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Ever eaten wild mushrooms? should I be scared??

OK, caution is one thing, irrational paranoia another. Yes, there are some deadly poisonous mushrooms out there, but as with other risks it can be avoided. I get the impression from many of these posts that people believe that EVERY wild mushroom is potentially dangerous, that every time I eat a chanterelle or a honey mushroom or a king bolete I am taking a risk. This is not true. It is like saying that because grocery stores contain bottles of deadly poisonous liquids (like drain cleaners) we are taking a risk every time we buy a carton of milk or a bottle of orange juice. There are many good edible wild mushrooms that are more difficult to confuse with poisonous ones than than it is to confuse Drano and orange juice. (As an aside, fear of wild mushrooms was intentionally inculcated into the American mind by commercial mushroom growers after WWII, who even managed to get anti-wild mushroom material included in school curricula across the country).

People die from mushroom poisoning every year. Far more people die each year from eating improperly cooked or stored food. The difference is that the chanterelles I collect I positively know will not kill me, while I can't be quite as sure of the leftover I just took out of the fridge or the next meal I eat out.

There are some good edible mushrooms that do closely resemble poisonous ones. These are best avoided altogether unless they can be positively identified (ironically, supermarket button mushrooms-- young Agaricus bisporis, are one of these). There also are a number of wild plants that closely resemble deadly water hemlock. There is no more reason to avoid the good, easily identified wild mushrooms because of this similarity than there is to avoid wild strawberries or raspberries.

Nov 12, 2012
Hematite in General Topics

Ever eaten wild mushrooms? should I be scared??

The same advice goes for any food at all. Mushrooms are not especially dangerous.

Fatal mushroom poisoning actually is not very common-- far less common than fatal food poisoning from eating E. coli or Salmonella contaminated meat or produce. The vast majority of 'bad' mushrooms produce nothing more than an upset gut and perhaps a nasty bout of vomiting. Of course there ARE lethally poisonous mushrooms, just as there are deadly poisonous berries and green plants, but avoiding poisonous mushrooms is no more difficult than avoiding any other food danger. Anyone who can learn to distinguish a raspberry from a strawberry is more than capable of distinguishing a delicious chanterelle from a deadly destroying angel. What poisonings do occur generally are the result of people pushing their luck, or of using knowledge of European or Asian mushrooms to identify American mushrooms.

Jun 11, 2008
Hematite in General Topics

Where to buy dried porcini mushrooms? (KC)

Try foraging for them yourself. They do grow in your area, and are not at all difficult to identify. None of the boletes (mushrooms with a spongy undersurface rather than gills) are dangerously toxic, and the few that can cause nausea and cramps are easy to spot and avoid. There is one wild bolete that closely resembles porcini that you need to avoid. It's not poisonous but it is unbearably bitter. It's easy to tell if you have one of these by tasting a small piece.

A problem with buying dried 'porcini' in markets like Whole Foods is that they rarely are the true porcini Boletus edulis (aka, 'king bolete' or 'cep'), but usually are one of the less flavorful but more abundant other edible boletes. True porcini typically are large mushrooms that are dried in slices, not whole. The undersurface of their caps (where the gills would be on other mushrooms) ranges in color from white to medium brown, but never should be dark brown or black. The flesh always is creamy white. This contrasts with the small dark brown dried boletes that I see sold as porcini in markets. While perfectly edible and tasty, these are not true porcini and will not have the same flavor.

Like morels and chanterelles, porcini from the east coast and midwest tend to be better than those found on the west coast. If you can find a place near you where they grow, not only will you be getting your porcini free, but you'll be getting better porcini than you could buy.

What should I do with tons of chanterelles?

I had the same "problem" a few years ago after collecting 60 lbs of golden chanterelles in New York (they are very common east of the Mississippi in elm and beech forests).

Dried chanterelles preserve all of the flavor and aroma of fresh, but are best used crushed or powdered.

My favorite way of preserving them is to fill a big pot with them, add some salt, a bottle of white wine and a few teaspoons of oil (to help capture the volatile compounds that give chanterelles their aroma), and cook them for about 20 minutes. Be sure that the pot doesn't boil dry, which shouldn't be a problem because the chanterelles will release liquid while cooking.

Squeeze a lemon onto the cooked chanterelles, toss them a few times and pack them into sterile mason jars (1 or 2 quart work best) leaving an inch or so of head room. Divvy the cooking liquid between the jars and then top the jars off with extra virgin olive oil. Cover the jars tightly, shake a few times to knock air bubbles out from between the chanterelles, and refrigerate.

This is not canning, but really a kind of pickling, so you do not need to maintain absolute sterility during the process. The acidity of the wine and lemon juice acts as a preservative and, combined with the large amount oxygen present in the jars, prevents the growth of dangerous bacteria. Chanterelles (or any mushrooms) preserved in this way will last over a year in the refrigerator. I'm still using some that I prepared almost two years ago. They are delicious as is, or can be used in place of fresh chanterelles in recipes.

Black pepper and thyme are good additions. These, and any other herbs you decide to use, should be cooked along with the chanterelles, rather than added uncooked at the end, to avoid microbial contamination that could lead to spoilage.

Jun 11, 2008
Hematite in Home Cooking

Coral Mushroom Namul (Ban Chan)

Thanks for posting this. Coral mushrooms are extremely abundant in eastern forests from June through October, and I've been looking for a way of using them

Jun 11, 2008
Hematite in Recipes