Published about twice a year from
by Herman Brown
Back to HOMEPAGE
As before, I have included dialogues between
some of the members of the Mycological Society of San Francisco (mssf.org),
of which I am a member. There is always lots of information shared by
the members, and this issue treats two of those discussions: Should
I eat Mushrooms Uncooked?, and Pinophilus or?,
which is about the changing names for mushrooms.
As of July 16th, It looks like the Spring
Season has about ended for mushrooms in this area, even though it seemed to
last about a week longer than normal. As was typical of
most of the other areas, this season started with encouragement and then
dropped to disappointment. I and many others feel that it was the late
snow followed by the unseasonably warm weather, that caused the light
fruiting. Most of the morels we
found earlier this year were naturals, and the collection window for the
Spring King Boletus was shorter than normal for this year, even with
the week-longer spring extension.
However, there were some good days, as you
can see by my reports that follow. - Herman
18 to July 7
Sunday, May 18: Yesterday I received
an email from a friend who lives in Chico, asking me if he and his wife
could come up for a morel hunt with us. I enthusiastically said YES!.
On Sunday, Cecelia and I took them to some
of the spots we hadn't checked two days ago (at 4400 ft., near Lake
Almanor), and each of us found a few at all of the spots except the first
The first spot was a last-year's logging operation, and we saw no
morels. Later, we also took them to another spot higher up (around
6000 ft.), but there was still too much snow.
We also found 3 of the delicious,
almond-scented, yellow-staining Agaricus, the Agaricus albolutescens, for
which I later traded a few morels for the Agaricus that they had found.
Our last stop was an area that Cecelia and I had just checked two days
ago, and we still found a good batch there.
The extra eyes really helped to locate the
Almost all were found in full sun. I
expect that, as the rest of the ground warms up, they will start appearing
more in the shadier areas.
The weather was sunny, the company was
great, and I think we all had a pleasant Sunday.
Monday, May 19: Took a walk around
some property located above town at 4400 ft to check the area where the
had done some thinning of the trees last year. First I checked their
green lawns to see
if the Marasmius oreades (Fairy Ring Mushroom) or Blewits, had come up
(about 1" in diameter)
No Marasmius yet, and the few large Blewits I did
find were already too old, but as I got out of the truck, I saw several
tiny sun-dried morels in the gravel driveway. As I walked around the
yard, I found several more morels, in all states of conditions - dried, fresh, and
pretty old. Some older ones were at the edge of a marsh and very
soggy. As I walked along, I found a bunch of Verpa conica (Thimble Morel), and because I
hadn't seen them for years, I had to get help from
the experts with
the ID. These had smoother caps than I remember, and the
stalks seemed much too short.
After collecting a small bagful of the
morels, I checked the area where the thinning had been done, but found
I am beginning to think that the
"naturals" come up sooner than the ones found in disturbed
Wednesday, May 21: Today I briefly
went back to an area where I had previously found a few Verpa Conica, as well as a small bag of morels. This time I
concentrated mainly on finding the Verpas, as I was determined to get a
taste. I actually found enough, plus a few more morels that I missed
Monday, these being in the center of a short gravel road.
All the Verpas were found in a grassy area
at 4400 ft. under various conifers, and seemed to favor the more moist areas.
When I got home, I cleaned the Verpas,
cooked them in a little butter with a dash of salt and pepper, and found
the taste and texture quite good. After the taste, I added 2 eggs
and made a very enjoyable batch of scrambled eggs.
I feel that they are worth collecting for
the table if you can find enough of them. I found about a dozen,
most all without much of a stalk.
Thursday, May 22:
I had hopefully
predicted that the late spring rains would bring out a good crop of
morels, and I think I was right!
Today, we collected 4 pounds of morels in
less than 4 hours, mostly pretty large and fresh. We also found one
tennis ball-sized Gyromitra gigas/montana and one Agaricus albolutescens,
both two of my favorites for edibility.
These were all found at about 4400 ft., in fairly clear areas that got lots of sun and that were
undisturbed. We started looking in an area about which we had just received
a tip and looked in the disturbed areas there first. The first ones
we found were in a sunny location next, to but separated from, the disturbed
areas. Once we concentrated on searching over similar areas, we found
lots of them. For the next few stops, we looked in some areas where
we had checked about a week ago and again found lots of pretty large ones.
I guess we will be busy rechecking the rest
of the old spots!
If you want to see two pictures of today's
find, go to:
(one morel near Cecelia's foot)
morels2.jpg (a shirt-full)
Friday, May 23:
Today we decided to
recheck some of the disturbed areas at 4400 ft., in hope that the
morels were finally coming out there. They were, and we found over 3
lbs in 4 hours.
Sunday, May 25: Today we went to
check out the Storre fire area, to see if all the extra spring rain had
helped bring out any morels. We approached the area from Lake
Almanor, and went into a part of the fire zone where all the trees were
The ground was much too dry and void of any
duff, so we went back towards the edge of the fire zone. There we
concentrated on being near creeks, and finally found a few morels.
We decided then to go back to 4400 ft., to some of the areas we had checked earlier and where
there had been some logging more than a year ago. Here we did pretty
good, finding morels in the same spots we had checked previously only a
few days ago.
Today's total was only 3 ½ lbs, but as
always, it was an enjoyable way to spend the morning and early afternoon, walking
in the forest, having a picnic lunch by the lake, and even finding
We now know to check the disturbed areas
more carefully, and there are lots of them pretty close to the Lake.
Thursday, June 5:
I took a friend with me to check out a few
of my boletus spots to see if these boletes had come up yet, and we found
several, most being 3" in diameter.
We also found several large, bright yellow
amanitas starting to emerge, with a thick white patch on the top,
sack-like vulva, and white annulus, which I finally decided as an A.
Tuesday, June 10: Today we went up
towards the town called Mineral, to check out a campground which usually
yields a couple of mushrooms. This time we were mainly looking to
see if the Boletus pinophilus were out yet.
We found no boletes, but did find a few
fairly large Calvatia sculpta and a small batch of Cortinarius
magnivelatus, one of the corts with the enclosed gills. I figure the
campground will be much better to check in about a week.
I was supposed to meet with a couple from
Fresno later that day, so I could take them to a couple of my Boletus
pinophilus spots at 4400 ft. I had just been picking boletes
at the same spots 2 days ago, but it seemed like they were growing so fast
that we would find at least a few.
We all actually did pretty good in the
short time we searched, as it was close to 7 pm when we started. The
couple was thrilled to find any at all and were planning on consuming them
tonight, along with one of the Calvatia sculpta that I gave them.
A few of the boletes we saw were pretty
small and already beginning to dry up, so it appears that the moisture
level in some areas is dropping pretty fast.
I'll probably wait until Thursday morning
to check the same spots again. Hopefully some of the areas will still be
Thursday, June 12:
Today I decided
again to go back to my Spring King Boletus (Boletus rex-veris) spot, to see
if anything had come up in two days.
I found about a dozen. But some were
too wormy to take, and most were softer than I like to use for cooking so
I dried them all. I gave a few to the local pharmacist for him to
I started out with my finding one small but
mature one, so I felt this would be it for the season. But as I
looked around more carefully, I saw more mounds, some that were where I
had already traveled in my first pass. The last one was right next
to the truck, and I'm surprised I didn't trip over it the first time I
Under a large elongated mound, I also found
some very nice Yellow Coral Mushrooms (Ramaria rasilispora), but
left those behind.
So my advice then is, if you have any
favorite spots where you have picked the Spring Kings before, at around
4400 ft., I'd check, and recheck, them daily if you can, as soon as you
can, as they are getting softer day by day.. The higher elevations
still might fruit a bit later or be fresher than those I found today, as
what that I have been finding are almost about 2 weeks behind schedule.
In fact, Yuba Pass still might get a late crop, and we may even check it
out ourselves if we have the chance.
If you want to see pictures of a
before-and-after Spring King Boletus mound, go to moundbefore.jpg
If you want to see the last large one
(turned out to be too wormy) I found by the truck, go to bycar.jpg
They all look best if you can set your
browser for full screen view, and they are only about 56k each in size
(10-11 seconds download time with a 56kbps modem).
The beer bottle was for sizing and was just
some of the litter that I collected in my basket that day. The collecting
basket isn't the one I usually take either. It was much too small so
I had to empty it before I did the last pass through.
Sunday, June 15: This afternoon, I
got a call from a friend who lives at the other end of Indian Valley, to
tell me that the big puffballs were out again in her back yard.
I went to her yard to look and she showed me three
medium-sized Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantia). This was the first
time I had ever seen them whole, and I brought all of them home with me.
A picture of two at the edge of her yard can be seen
The can next to one is a 6-oz can of orange
juice for size comparison. The one in the basket looks like two that grew
together. There was one more close by. She told me that they usually
get to the size of a soccer ball.
The other one looks like two of them
Big mistake bringing them all home!
These were far too many to cook. Next time she calls me I will probably only
I had rechecked my Spring Boletus patch
earlier that day, and now think that the season is over for that area,
which is around 4400 ft. The moisture level had dropped drastically
in the last few warm days, so I expect there will be no more fruitings.
Wednesday, June 18: Because my local
supply of Spring King Boletes seemed to have stopped appearing at 4400 ft.,
we went up to a campground above Chester, which is at about 6000 ft., as this
spot usually produces some when they stop appearing at 4400 ft.
As soon as we got into the campground,
Cecelia found four. One was medium-sized and whole, and two of the
other larger ones were nibbled upon, probably by a deer. None showed
any signs of bug infestation. The ground where she found them was
still quite moist, resulting in some very hard-to-clean mushrooms.
We found no others in the campground, but
will probably check there again in a few days.
So, I would venture to guess that our spots
at 6000 ft., and other areas at a similar elevation, could still yield some too,
as all I have been finding around this area are over a week later than
Monday, July 7: Today I took a
friend up to about 5100 ft., to see if the
Boletus appendiculatus (correction, the B. abieticola) had come out yet.
We didn't find any appendiculatus
(correction, the B. abieticola), but did
find a few Spring Kings, some Boletus regius, and some Yellow Coral
I was quite surprised at finding the Spring
Kings because it was so far into the season. I was also surprised
NOT to find any of the appendiculatus. I guess this season is really
later than normal.
Two of the Spring Kings were quite large,
but one was too far gone to collect and the other was mostly consumed by
another creature. Only one of the B. regius was fit to eat, and it and the
one good Spring King, were probably the firmest I have ever found.
But there was more than enough for a good
So, there might still be a some Spring
Kings out there at the higher and more moist areas.
Should I eat Mushrooms
The answer is no and yes.....
I had asked Steven Trudell (University
of WA) this question when he was visiting Dennis
Desjardin's, Spring Fungi of the Sierra Nevada class at
Yuba Pass this spring, because of something that had been told to me by Paul
Kroeger when we were at the Breitenbush Mushroom Gathering last
year. Steven confirmed what Paul
had said, telling me that raw mushrooms did contain some amounts of
carcinogens along with an indigestible (until cooked) substance found in
crunchy insects, so I looked up the topic on the Internet and found the
The following came from the Puget Sound
Mycological Society's online publication of Spore
Prints, issue #338, from January 1998:
EATING RAW MUSHROOMS CAUSES PROBLEMS
Jan Lindgren. MushRumors, Oregon Mycological. Society.,
March – April 1997
Most of us think nothing of eating a few sliced, raw, “store bought” mushrooms in salads, on hors d’oeuvre trays, or when preparing them for the frying pan. Usually the amount eaten is so small that we don’t notice any unpleasant symptoms, but it is not a good idea to eat any mushroom raw. I know the commercial growers will laugh and scoff at this statement and some of you will say you can eat lots of them with no problem, but researchers have shown that even Agaricus bisporus, the “store bought” mushroom, contains agaritine which metabolizes into a hydrazine.
Many hydrazines are known to be strong carcinogens and can be found in a lot of edible mushrooms. Cooking destroys some or all of the hydrazines, but the steam given off during cooking has been known to make some cooks ill. Besides this fact, the structural material or cell walls in mushrooms is made of chitin, and humans don’t have the ability to digest this derivative of cellulose. The body can do several things to this undigested chitin. It can expel it by vomiting or send it the other way with diarrhea. Small amounts may pass through the gut with other food and go unnoticed, or it may stay in the gut where bacteria will work on it causing bloating, gas, and other discomfort. Cooking does not destroy chitin but may ease its effect. Once in the habit of eating A. bisporus raw, people think they can eat any mushroom without thorough cooking, and this is where they may experience some very unpleasant symptoms. In February, a case recorded at the
Oregon Poison Center told of a woman who ate home cultivated, raw Pleurotus ostreatus with her lunch and experienced nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. While this may not be a serious health problem it could have been avoided. A better job of educating people about wild collected and cultivated mushrooms is necessary.
We assume that chefs at good hotels and restaurants know not to serve raw mushrooms, but this isn’t the case. You may recall that on June 8, 1991, about 70 people were made ill at a large banquet in Vancouver, B.C., because they were served raw morels and other raw mushrooms in a salad.
The spring verpas, morels, and brain-like mushrooms (Gyromitra) are notorious for their toxicity in the raw state and, for some people, in the cooked state. Please be careful and remember that drying is not a substitute for cooking and that folding sliced mushrooms into an omelet just before serving or pouring hot vinegar and spices over raw mushrooms is not efficient heating or cooking.
The best rule to follow is cook all mushrooms thoroughly before eating and eat them in moderation.
A good reference for more information about
mushrooms and health is
Mushrooms: Poisons and Panaceas by Denis R. Benjamin of Seattle.
Later, the same subject came up in the Mycological
Society of San Francisco (MSSF)
email group, and here is most of that dialog below, plus some final
comments sent to me by Joe Doughtery.
From David Rust:
I did an Internet search and came up with
this from a UC-Davis site:
Risk/plants-man.htm, Risk and Our Use
"Most hydrazines that have been tested are
carcinogens and/or mutagens. Large amounts of carcinogenic hydrazines are
present in edible mushrooms. The widely eaten False Morel contains
11 hydrazines, three of which are known carcinogens. One of these
hydrazines, N-methyl-N-formyl hydrazine is present at a concentration of
50 mg per 100 gm of mushroom and causes lung tumors in mice at the
extremely low dietary level of 20 µg per mouse per day.
"The most common commercial mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, contains about 300
mg of agaritine per 100 gm of mushroom as well as smaller amounts of other
related carcinogens. Agaritine is not appreciably destroyed by cooking and
when eaten, is distributed in tissues where it is converted to a diazonium
derivative which is a very potent carcinogen (a single dose of 400 µg/gm
of body weight gives 30% of treated mice stomach tumors)."
From Debbie Viess:
Don't sweat the conspiracy theories and just cook all
your damn mushrooms. Yes, even the "harmless" white button
mushrooms contain toxins when raw; Paul Stamets discussed their toxicity
in a cover article in "Mushroom, the Journal..." a few
years back. I never liked raw button mushrooms anyway, and would always
pick them out of a salad when they would appear. Different strokes. And
yeah, I know, some people will eat raw, thinly sliced porcini in a salad,
and even (horrors) raw amanitas of the coccora variety, but frankly I'm
not crazy about them either, despite my amanita proclivities. Of course,
none of these mushrooms are as toxic as Gyromitra esculenta, from which
the toxins can be reduced but never completely removed. Let the eater
From Peter Werner:
As far as I know, many if not most varieties of
mushrooms contain hydrazines that are present when raw, but volatilize
when cooked. (I'm not sure if drying also volatilizes these compounds.)
Additionally, there are quite a few varieties that contain hemolytic
proteins that denature once cooked - Amanita rubescens is one of these and
presumably A. novinupta may be similar.
Whether the hydrazines present in raw mushrooms really
increase one's carcinogen load enough to be concerned about is an open
question - there's simply been no epidemiological studies one way or the
other addressing the question.
From Larry Stickney:
Thank you, Peter, for the most sensible and reasonable
response to all this needlessly alarming talk about the dangers of eating
uncooked mushrooms, wild or cultivated. This noise has been going around
for a great many years, and while every individual has the right to his or
her own eating practices, there is simply no credible intellectual
evidence that raw mushrooms generally endanger human health.
As for rodents, I have seen many wild fungi that have
been munched upon by any number of them. In the alpine Tuolumne Meadows in
Yosemite Park I have watched deer eat Amanita muscaria, not eating
every one in sight, just chomping those which grew in the grassy spots as
they encountered them where they were browsing at the time.
As for hydrazine, one needs to understand the chemistry
of the compound before declaring all ingestion of the carpophores
absolutely life threatening. Ignorance of that information breeds
irrational fears in otherwise intelligent people whether they be peasant
pickers or PhD.'s in mycology.
I hereby designate my eventual remains to science for
the autopsilogical study of my tissues to determine the amount of mushroom
related carcinogens locked up in them.
From Dave Bell:
Well, there's certainly a lot to think about here...
The one that gave me the most concern is this, which
supplied the most numerical info:
>(from David Rust)
> I did an internet search and came up with this from a UC-Davis site:
> The most common commercial mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, contains
> about 300 mg of agaritine per 100 gm of mushroom as well as smaller
> amounts of other related carcinogens. Agaritine is not appreciably
> destroyed by cooking and when eaten, is distributed in tissues where
> it is converted to a diazonium derivative which is a very potent
> carcinogen (a single dose of 400 µg/gm of body weight gives 30% of
> treated mice stomach tumors).
I had to exercise some lax brain areas, but (neglecting
the conversion ratio of agaratine to the diazonium) I make that work out
to (from David Rust's comment above):
"About 1 gram of A. bisporus per 7.5 grams of mouse
weight gives 30% of the treated mice stomach tumors."
That sounds pretty scary, but I'd wager that most of us
fall in the range of 50 to 100 kilograms body mass. An effective single
dose at that rate would be between 14.7 and 29 POUNDS of raw A. bisporus!
Now, I love mushrooms, and even enjoy raw or lightly cooked A.b, but
somehow I don't think I ever have or will approach that dose...
What we don't know is the effect of long term
consumption of smaller amounts, or the differences between mice and men.
From Larry Stickney:
Thank you, Dave Bell, for providing us with specific
facts about the amount of poisons used in the experiments with mice to
produce their health problems. As usual, the amounts are extremely high
compared to body size and weight. It's a wonder the poor critters don't
die on the spot. Obviously no human is in a position to endanger his
health thusly. I hope this places a cap on this lively but highly
ill-considered proposition that eating uncooked edible fungi is a danger
to ones health. It may be only my own septuagenarian years which leave me
no concern about cell accumulations. Just how long do cells live before
they are worn out and removed and replaced anyway?
From Ron Pastorino:
> As far as I know, many if not most
varieties of mushrooms
> contain hydrazines that are present when raw, but volatilize when
> cooked. (I'm not sure if drying also volatilizes these compounds.)
As far as methylhydrazine is concerned, drying should get rid of
all of it,
assuming one dries completely. Water boils at 212F while methyl hydrazine
boils at 190F.
One should also consider how these mice studies are conducted. For
in one study cited by Benjamin on Gyromitra, mice were fed raw mushrooms 3
of 7 days for their entire life. They developed tumors, many benign, but
life span was not significantly reduced.
Dosage is the key to most anything in these type of studies. Many
foods contain chemicals that when isolated and fed to mice or other
animals in large enough quantities will cause cancers. This becomes the
for classifying any particular chemical as a carcinogen.
Now that we have one noble human volunteer for future
studies, perhaps a
few more will step forward....the Culinary Group should be a wonderful
storehouse of potential scientific data waiting to be
From Paul Staments:
Good remarks. Note that the hydrazine in question is
agaritine, and its immediate sub-derivatives, activated by
enzymes in your gut, are the culprit compounds. Please see pgs. 221-223 in
the 3rd edition (2000) of Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms. I
passed this chapter to 6 mycologists prior to printing for fairness and
accuracy, and they concurred it was on target. I still think it is right
Some notable points from my end of the court...
- Just as Ikekawa (1989) surveyed more than 100,000
people in Nagano Perfecture showing that Enoki mushroom consumption
resulted in lower than normal cancer rates, leading to the discovery
of flammulin, why is not there a survey of button mushroom farm
employees to see if they more or less than the local cancer rates ? We
all know that workers eat much more than the average consumer and if a
benefit or danger is present, it would logically show in
this population, all other factors being equal. I am sure the American
Mushroom Institute would be eager to do such a study....
- Although I am generally opposed to GMO's, I think
this is a good example that creating a non-agaritine strain of button
mushrooms would be economically and ethically attractive. First one to
do it, wins. This could be worth millions, and society may benefit.
Agaricus bisporus does contain aromatase inhibitors, which is
associated with decrease tumor growth in breast cancer development. If the agaritine issue was removed, we could have a medicinally
- It is my understanding that agaritines are localized
in the genus Agaricus, with our friend the Prince, Agaricus augustus, having the most, although other hydrazines
- as was mentioned - can be
found in other genera, especially Gyromitra. There was one report,
potentially a false positive, of a minor hit with shiitake.
- What I have read indicates that agaritines survived
boiling in water, mild cooking, and air drying. These are more heat
stable than hydrazines found in other mushrooms.
See my book for the references.
My 4 cents (sense).
From Joe Doughtery:
Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful replies.
It is interesting that Agaricus has such high levels of a hydrazine
derivative, I wasn't previously aware of this.
As with all studies of diet and its influence on
carcinogenicity, there are so many intermediate steps between a scary
chemical structure and actual human carcinogenicity that it is awfully
tough to detect a relationship even if there might be one. Agaritine
is not impressively carcinogenic in animal models or mutagenic in
bacteria. You could certainly find much more frightening info on,
say, celery, basil or black pepper, none of which I plan to forswear.
From its structure, agaritine is unlikely to be much changed by heating,
nor is volatile enough to be boiled off like methylhydrazine or gyromitrin.
It thus seems to me that the decision is to eat Agaricus or not, rather
than to eat only the cooked version. It is also possible that there
are other potentially toxic components in mushrooms that are less well
It would seem that Paul has a point, it should be
possible to breed Agaricus with an interrupted agaritin biosynthetic
pathway. I would imagine that this would be possible even without
GMO techniques, although the GMO methods might be better targeted and more
specific, particularly if the genes in the pathway have been cloned
(possible but unlikely).
Does anyone know anything about hydrazines or other
putative toxins in other genera? Boletes, for instance?
Herman's points about chitin are of course well taken.
Moderation and cooking seem to be the two best approaches there.
Thanks again to everyone, very interesting stuff.
From Kelly Ivors:
Hi Joe and others,
I worked on A. bisporus for my PhD work at
Penn State. What you are proposing is really not an easy task, without
lots of research dollars and time...breeding A. bisporus for an
interrupted agaritine biosynthetic pathway without GMO techniques would not
be worthwhile. Heck, breeding A. bisporus for any new trait is rather
difficult. That's why all of the current strains on the commercial market
are genetically similar. There was a genetic study done a few years ago
which showed that most all commercial strains of A. bisporus were
identical (and that most commercial companies 'borrow' each others
strains). That's why you don't see much variation at the grocery store.
Does anyone know what a secondary
homothallic species means? A. bisporus is secondarily homothallic.
That's why its species name is 'bisporus' (means 2-spored').
Most basidiomycetes come with 4 basidiospores on the basidium. On
the lamellae of the mushroom, basidia produce spores that are shed and can
germinate, thus completing the life cycle. It is only in the basidia
that the nuclei of opposite sex fuse in order to exchange nuclear
material. After this, 2 nuclear divisions take place, resulting in 4
nuclei, each with a unique genetic make-up. This process is called
Unlike in most basidiomycetes, those basidia in A. bisporus produce mostly
2 spores per basidium. This phenomenon hampers breeding
considerably. The 2 spores on the basidium each have 2 nuclei within
them. Hence, each spore of A. bisporus comes paired with compatible
nuclei. \This phenomenon is called secondary homothallism. Most
spores on the 2-spored basidia receive 2 non-sister nuclei. This leads to
the formation of mycelia containing nuclei with opposite mating types.
These heterokaryons produce fruit bodies. Because of this internal
fertilization, you can't breed this species without using rare A. bisporus
strains from nature that predominantly produce 4-spored basidia. I think
one of the strains they use for this is A. bisporus var. burnetti,
and this procedure has been patented. The reference for this explanation
Sonnenberg, A. S. M. 2000
Genetics and Breeding of the Button Mushroom
Mushroom Journal 608:19-25
So, now you know why there isn't much
variation in this commercial species. To my knowledge, They haven't been
successful in breeding new strains of A. bisporus that are resistant to
green mold (which would be the ideal strain to have), so why would you
think they could do this for agaritine production?
From Mike Boom:
Very interesting discussions on agaritine here, made even more interesting because as I type this I'm munching on a
raw Agaricus augustus, prince of agaritine bearers. I figure that nature
limits my agaritine intake by limiting me to a finding only a few augustus
a year (sob!).
The most disturbing part of the discussion
thus far for me is Kelly's report that almost all strains of commercial A.
bisporus are identical. This confirms my opinion of most commercial
bisporus as the stereotypical hillbillies of the mushroom world: sickly
inbred creatures devoid of taste. (Apologies in advance to any real
hillbillies who might be insulted by comparison to button mushrooms.)
I have encountered wild A. bisporus only
twice since I've been a mushroomer, and I've found them delicious. I hate
to think that they're outnumbered probably well over a thousand to one by
their sickly indoor cousins who threaten to overwhelm their wild strains
with escaped spores carrying insipid commercial genes. Maybe what button
mushroom geneticists should really be working on are strains that will
self destruct once they hit the forest floor.
Time for another bite of augustus,
From Lorrie Gallagher:
Today's food section in the Chronicle
features carpaccio, and alternative variations of it, in lieu of raw beef.
The cover photo is a salad of thinly sliced raw Portobello mushrooms &
other ingredients. I'm not really tempted. I got over the habit of eating
raw mushrooms years ago, though Mike Boom's lusty description of A.
augustus is wonderful.
And this from: Dr. Weil, www.DrWeil.com
Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2003 1:00 AM
Subject: Good Morning From Dr. Weil -- The Mighty Mushroom
Tip: The Mighty Mushroom
Mushrooms are a big favorite of mine, for
both medicinal and nutritional purposes. In general, I suggest the more
exotic varieties of mushrooms that are becoming increasingly available in
this country, instead of white or "button" mushrooms. These
latter kinds can contain natural carcinogens, which are not present in
If you are planning on eating mushrooms, try these two:
This delicious Japanese
mushroom has been shown to have anticancer, antiviral, and immune-system
enhancing effects. It may also reduce blood pressure and blood sugar.
Shiitake: These meaty and flavorful mushrooms contain a substance
called "eritadenine," which encourages body tissues to absorb
and lower the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood.
For medicinal purposes, I recommend:
A Chinese mushroom used
as a tonic and restorative. For health maintenance, take it once or twice
Strictly a medicinal
mushroom, reishi can improve immune function, reduce allergic
responsiveness, help protect the liver, may inhibit the growth of some
malignant tumors, and has significant anti-inflammatory effects. Follow
the recommended dosage, and take every day for at least two months.
Again, from Joseph Doughtery:
I am a bit surprised that Andrew Weil would
recommend Cordyceps. This mushroom contains decent amounts of
cordycepin, a nucleoside analog that looks pretty scary to me. It will
be pretty stable to cooking and so on, so this is another case of eating the
mushroom or not. "Health > maintenance" through eating
particular exotic mushrooms is an idea that I find troubles my Western
reductionist mind in any case, but that's just me, maybe.
Pinophilus or? (top)
The following dialog also came from the MSSF
email group, after I had mentioned my finding some Boletus pinophilus
on June 5th. It exemplifies some of the frustration
with both different common names used, as well as the changing
scientific names, for mushrooms:
From David Campbell:
When we stopped calling the mountain Spring Kings
"edulis", it helped to distinguish them from those other Kings
we so enthusiastically cull in the autumn from their mountain or coastal
habs. However, it has been my understanding that Boletus pinophilus
is a species known primarily from Europe that, while similar to our Spring
Kings, probably does not grow in the western US. Last I heard, the
name "rex veris" had been proposed in taxonomy circles as a
proper and distinct Spring King species moniker. Anybody have any idea
what the current status of the royal name game might be?
In the meantime, I think the only accurate and generally
agreed upon nomenclature would be the common name, as seems to be the case
with so many species these days.
David (still grumpy about calling Shaggy Parasols
I'll ask Dr. Dennis Desjardin, as he uses that
name in his Spring Fungi of the Sierra Nevada species list.
The Spring King Boletus here does seem very different from the coastal B.
edulis to me, and much different from the B. edulis that sometimes comes
out here locally in the fall. Maybe he has some insight, because one of
his students was doing some research on the "edulis" complex a
couple of years back.
The Sierra Spring King Boletus just might end up with
its own distinct name eventually, well as the B. edulis that grows up here
in the Northern Sierras.
From Mike Wood:
When compared to the true European Boletus pinophilus, our
spring Sierra porcini appears to be a distinct species. As far as I know, a
new name has not yet been published for this species. Boletus rexverna
("spring king") would be a good name for it. B. "rexverna"
is readily distinguished from our fall Boletus edulis (coastal or
sierran) by it's reddish coloration (that quickly fades when exposed to
sunlight), its tendency to often fruit underground and only show above
ground at maturity, and its typical habit of growing in clusters.
>In the meantime, I think the only accurate and
generally agreed upon
>nomenclature would be the common name, as seems to be the case with so
>species these days.
Of course that is a fallacy. NO names are universal and
unchangeable. The best name to use depends upon who are trying to
communicate with. I encourage you to use whatever name best communicates
the species to those you are addressing. If I tell you that I came back
with a basket of "spring kings", you would know exactly what I
mean. But if I told someone on the east coast that, they would have no
idea what I meant.
From Mike Boom:
A campground host in the southern
California Sierras once told me he like to pick "potato
mushrooms." It took me a while to figure out he meant spring boletes,
which look a bit like red potatoes, especially when they're underground
and they're a light pink, as they often are. "Common name" is
such a misnomer -- they're so often uncommon!
From David Campbell:
Well, dear Mikes,
I guess the potatoes, er, I mean the mushrooms remain
the same, but the names have been changed to confuse the innocent.
Of course we have to agree on our terms, know our audience, in order to
The first lesson I learned about the study of mushrooms,
probably from Louis C.C. Krieger's "Mushroom Handbook", was the
importance of learning the Latin names because common names were so given
to colloquialism, etc. Seems the jokes been on me, in so many
instances. Common names of commonly known mushrooms have generally
remained unchanged over the course of my mushroom tenure, while many genus
and species names have bitten the dust, sometimes more than once for the
I realize the taxonomic changes reflect dedicated
mycologists efforts to better understand the mushroom universe, and we are
privileged here in the MSSF and on this chat room to be apprised in a
timely fashion of the latest developments. It's just that back on
planet earth, I find it comforting to know a potato mushroom is still a
potato mushroom, by any name smelling so sweet.
From Mike Boom:
I agree completely. The problem with common names is not
their stability, it's their distribution, especially with mushroom names.
"Stumpers" in Montana mean oyster mushrooms but mean nothing
here in the Bay Area. Likewise the extremely limited distribution of
"potato mushrooms." The advantage of scientific names is that
they're propagated world wide so that -- in theory -- you can use them
everywhere as long as everyone keeps up to date.
As for stability, with the recent shift to gene
sequencing to determine common fungal traits, it's almost guaranteed there
are going to be some major changes in scientific names while common names
remain much more stable. In recent history blewits, matsutake, and coccoli
have all had much more stable common names than scientific names. Common
names aren't immune, though. As an example, black chanterelles seem to
have shifted to black trumpets recently.
As with all language, you use whatever works -- which in
the Bay Area is a rich and confusing variety of somewhat stable common
names and in-flux scientific names.
From Debbie Viess:
And don't forget the textural
differences between the "spring king" and edulis. The spring
king is so firm, I call it the "jicama bolete".
From Alvaro Carvajal:
There, finally, a mushroom name that makes sense and
than I can live with!
And here was the reply I got (and forwarded to the
group) from Dr. Dennis Desjardin:
Herman and David;
The current status of the Spring King
bolete remains as it has for many years...it is formally called the Spring
King! David Arora and G. Simonini (Italy) with the help of molecular
systematist F. Camacho, are threatening to formally describe the Spring
King as Boletus rexveris.....however, that formal description have not
been made yet. Until that is done, our morphological name for the
taxon is B. pinophilus...still listed as such in my key. I agree
that it is distinct from the real European B. pinophilus (although the
morphology really doesn't tell us that!), but until it is formally
described as B. rexveris, it will remain the Spring King. Hey, who
really cares? We all know it as the Spring King and we all know that
it is distinct from the fall B. edulis and the real B. pinophilus, so
what's the problem? Just call it the Spring King or hell, call it
porcini....that encompasses many taxa, and for the mycophagist, that's all
that really matters.
From David T. Bartolotta:
Rexveris is the most logical name, since it is VERY
descriptive, and that's the whole point of naming things. I've heard
the hard, round, young boletes called "bocce ball
mushrooms". Great name if you know what a bocce ball looks
like. However, I lump many mushrooms in one category called
"dinner". It satisfies my needs.
David T. Bartolotta
From Ron Pastorino:
I can't imagine anybody in the civilized world not
knowing what a bocce ball looks like. However, I've heard that up around
French Camp way the B. pinophilus is referred to as the "petanque
mushroom". Leave it to a francophile to overstate the
firmness of the Spring King!
And from me:
For an amateur like myself, it is sometimes frustrating
to think you have finally learned a mushroom's name correctly and find out
that it had been changed since the last publication of the book from which
you learned the name. The Snow Mushroom (or Snow bank False Morel, or
Bull nose, or Walnut, in Demystified) was one of the mushrooms that I
learned as Gyromitra gigas, and later found out that the species that
grows in the U.S. has now been named the G. montana, to distinguish it
from the European G. gigas.
And common names are confusing to me two, as the Pig's
Ears, in Demystified, refers both to the Discina perlata, as well as the
Gomphus clavatus. Sometimes, the common name is descriptive enough that it
seems like it shouldn't change, like a local common name for one of the
mushrooms that grows in Greenville, with the blood red latex and is
seemingly very popular here with the more mature locals, is called the
Sanguine, which compares pretty good to the previous scientific name,
Lactarius sanguifluus, but which is now named the L. rubrilacteus.
So not only can we "discuss" the
"correct" pronunciation of the scientific names, we can
"discuss" the "correct" scientific names, as well as
the "correct" common names.
It sure gives us fuel for interesting discussions, from
which I hope we all gain something!
Featured Mushroom, the Boletus
I usually find a few of these
Red-capped Butter Boletes each spring near the end of the season and
occasionally into summer. I find the taste kind of bland, and the
texture softer, compared to the B. appendiculatus, for which it almost looks
the same except for the red cap color. They actually look much like the
Spring King Bolete, except for the bluing nature of the pore surface and
flesh. All of these have reticulations (netting) on parts of the
For a direct link for this mushroom on
the Mykoweb site, complete with
pictures, go to:
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