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A GUIDE TO… WILD MUSHROOMS #1

POISONOUS MUSHROOMS

Mushrooms are delicious, and even better, they can be free. In recent years there has been a growing interest in foraging for mushrooms, championed by celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver. But it is important to know what mushrooms you can and cannot eat to make sure that you stay safe. And so, without further ado, here is our guide to the poisonous mushrooms you should NOT eat.

1. THE DEATH CAP

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Introducing… the most poisonous species of mushroom found in the British Isles. This mushroom is deadly poisonous, if you eat it there is no known antidote and ingestion is usually fatal. The Death Cap is responsible for the majority of fatal mushroom poisonings worldwide. Symptoms may not occur immediately after ingestion, but take a few days take affect you. The toxicity is not reduced by cooking freezing or drying, so be VERY CAREFUL when foraging, not to pick one of these.

The Death Cap has a white stem and a streaky pale olive green cap. After collecting, the mushroom may have a sickly smell. The Death Cap is common and can be found on the ground in deciduous and coniferous woods.

2. THE PANTHERCAP

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This mushroom is very poisonous. It has a brownish cap with white warts on it and a collar like roll of voval tissue at the top of the basal bulb. The panthercap is found in both deciduous and coniferous woodland. Do not eat it.

3. THE COMMON INKCAP (AKA. TIPLER’S BANE)

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This can be eaten but is POISONOUS when consumed with alcohol – hence another common name, Tippler’s Bane. It is a widespread and common fungus. Clumps of Common Inkcap arise after rain from spring to autumn and are commonly found in urban and disturbed habitats such as vacant lots and lawns, as well as grassy areas. The grey-brown cap is initially bell-shaped before opening, after which, it flattens and disintegrates. The flesh is thin and the taste mild

Symptoms include facial reddening, nausea, vomiting, malaise agitation, palpitations and tingling limbs, and arise five to ten minutes after consumption of alcohol. If no more alcohol is consumed, they will generally subside over two or three hours. Symptom severity is dependent on the amount of alcohol consumed.

4.  THE FLY AGARIC

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Introducing… the quintessential toadstool. This mushroom is large, white-gilled, white-spotted and usually deep red in colour. It is one of the most recognisable and widely encountered mushrooms in popular culture and is poisonous and psychoactive, although deaths from its consumption are rare. A fatal dose has been calculated at an amount of 15 caps. Now primarily famed for its hallucinogenic properties, the Fly Agaric is generally common and numerous where it grows, and is often found in groups. Fly Agarics are known for the unpredictability of their effects. Depending on habitat and the amount ingested per body weight, effects can range from nausea, twitching and drowsiness, to mood changes and euphoria. In serious cases of poisoning it can cause delirium, confusion, seizures and coma.

Interesting Fact: Biblical scholar John Marco Allegro controversially proposed that Roman Theology was derived from a sex and psychedelic mushroom cult in his book The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.

5.  THE POISONPIE MUSHROOM

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This mushroom is commonly known as poison pie or fairy cakes. It is a common mushroom, found in open woodland and heathland in summer. It is poisonous, causing vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pains. It has a pale tan cap, pale grey-brown gills and thick white flesh. The fungus has a radish-like smell and a bitter taste.

6. THE SULPHER TUFT

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This is a common woodland fungus, often found where there are no other mushrooms. The Sulpher Tuft grows in large groups on stumps, dead roots or rotting trunks of broadleaved trees. It is poisonous and consuming it can cause vomiting, diarrhea and convulsions. It is smooth and sulphur yellow with an orange brown centre and whitish margin. It grows on the dead wood of both deciduous and coniferous trees.

7.  THE BROWN ROLL RIM

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Introducing… The Poison Pax. This mushroom is deadly poisonous. Its effects are cumulative over time. It may be eaten without any apparent symptoms on several occasions and then cause an extreme allergic reaction and haemolytic anaemia, which may be fatal. Found in heath land and deciduous woodland, it is dull brown in colour.

8.  THE BEECHWOOD SICKENER

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This red or pink mushroom is poisonous, causing gastric symptoms. Found in beech trees it is easily recognisable. Do not eat it.

Next time, a more positive guide to the mushrooms you can (and should) eat…

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