Editor’s Be aware: I’ve stated this so much within the feedback earlier than, in particular person and within the physique of this submit. Let me say it yet another time, proper up right here at first: Until you’re an skilled mushroom hunter and you may 100 % establish this mushroom, DON’T EAT IT. I wrote this submit for different consultants, not for simply anybody to suppose they’ve discovered A. muscaria. That is severe stuff, of us. Mistake this mushroom for an additional amanita and you possibly can die. Critically. ~Hank
No mushroom presents extra of an enigma than the fly agaric, Amanita muscaria. It’s the most recognizable mushroom on the planet, and is broadly often known as the hallucinatory ‘shroom liable for Alice’s journey into Wonderland and fairly presumably our beloved photographs of a red-suited Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.
I’m not into hallucinations. Or abdomen cramping, for that matter. So for years I let this lovely mushroom cross on my mushroom hunts. Till final weekend. We have been ostensibly attempting to find porcini, Boletus edulis, however as any king bolete hunter is aware of, the fly agaric is actually a pink flag indicating that a porcino is likely to be nestled close by: They flush across the identical time, in across the identical place. And the place we have been on California’s Central Coast there have been hundreds of muscaria, a pink tide within the woods.
As we walked, choosing porcini and different fantastic boletes, I started having a nagging dialog with myself: you possibly can eat these amanitas, proper? Sure, however don’t they want all types of loopy processing first? Most likely. However you’ll by no means get a greater likelihood to experiment than with this flush proper right here, proper now. OK, OK. I grabbed a separate bag and commenced choosing.
I crammed a grocery bag very quickly. The truth is, I may have crammed the again of my pickup with muscaria. However I additionally had an enormous haul of porcini, the prize of the day. So I handled them first. My dehydrator ran morning and evening for days. I made porcini powder, dried quarts of porcini, made porcini risotto, and even gave some contemporary ones as Christmas presents. All of the whereas my sack of amanitas lay uncared for within the storage.
I got here up for air a couple of days in the past and determined to do a little analysis. I’ve a number of mushroom books. Most say that amanita muscaria is poisonous and hallucinatory. A number of name it lethal toxic, which appears to be a stretch contemplating there are fewer than a handful of confirmed deaths by this mushroom and all have extenuating circumstances. (A aspect notice: fly agaric seems to be enticing to canine and cats and might kill them in the event that they eat it, so hold it away out of your pets!)
There may be additionally, apparently, a complete trendy subculture devoted to tripping on this mushroom, and its use in visions dates again hundreds of years — particularly amongst those that dwell within the boreal forests of the north.
That is the place Santa is available in. My colleague Greg Marley, whose glorious ebook Chanterelle Desires, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms goes into this at size, says that fly agaric has been a logo of yuletide happiness in Central Europe, Russia and Scandinavia for hundreds of years, calling it “a pink mild shining vibrant within the winter darkness.” And the folks of the North, as any mushroom hunter is aware of, are mad about mushrooms.