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Poisonous Mushrooms

Updated on December 8, 2014

Not all Mushrooms are Good

In January 2012 two people lost their lives through poisoned mushrooms harvested and eaten in Canberra. They were tourists from China who were eating in a friend's club restaurant. Unbeknown to them the chef prepared their meal with a fatal poison gathered from nearby fields and known as the 'white-cap'.

They pretty much all look alike to the inexperienced eye of the unsuspecting. Apparently they resemble a mushroom commonly eaten and enjoyed in China. So how do you tell one type from another. Could this variety in the picture be a white-cap? Would you know if you saw it growing in a field?

We Do Pick Field Mushrooms in Canberra

Beautiful fresh mushrooms are hard to resist and many grow in my local park. They are often kicked to pieces, however, by those who believe they are not worth eating or just by vandals who could not care less. Sometimes I have walked home with so many in my hands that it was hard to hold them and many times found the need to take a bag.

They are large, typical mushrooms like those bought in the green grocer (picture from FreeDigitalImages,com). So where did that chef fail and why?

Wikipedia notes: "The pileus or cap of the original wild species is a pale grey-brown in color, with broad, flat scales on a paler background and fading toward the margins. It is first hemispherical in shape before flattening out with maturity, and 5-10 cm (2-4 in) in diameter. The narrow, crowded gills are free and initially pink, then red-brown and finally a dark brown with a whitish edge from the cheilocystidia " That makes it hard to mistake for one that is poisonous unless you know nothing about them.

Mushrooms are associated with trance and magic because of the potency some exhibit. Aside from the poisonous ones there are those that can be used to induce comas and other conditions on unsuspecting victims. Some people believe they are even inhabited by elves and fairies.

Do You Buy All Your Mushrooms?

Do you eat field mushrooms you pick yourself?

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How to pick them

Different Types

There are so many different types of mushrooms on the market that it is hard to choose between them. They suit different dishes and have completely different flavour although they all seem to have the same texture. Wikipedia notes: "A mushroom develops from a nodule, or pinhead, less than two millimeters in diameter, called a primordium, which is typically found on or near the surface of the substrate. It is formed within the mycelium, the mass of threadlike hyphae that make up the fungus."

Of the different types there are coral, gilled (although most are of this type), brain, button, and so on, each resembling the things they are called after. Cultivation has made it possible to just about grow any type in ideal situations to bring out the best of them. That also makes them rather expensive to buy. Micro-biologists are required to study the growth requirements for successful production.

Believe it or not there are magic mushrooms as well. People in some countries, such as Ireland, associate this fungus with lephrechauns and fairies. That is probably because they were considered to be potent and some do indeed act like drugs.

This from Wikipedia: "The mushroom effect is described as a "trip" because it is a long (4-6 hours) and powerful experience which takes you beyond normal perception and then back again. The active ingredient that causes this effect is called psilocybin. The mushrooms can be eaten raw or used to make tea."

That is possibly why the leprechaun is often depicted as being drunk or drinking. But gnomes are also included in these magical stories as happy, go lucky, drugged out fairies that can work magic on you if you are unaware or upset them in some way, It's amazing how ignorance leads to such delightful tales.

Grow Your Own

What is your preference

Do you prefer store bought or grow your own

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Still images from Dreamstime - click here

Please scribe a little comment before you go. Thank you, much appreciated.

© 2012 norma-holt

What's Your Take on This Lens?

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    • mrsclaus411 profile image

      mrsclaus411 5 years ago

      I mostly buy from the grocery. I wouldn't know how to tell those mushrooms apart.

    • profile image

      momsfunny 5 years ago

      A very informative lens. We should be careful about picking up mushrooms just anywhere.

    • Wedding Mom profile image

      Wedding Mom 5 years ago

      Since I can't identify the poisonous ones, I just buy mushrooms from the grocery store.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 5 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Very valuable information. There have been numerous illnesses and deaths in my area from eating the wrong mushrooms. The climate here is perfect for many species and some of them can only be identified with certainty by looking at their spores under a microscope. It is really important to know what you're doing when eating wild mushrooms.

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 5 years ago

      Very informative, thank you! Have always wanted to go gathering mushrooms but not been knowledgeable enough to risk it! Started growing our own in the garden as we love them sauteed. Blessed!

    • davenjilli lm profile image

      davenjilli lm 5 years ago

      I love mushrooms but have always been way to afraid to "find my own". My mother warned me early and often not to eat the yard mushrooms. It is probably a good thing she did LOL

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

      Excellent information! I don't personally eat a lot of mushrooms, but my family does. Sure wouldn't want to harm them in any way.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

      Excellent information! I don't personally eat a lot of mushrooms, but my family does. Sure wouldn't want to harm them in any way.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      great article, I'm what you would call an eater of the mushroom, I use to hunt for them during the hunt season in Iowa. Sure was fun. I always prefer my omelets to have mushrooms and even my pasta dishes too. Happy I found this, well done, does stink for the people who died from eating it from the chef however.

    • profile image

      espresso1020 5 years ago

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    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Excellent lens! As a vegetarian I've always tried to eat plenty of mushrooms because of the levels of B12 they contain - I'd be very wary of picking my own though!