greenish-white, and because they are poisonous they haven't had to select camouflage characteristics. But when these mushrooms are wet, they could look like a wood blewit, which is pale white up to deep purple. Of course, any trained mycologist could tell the difference by looking at the bottom.'' Amanita have a cap at the bottom of their stems; wood blewits do not.

***

The balance of the article is available only by paid subscription.

Regards, Bob
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Stuart Yaniger

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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by Stuart Yaniger » Wed Nov 08, 2006 2:51 pm

The mushroom Mr. Sebastiani is thought to have eaten was an Amanita phalloides, also known as the death-cap mushroom. It is the cause of 95 percent of lethal mushroom poisoning worldwide


Bingo.

And the last sentence of the story is another good reason to not go anywhere near that genus:

Amanita have a cap at the bottom of their stems; wood blewits do not.


This is incorrect and another reason to stick to safe genera (got the plural right this time!).
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Mike Filigenzi

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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by Mike Filigenzi » Wed Nov 08, 2006 8:15 pm

We worked on a case last March in which a family of four were poisoned by some Amanita mushrooms. In this case, they were Amanita ocreata, a mushroom that grows symbiotically with oak trees in NorCal. All four were initially placed on the list for liver transplants but fortunately survived without such advanced measures. The people involved never 'fessed up but it's believed that one of them gathered the mushrooms. There was a pretty significant public health investigation because they initially stated that they'd bought the mushrooms at a local market.

As Stuart says, it's a pretty smart idea to stay completely away from Amanitas in general and to stick with those that aren't easily confused with anything else.


Mike
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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by James Roscoe » Wed Nov 08, 2006 10:10 pm

The emperor Claudius Augustus would have a thing or two to say about poisonous mushrooms, were he still around to say them. The emperor Nero Augustus owed his throne to poisonous mushrooms.
.....we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. A. Lincoln
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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by JoePerry » Fri Nov 10, 2006 12:21 am

Thanks for the update, Ian. I too have wanted to collect my own mushrooms. I've yet to run across a giant puffball, but I have tried to pick the smaller cousins many times. Every time I do it turns out to be a baby earthstar (harmful, though not deadly) or Amanita (poisonous or otherwise). Fortunately, these are pretty easy to determine once you get home and cut in half.

Other than the puffball, inky caps, hen of the woods, chicken of the woods, and morels (though I've never seen a true morel) are the only other shrooms around here I'd trust.

Best,
Joe

btw, while they don't dry, I've heard leftovers of the Giant Puffball freeze very well.
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Ian Sutton

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Re: Mushroom hunting - (very) tentative steps

by Ian Sutton » Fri Nov 10, 2006 10:36 am

Joe
Thanks for the advice on freezing giant puffballs. By their nature they are... well ... quite big :) and it's pretty much impossible for us to eat a whole one inside three days (when they start turning a creamy/yellowy colour it's time to throw them out).

Hen of the woods we've seen and although nothing like any deadly ones we've seen, we didn't pluck up the courage to eat it (I told you we were tentative!). It's also quite rare around here, so maybe better to let it be.

The other one we're 99.8% certain we identified was the shaggy parasol and whilst edible, can cause stomach aches. Again we didn't eat it.

There's about 2-3 others we've seen which we couldn't identify. Would love to stumble across a Morel and apparently there are truffles in Norfolk, but without a trained hound, we're not going to find one. Apparently you can now buy saplings impregnated with truffle spores and a guy on the UK wine site got one and decided he was going to train his dog how to sniff out where it was... before realising that he knew exactly where it was - where he planted it in the 1st place :roll: :lol:

regards

Ian

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