There was a great turnout for Dr. Michael Beug's talk
to the Sonoma County Mycological Society this past
Thursday night. Michael is currently the head of the
North American Mycological Association's toxicology
committee. Aside from the usual amanita suspects, he
shared with us many interesting nuggets of information
gleaned from decades of data contained
within the NAMA North American Mushroom Poisoning
Of particular interest to me:
*eating blackening russulas can be fatal(!)
*the darker the cap of an Amanita pantherina, the more
toxin contained within.
*there is no difference in the incidence of Gyromitra
esculenta poisonings across the continent, i.e., you
are just as likely to get ill from eating
G. esculenta in CA as you are in Michigan, and this is
no mere stomach ache: gyromitrins/MMH can cause liver
damage, cancer and death! So much for the myth of the
less toxic mountain forms...
*the spate of deaths caused by eating Pleurocybella
(Angel wings) in Japan several years ago occured only
within a population of people that already had
weakened kidney function, and who, in fact, were
already on dialysis. There was also an unusually heavy
fruiting of these mushrooms that year. Angel wings are
a very popular edible in Japan, and much greater
quantities than normal were consumed.
*orange-capped Leccinum species not only can cause
poisonings, but, in some cases, serious poisonings of
very long duration, with GI effects lasting from a
week to ten days! (As an interesting aside, Beug
mentioned to me that about a year ago, he had just
reassured one of his college classes that Leccinum
manzanitae, one of the orange-capped leccinums, was
perfectly safe to eat. When he returned home, he found
an email from me that told of my daughter
being poisoned by this very mushroom!)
*in 2003, morels were the most frequently reported
cause of mushroom poisoning(!).
*handling Suillus can cause dermatitis in susceptible
*Amanita ocreata is the most toxic of the amatoxin
containing amanitas, with 100% of ingestors showing
liver damage, and 80% kidney failure.
*eating raw mushrooms of any kind blocks protein
uptake, a kind of "anti-nutrition".
Cook all of your mushrooms well, and eschew raw ones
in your salads.
Don't eat Gyromitra esculenta, period.
Don't eat white amanitas (even though some of the
edible species can have white forms); too easy for
that one little mistake to be your last.
Don't pig-out on mushrooms. Less is more. Although
they are nutritious and flavorful when cooked, the
chitin and cellulose are indigestible, and many
mushrooms accumulate toxins from the environment. As
top chain predators, so do we.