Food & Drinks

Best ways to find out about the poisonous mushrooms

As a food, the mushroom is quite popular across various parts of the globe. Commonly eaten in semi-cooked or completely cooked forms, it has found its way amongst some of the best delicacies. The fun part is about its flexibility of usage in different types of meals i.e. breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But, not all types of mushrooms are edible.

In simple words, the mushroom is a part of the fungal kingdom and hence needs to be consumed carefully. The first step that needs to be checked is its edibility and conditions that would not hamper upon the overall health of the individual. Thus, the upcoming content speaks in more detail about one of the commonly declared poisonous strains- amanita muscaria.

Briefing on the specimen

Amanita muscaria, popularly called fly agaric is one of the commonly found strains from the genus of Amanita. It grows in the temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere and is highly notorious for easy spread as parasites to newer locations. This happens due to the strong symbiotic relationship with pine and birch trees and their easy growth in other parts of the hemisphere.

It is declared as a non-edible and poisonous strain due to the composition of neurotoxins called ibotenic acid and muscimol. They act as hallucinogens first and then finally spread to destroy the nerve cells. And another issue lies in the close similarity to the edible mushrooms, often confusing. 

But, it is not impossible to differentiate between these and certain identification marks draw the fine lines.

The identification marks

The following defines the best characteristics that can be used to segregate the amanita muscaria from edible mushrooms:

  • The first line of sight is the color of the mushroom cap, which can give the benefit of the doubt. Since the spectrum of the Amanita genus lies in red, orange, yellow, and white, therefore the same looking into either of these can form the primary mark to doubt on the edibility. Of course, it does not present the full-proofs of further properties. 
  • The next thing that can be looked upon is the cap shape and structure. This strain has an umbrella-like cap in form of a wide and upside-looking U and marks different protrusions on the surface. So, look out for this and it would further strengthen the identification of the notorious one.
  • The next thing to confirm the identity is the dryness of the cap. All of the Amanita mushrooms have dry caps and the basic touch can make you feel different than the conventional ones (which feel wet or a bit slimy).  In case of the mushroom being exposed to rain, keep it out to dry in the sun and check if the water is retained by the cap or not.
  • The off-color scaled appearances on the cap can finalize the identity and prove out its inedibility. These appearances are either brown or red and create raised dots on the surface. In simple words, even after washing the mushroom, the layer does not wither off the cap and adheres to it with a strong bond. 
  • Uproot the mushroom and look at the structure of its roots. If you find any bulbous structure on it, then the same belongs to Amanita (since the edible ones lack this structure and wither off any tiny ones by simple washing). 
  • As a final piece of evidence, cut off any mushroom cap and look at the gills in the bottom surface. The characteristic of the poisonous strain lies in white or off-grey colors that can be identified. 

However, if you find any difficulty in doing so, then go for a small exercise. Take up the cap and press it against a dark paper overnight. In the morning, remove the structure and you would find white impressions of the gills on the paper. 

Therefore, a combination of either of these points would help you out in finding the difference between edible and inedible mushrooms. Have a proper assessment of these to prevent any further health deterioration.

On an ending note, the number of casualties reported for Amanita is quite less. But it is always better to take precautions and ensure out the differences.  

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