can I see some I.D. please...
While in Vegas I was asked to show ID in a restaurant because I "looked under thirty" -- ha! This was likely owing to the dim lighting in the room, combined with the wait staff's desire for a really good tip, but the point is, sometimes looks can be quite deceiving, especially in odd lighting.
Fast forward to this past weekend when Survivalist Son (the younger -- as they are both resourceful in this way) and I attended a mushroom foraging workshop. The gist of the afternoon was "you can never be too sure" and if any of us thought we would leave that day with an arsenal of sure-fire identification rules under our belts we were wrong. Dead wrong you might say.
In reality, most "poisonous" mushrooms won't actually kill you (provided you are a reasonably healthy adult) or even put you in hospital. Lots will just give you gastrointestinal distress to varying degrees. Other mushrooms, although technically edible, really just don't taste good or have a nice texture. Having said that, there are several that are worth looking for and worth taking the time to learn to identify. In fact, our instructor recommends practicing your identification for up to a year before you actually eat anything!
Here, then, is the general advice I took away from the day:
- if it has white gills, don't eat it
- if it has a round ball bottom (volva), don't eat it
- if, when you scratch the stem or bruise the top if turns blue or green, don't eat it
- if the stem is hollow, don't eat it
- if the spores are white (do a spore print*), don't eat it
*spore print -- put a mushroom cap on a piece of paper, colour part of the paper with dark marker. Cover with a bowl to keep moist. Leave a few hours or overnight and look at the colour of the spores that have dropped on the paper
All these photos are of specimens in my own yard or neighbourhood and none of them will end up on the dining table! Let's just say that for now I'm happy to fork out the $25/lb the guy at the farmer's market is asking for local Chanterelles.