Sabtu, April 13, 2013

Wild mushrooms come with a warning

Morels 2011 003
Photo by Brenda Palmer
A morel found in the central Pa. region. This is a non-poisonous mushroom that looks much like a poisonous one.
by Brenda Palmer
April kicks off wild mushroom season in Pa. For those that like to forage for wild mushrooms, April is when the famed morels can be found.This brings to mind the tragedy that played out in Calif. this past November when a caretaker accidentally fed poisonous mushrooms to the elderly in his care at a senior care facility. Four people died of liver and kidney failure.
The mushroom that killed them was Amanita phalloides (Death Cap mushroom) which is common in Central Pa. In fact, the three most deadly mushrooms in world are common in Happy Valley. The top three deadly mushrooms are: Death Cap (Amanita phalloides), Destroying Angel (Amanita virosa) and Deadly Gallerina (Gallerina autumnalis).
The toxin amanitin is in all three of the deadliest mushrooms. Symptoms of poisoning by this toxin usually appear within 6 to 24 hours after ingestion, but could be as long as 48 hours. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea lasting for one or more days. 
A short remission takes place, and then the pain returns with liver dysfunction, jaundice, renal failure, convulsions, coma and often death.  It is treatable, however, and patients can recover in a week or two, sometimes requiring a liver transplant.
Bill Russell, mushroom authority and author of the Field Guide to Wild Mushrooms of Pa. and the Mid-Atlantic, said that he sees toxic mushrooms all the time when he’s giving guided mushroom walks.
Russell said that he comes across the deadly poisonous species “very often.” The most common toxic mushrooms Russell said he sees novice foragers confusing false morels for morels and jack o’lanterns for chanterelles.
Chanterelles and jack o’lantern mushrooms have several notable differences, but until these have been shown to you and you’ve gotten to examine different specimens, it is not that hard to confuse them.
For those who have to learn the hard way, ingesting jack o’lanterns will make you vomit, but they are not life-threatening. If you consume false morels by mistake, you may experience dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting or nothing at all—or it could kill you. These mushrooms contain the chemical monomethylhydrazine (MMH). When ingested, enough MMH can cause coma and death.
It is impossible to say how much MMH any particular mushroom contains, so purposely eating false morels, as some individuals have, is literally playing a gastronomic Russian Roulette.
There is some conflicting information about wild mushroom edibility.
One example from the 1902 text The word “edible” beneath it. “The Audubon Mushroom Field Guide” App for iPad says Ramaria formosa (formerly known as Clavaria formosa) is poisonous.
The confusion is easy to understand when some mushrooms give some people gastric upset but not others, even when eating from the same batch. Sometimes a person who has eaten a particular variety for years may all of the sudden become ill from that mushroom.
The Huffington Post reports 1,700 mushroom-related illnesses in Calif. in 2009-2010. Statistics in Pa. for wild mushroom poisonings, however, are sketchy and not well-documented. Frequently, illnesses are attributed to general food-borne illness and not to specifically wild mushroom poisoning.
Dr. Joel Haight, MD, of Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Hershey Medical Group in State College, says that mushroom toxicity is not common.
He explained, “There is no specific test to diagnose mushroom poisoning. It is based on the history of wild mushroom ingestion.”
If you’ve consumed wild mushrooms and become ill, always tell the physician and bring a sample of the mushroom if you can.
The North American Mycological Association (NAMA) warns people from other countries not to make assumptions about New World species.
A poster circulated by NAMA shows a skull and cross-bones with the words, “Warning! Picking and eating wild mushrooms can kill you!” in the native languages of people known to have been poisoned by eating mushrooms that looked like those they ate in their homelands.
NAMA also keeps an easy-to-find list of volunteers that can be called to identify mushrooms in case of a poisoning.
It all sounds pretty daunting, but if you follow some rules, you can enjoy finding wild edibles, most of which you cannot buy in a store.
Only a handful of varieties are able to be cultivated. The health benefits, nutritional value and ecological value of the fruiting body of fungi that we call the mushroom are still not understood and appreciated.
When starting out, find an expert to show you the ropes. Buy one or more field guides for Pa.
Learn how to take a spore print to help you identify mushrooms.
Cook them.
The first time you try a new mushroom, only eat a bite or two.
If you’re not certain of your identification, then don’t eat it.
Bill Russell will make himself available for mushroom identification again this year, Mondays at 1 p.m. starting sometime in April at Webster’s Bookstore and Cafe.
The Central Pa. Mushroom Club meets monthly for walks and mushroom identification.
The North American Mycological Association lists local clubs and events.
Brenda Palmer is the president of the Central Pennsylvania Mushroom Club.

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