How to differentiate between an inedible mushroom and a poisonous mushroom
Mushroom picking is a task that should be carried out by professionals who are experienced and are trained to recognize various types of edible and non-edible mushrooms that exist in the wild. However, many do not have to worry about choosing a deadly or poisonous mushroom, as they do not go pick their own mushrooms from the wild. Instead, edible mushrooms are freely available in the supermarkets for the convenience of the consumers. Anyhow, knowing the facts related to edible and non-edible, especially regarding the poisonous mushrooms would enable anyone to avoid a catastrophe that may take place due to accidentally picking a wrong mushroom from the wild.
Varieties of mushrooms
According to statistics, there are about 10,000 species of mushrooms in the North America and out of which only 250 are edible while another 250 are poisonous. Thus, it is rather difficult to differentiate between the ones that can be eaten and the ones that should not be eaten in a clear cut way. However, to the trained eye and with a whole lot of experience, it is possible to recognize the characteristics of edible mushrooms and at least determine certain other mushrooms as ones that need to be avoided.
The reason why untrained persons should not go mushroom picking is that the poisons produced by certain varieties of mushrooms can be debilitating or sometimes even be fatal. In general, there are four types of mushroom toxins. Among them, some destroy cells in the body leading to organ failure and certain others are neurotoxic meaning they can cause neurological manifestations including coma. There are some poisons that could cause gastrointestinal irritations and certain others which cause symptoms in the presence of alcohol in the system. Thus, symptoms such as excessive sweating, convulsions, hallucinations, depression, spastic colon, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps…etc would take place if poisonous mushrooms were ingested. However, if other types of inedible mushrooms are eaten, the only side effect would be its bitter taste or its unpalatable nature.
Helpful elements to recognize a poisonous mushroom
Although describing the variations that exist among poisonous mushrooms are beyond this hub and may be beyond the existing scientific knowledge, experts can look into certain parts of the mushroom in order to exclude the non-edible ones. Thus, parts of the mushroom such as the cap, stem, underside, flesh and the spore prints are useful in making the differentiation. At the same time, the color, appearance, shape, size and the smell could also be used in recognizing the right mushroom.
Some helpful tips on mushroom identification
Even though there are ways and means of detecting poisonous mushrooms to a certain extent, it is always better to leave the differentiation to a professional or a person with enough experience. If in doubt, the best practice would be to avoid such dubious mushrooms and stick to the ones that you know for sure as edible, which are available in the super market.