Poisoned by an Edible Mushroom?

By Debra Shankland

A friend who is somewhat new to collecting and eating wild mushrooms, and who is wisely cautious in this endeavor, recently passed along to me a couple scientific articles reprinted from journals. I found one article very typical in that it examined issues of mushroom poisoning related to misidentification. But another article proved fascinating!

Titled “Edible mushroom-related poisoning: A study on circumstances of mushroom collection, transport, and storage,” it was published in Human and Experimental Toxicology 2015, Vol. 34(7) 718-724. Authors Gawlikowski, Romek and Satora examined the files of 457 adult patients admitted to Krakow’s Department of Clinical Toxicology with wild mushroom poisoning from 2002 to 2009.

That the amanita species (A. phalloides group) were responsible for most of the toxic species poisonings was a yawner. But this statistic made me sit up straight: out of the 457 cases of mushroom poisoning examined, 400 were caused by EDIBLE species. That’s 87.53%! Why? Incorrect processing after harvest.

Something as simple as using a plastic bag, as opposed to a basket and perhaps waxed paper, to hastily collect and store a serendipity find. Something like neglecting the weekend’s harvest until Tuesday. Something like taking Sunday’s yummy leftovers to work for lunch on Wednesday.

That’s right. We’ve all dabbled with danger. Some have tales to prove it. Some may have no idea where their ‘tummy ache’ came from at the time…

Of those 400 edible species poisonings, the main culprit was long-term (2 days or more) storage of prepared mushroom dishes. This was followed by collecting and storing wild-collected mushrooms in plastic bags, storing freshly-collected mushrooms for 2 days or more, high ambient temperatures during harvesting (that’s 77 degrees F or more), or keeping them in the car or campsite at 77 degrees or more for more than 3 hours, or just eating old and beat-up mushrooms.

Please, folks, food poisoning is serious! Now that August is here, high temperatures combined with high humidity is a given. This is a bad combination for collecting wild berries and wild mushrooms. It’s best to overlook that “motherlode” you spied on your way to work unless you can care adequately for such a gift from nature. Practice restraint when in the field, and only take what you can process quickly. No need to be greedy–leave some mature and perhaps overmature specimens where they grow to complete their natural purpose.

Harvest and treat wild mushrooms like the treat they truly are. Take only what you will use today, give your harvest the best of care, double-check the identity, and promptly freeze or use leftovers.

Don’t be poisoned by edible mushrooms!

 

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