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"rule of thumb" to tell if something is poisonous  RSS feed

 
Cynthia Carter
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Hi, Peter! I would love to grow mushrooms but am a little nervous about tasting them. Is there any "rule of thumb" about how to tell if something is poisonous. What is you advice for someone who has never grown her own and does not want to poison herself?
 
Neil Layton
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Cynthia Carter wrote:Hi, Peter! I would love to grow mushrooms but am a little nervous about tasting them. Is there any "rule of thumb" about how to tell if something is poisonous. What is you advice for someone who has never grown her own and does not want to poison herself?


If in doubt, ask an expert, but it is possible to obtain spawn from reputable suppliers, with instructions for inoculation. It's a pretty safe bet that what then comes up is an edible species (although somebody, somewhere, will react badly to just about anything: this applies especially to mushrooms, many of which have an interesting biochemistry, so always try a little first to make sure you don't react to it), especially if it looks like the picture.

There is an urban myth that if the cap peels it's edible. Yeah, the death cap (Amanita phalloides) peels, and it's aptly named. Actually, to be on the safe side, avoid any parasol-shaped mushroom with white gills unless you bought it somewhere reputable.

Also, don't eat Little Brown Mushrooms: there are too many similar ones.

One of my favourites, the ink cap (Coprinopsis atramentaria) is edible, but drinking alcohol will change that.

A couple of people not too far from where I live mistook web caps (Cortinarius rubellus, formerly C. speciosissimus) for an edible species, and ended up in intensive care for severe renal failure. Fortunately they didn't share their find with the kids.

There are plenty of poisonous mushrooms that look like edible ones.

Other rules of thumb that can get you killed include:
* If another animal eats it, it's fine (nope)
* Peeling it removes the poison (ahah)
* All brightly coloured mushrooms are poisonous (sometimes: I like wine caps (Stropharia rugosoannulata), and this is a good beginner's mushroom, but the sickener (Russula emetica) fits the bill)
* If it smells good, it's edible (not necessarily: Jack-O'-Lantern (Omphalotus olearius) is to be avoided).

Your best bet is to learn from an expert, in the field, and not guess.

Ever.
 
Cynthia Carter
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To Neil Layton:

This is the first time I have ever tried to reply to someone on a forum. I hope I am doing this right because I really would like to let you know how much I appreciate your long reply! The bottom line is that I need an expert to help me at first as I do not have a clue about which are edible and which are poisonous. Rest assured, I will not nibble until I ABSOLUTELY know what I am doing. Thanks again!!
 
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