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Mushrooms – The Yummy, the Hallucinogenic and the Downright Poisonous

So you like mushrooms, do you? You have tasted a variety of them in your favorite dishes and now you want to emulate those creations at home? As someone who is working more and more toward going off the grid and not having to rely on the supermarket for every little thing, the idea of harvesting your own is appealing, isn’t it? Maybe you aren’t ready to jump headfirst into becoming a mushroom farmer and you are more than content to pick up those you find during your hikes and try them out. If you like them, you thought you might start out small and plant just a few of the many varieties you like. That is good, gradual is best, but… Let’s go back about five steps.

Although ordinarily this might be a great plan of action when deciding whether to grow most crops, such as strawberries, spinach, squash or lettuce. If you wanted to plant any of the aforementioned and went to your local nursery for seeds, this is relatively easy, right? You might ahead of time look either on the Internet or through a book you purchased and it would tell you based on your region in the world strawberries will thrive but bananas will die when the ground is covered in snow. We call this planting for our zone, right? After all, if you make a mistake, your bananas (which prefer sub-tropical and tropical climates) will never make its way out of the ground and will just become one with the dirt. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, nobody died, right? What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger or at least in the case of farming, more knowledgeable. Today’s “oopses are tomorrow’s successes” after all.

Acid Trips and Death – No Fun!

Such is not the case with mushrooms. Or rather more accurately stated, one misstep and you are on your way toward an acid trip of the type Albert Hoffman and Sandoz Laboratories were able to emulate in chemical form and that which was often the inspiration behind the brilliant and insightful prose of Hunter S. Thompson and other novelists alike. Although you may not have been looking to step into another dimension, you will live, perhaps with a few flashbacks years from now as a reminder of your experience. If only that were the sole consequence one need concern oneself with when picking up ‘interesting’ looking mushrooms on one’s hike through the woods.

The wrong mushroom can be poisonous. Ingestion of the poisonous type can leave its eater with a host of symptoms that include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Stomachache
  • Loss of coordination
  • Death

It is this last one that sort of sticks in your craw, doesn’t it? Mine, too! The good news is this: There are really only three types of mushrooms that will kill you and they are:

  • Amanitas (account for 90% of mushroom-related deaths annually in the US)
  • The false morels
  • The little brown mushrooms (LBMS)

The bad news? According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, there is no simple way to avoid them, which would include a quick test, such as peeling back the cap and looking for something specific.

Their best advice is to:

  • Only eat what you are familiar with, as they say, “When in doubt, throw it out!”
  • Avoid at all cost any mushroom that looks like an amanita. These are parasol-shaped with white gills)
  • Eat them while they are fresh – ingesting a rotting mushroom can make you sick and kill you

Some Health Benefits of Mushrooms You May not Have Known About

When I was growing up, my mother told me that mushrooms contained no nutritional value. Although they delight the taste buds and enhance a meal, whether it be Chinese, Japanese or French that is their purpose.

It might surprise you to know that many varieties contain the following:

  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Biotin
  • Thiamine
  • Dietary fiber
  • Protein
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Selenium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus

If that weren’t exciting enough (not sure about you, but knowing that mushrooms don’t just taste good but are also good for me thrills me no end), is that mushrooms also have myriad medical uses. Among them are clinical studies ongoing for shrinking cancerous tumors, treatment for type II diabetes and immune system boosting. Western medicine is often slow to embrace ‘new’ technologies; this is nothing new. Asians had hundreds of years ago discovered the medical benefits associated with mushrooms. And how did they? Recognizing that mushrooms produce excess amounts of Vitamin D when they are exposed to UV light and that Vitamin D is a natural enemy of harmful microbes and work very hard to promote healthy bones, the Chinese put ‘two and two together’ and started using them to medicinally treat everything from brittle bones to rickets. Studies are proving their usefulness in osteoporosis, which could alter how researchers are currently treating this condition that affects both men and women as we age. So, not just yummy, but beneficial to your health are these mushrooms!

Mushrooms You Already Love and Some You May not Have Been Introduced to

Here is a list of mushrooms that are not only safe, but also fall into the yummy category.

  • Black morel
  • Common morel
  • Half-free morel

There you have it: although in reverse order, the yummy, the hallucinogenic and the downright poisonous mushrooms. If you’re really interested in growing your own, one place to check out is Mushroom Adventures. There is a lot of information, advice, and growing instructions on the website.

Please let us know whether this article was helpful for you. We welcome your comments.

© 2008-2014 Off The Grid News

2 comments

  1. Laura, the Morels are my new ftaerivos honestly. I had them for the first time this year, and they blew me away. : )

  2. I like to take Crimini Mushrooms (brown colored – look like a button or white mushrooms) separate the caps from the stalks (this isn’t necessary as the stalks are tasty also, but I like to freeze the stalks and save them for vegetable stock, soups, gravy, etc.). I slice the caps, fry them with a little olive oil. Then add an egg with the yolk broken, and a dash of pepper. I cook untill the egg hardens and eat it on a bun or as sandwich filling.

    It’s easy and tasty.

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