The Amanita: The Death "Mushroom.".
Mushrooms (Read Toadstools) That Can Kill YouClick thumbnail to view full-size
"Horse Whisperer" author, Nicholas Evans and wife, Charlotte, on dialysis after eating poisonous mushrooms!
When researching this article, the first thought that came to me was, “Why aren’t more people killed by eating poisonous mushrooms? And the second was “Jeez, I hope terrorists never catch on to how easy it would be to use Amatoxins, the poison found in the lethal members of the huge Amanita family of fungi.” The problem is it is so difficult to tell the dangerous ones from the common mushrooms we find in Tesco and enjoy with our liver or bacon. In fact, liver is uppermost in my mind because this virulent substances attacks the liver, often causing the victim to need an emergency transplant to survive.
We can find deaths from Amanita poisoning throughout history, even back to Roman times where the Emperor Claudius died in 54 AD, after eating the Amanita caesarea mushroom, itself innocuous and tasty, but supposedly mixed with Amanita phalloides, the infamous Death Cap mushroom by his devoted wife, Agrippina. Hmmm, this lady might not have known the way to a man‘s heart, but she certainly knew the route to his liver. This fungus, along with its partners in crime, the Destroying Angel, is not hard to find in British woods. The “Angel,” in particular, looks decidedly similar to edible Button, Meadow and Horse mushrooms. Experts tell us to “Look for the veil,” that these two dangerous Amanita mushrooms have a “veil,” completely covering the young mushroom and leaving the torn edges later on the cap and around the bottom of the stem. Some people even say these shouldn’t be handled, and more tell us not to put them in a basket with other, edible mushrooms, which they might contaminate. (Why the hell would we if we knew what they were? Like the nanny advice Labour puts on expensive, useless pamphlets).
I’ll stick a few pictures up with this article, but please don’t try using it as a guide, I won’t pay for your liver transplant, no matter how good your lawyer is.
There are tens of thousands of mushrooms and toadstools worldwide. The terms go back hundreds of years, and may be the most senseless and inaccurate classification of any living species in the history of many such bloopers. It was (and is) generally thought that to be called a toadstool a fungus had to be inedible and perhaps poisonous, whereas the sobriquet mushroom meant you were tasty and harmless. The truth is that there are “toadstools” fine for the pot, and “mushrooms” that will have you calling the preacher and the poor relatives mouthing the word “will.” All too often, the most “mushroomy” looking ones are the ones that will have your liver slithering out of your back passage and screaming for the NHS. The term "Toadstool," for me, might be better forgotten along with all those hideous garden gnomes that are often fashioned next to a clump of them. Then we can just have "Edible, or non-edible fungi, the edible ones being mushrooms," makes much more sense
All this is the reason why our woodlands and meadows are bursting with edible mushrooms, but few people are game to collect them. The word has got around to a certain extent that you can die from a wrong choice. The commercial growers have a responsibility, don’t they? The must have armed guards on the greenhouses or whatever they use to grow these fungi in. There’s so many kinds on mushrooms available in the big supermarkets it would be easy to make a slip.
The symptoms of Amanita poisoning take a while to emerge -normally about 5 to 24 hours. The trouble there is the symptoms you finally come down with are apparent because your liver may be irreparably damaged. It only takes half a mushroom to kill an adult human being; freezing, cooking or drying has no effect on the toxin. A family of three ate Death Cap in Poland in 2006: one died, the other two required liver transplants. This relief has only been possible over the last 20 years or so. Getting ill with Amanita poisoning was a death sentence in many cases before the advent of liver transplants. The poison also affects other organs, such as the kidneys.
Apart from Claudius, other notables dying from eating Amanita, or having it surreptitiously mixed with their food by an assassin, are:
Pope Clement 7th. Tsaritsa Natalia Naryshkina, Roman Emperor, Charles 6th.
Oh, well, I’m afraid mushrooms are off my menu now, how about you?
I was about to upload this hub, when I saw in the Daily Mail online that the author, Nicholas Evans and his wife, Charlotte were very ill after eating poisonous mushrooms after picking them in a walk through woods last Autumn. This is the Cortinarius speciosissimus variety, close to the Destroying Angel in effect and very lethal, one of the worst in Britain. Google for updates. They survived, but were ill for months and on dialysis as their kidneys closed-down completely.