500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Mushroom Roulette – rules to live by.

June17

Today we ate a new type of mushroom – well – new to us – not to Czechs who’ve been eating it for hundreds of years.  Amanita Rubescens (known locally as Masák –  meaty) is a relative of both Fly Agaric (the hallucegenic red mushroom with white spots popular in fairy tale illustrations of pixies)  and the Death Cap or Destroying Angel (there’s a clue in the name) – so careful identification is essential. It is therefore important to know how to identify those which are poisonous, especially those which share similarities to edible mushrooms. About 20 people die every year in the Czech Republic because of mushroom poisoning – with Death Cap being the principle culprit – combined with human error (aka – guns aren’t dangerous).

The first time I try any mushroom I identify it using several different sources (both books and Internet based), I also get someone else to identify it, seperately, then cook it thoroughly, and only taste a tiny amount (ie cubic milimetre).  The second time, a few days later, it’s okay to eat more. Sometimes you discover that a mushroom is edible, but not enjoyable.

Some types of mushroom share a chemical element with kidney beans – so must be cooked thoroughly in order to prevent poisoning, others are poisonous when combined with other stuff – like alchohol and the Ink Cap mushroom (now used as a treatment for alchoholics) combined together cause illness.

The variety we ate today was delicious. It tasted a lot like crispy fatty bacon bits (would to somebody who has avoided pork and bacon for many years) – but perhaps because we fried it in a mixture of olive oil and butter, with lots of salt.  No matter how certain I am about identification, eating wild mushrooms feels like taking a risk, and I’m left with unsettling self doubt until they are thoroughly digested and I live to tell the tale.

We have visitors over the summer and I’m not yet sure what our mushroom strategy should be.  I think we should only cook Porchini and Chanterelle for other people – as these are very clearly identifiable and differentiable from poisonous species. We have many books available if visitors want to go into the forest themselves to hunt for different types… maybe we could find a mushroom expert who could help?

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