Monday, August 3, 2009

Calvin's Things to Avoid: Eating a Death Cap Mushroom

Let me introduce you to the deadly Death Cap Mushroom. (Amanita phalloides). This single, widespread species of toadstool is solely responsible for the majority of fatal mushroom poisoning cases, worldwide as well as here in the United States. Indeed, one might argue that the Death Cap's notorious and frequent victimization of Homo sapiens is far and away the best explanation for the widespread fear of edible wild mushrooms.

This mushroom is rare in most parts of North America but locally common in such areas as the Northern California and Oregon, where it is typically found from mid-autumn through late winter. Primarily, this mushroom is a European species, there is no evidence that the Death Cap is native to North America. It seems to have been brought to North America in the roots of transplanted trees from other parts of the world, but made a successful foothold here on this continent, esp. on the West Coast. Ecologically, it is a beneficial mycorrhizal fungus as it lives on the roots of live trees, providing phosphorus, magnesium, and other nutrients to the tree in exchange for carbohydrates.

Death caps have been reported to taste pretty good! After eating them, the symptoms are slow to show themselves and often do not appear until 10-16 hours (or even longer) after eating. The timing given above is approximate, for much depends on the general health of the individual and how much they’ve eaten. For example, if you’ve eaten a large meal of Death Caps the symptoms could start as early as 6 hours after the meal.

The first symptoms are stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea. These may continue for a day or two, after which there is typically an easing of symptoms and apparent recovery. The "recovery" period may last for 2 or 3 days. Then the terminal phase of 3-5 days starts with the re-occurrence of stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea - accompanied by jaundice. Without effective, early medical intervention, coma and death occur between one and two weeks after eating the mushroom. Death is caused by liver failure, often accompanied by kidney failure.

For most patients in whom diagnosis is accomplished tardily, full recovery to their states of health prior to hospitalization is very unlikely.

In general, is it really dangerous to eat wild mushrooms?

How dangerous is it to drive a car? If you're drunk or careless, it is VERY dangerous; if you're sensible and pay attention, it is reasonably safe. Consider this: Would you pick and eat an unfamiliar berry simply because it "looked good"? Of course not. Finding, identifying, preparing, and eating wild mushrooms can be a delightful pastime—IF it is done intelligently.

So, continue to hunt and forage for wild edible mushrooms! Just be sure what you are putting into your mouth will not kill you!

Special Thanks to David Fishcher's - a great source for mushroom information! Be sure to check it out!!

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