A Guide to Toxic Mushrooms

I have a mushroom obsession.

Button mushrooms.

The working class button mushroom,

Shitake mushrooms.

the flamboyant shiitake

Chanterelle mushrooms.

and the lavish chanterelle all have a place on my plate.

The hardest to find and most sought after mushrooms are indeed illuminating foodstuffs.

A prime example of a rare, expensive and highly prized mushroom is Amanita toomuchmascara, commonly known as “The Cheap Date.”

The chef at the world-famous Chanterelle restaurant in New York once served A. toomuchmascara to to the Dalai Lama.  His Holiness was so overjoyed with the mushrooms he anointed the chef with the title “Bodhisattva” as well as repairing the chef’s watch. The ironic name for this treasured mushroom, “The Cheap Date,” stems from its aroma that is reminiscent of boxed Chardonnay and has the flavor of ramen noodles.

Amanita awkwardchair

However, some mushrooms are highly poisonous.  For instance, the Amanita awkwardchair, or False Comfort Mushroom, resembles the common button mushroom.

 The False Comfort, if eaten, has a toxicity that affects the brain. Whoever consumes A. awkwardchair will suffer the delusion that they are a piece of wicker furniture.

As a result, to satisfy my mushroom fixation and obtain the forest jewels without a trip to the emergency room, I decided to take up mushroom hunting.

I bought Toxic Mushrooms: A User’s Guide by renowned mushroom hunter Kinoki Hongo.  However, due to a formatting error, the publishers combined the text of Toxic Mushrooms: A User’s Guide with Kankei Ong’s best selling relationship book Toxic People: A Guide to Users and Abusers.

Undaunted, I headed into the forest to comb the floor in search of the most uncommon and sought out fungi. Nonetheless, to locate the divine, one most know how to forage out the hellish.

Below you’ll find the toxic mushrooms that damage your relationships, ruin your self-esteem and probably leave the car windows down, even though the forecast calls for rain.

Russula thisisallyourfault Common name: Tank Top Tantrum   

Identification marks  The deep to pale scarlet cap and white stalk makes this species easily recognized.  It is quite fragile.  As such, this mushroom becomes irate with no warning and you are always to blame. 

Edibility/Compatibility  Edible and moody.  The older literature reported R. thisisallyourfault as poisonous but when cooked properly, R. thisisallyourfault is palatable until it has had a few drinks too many.

When and where  It fruits in the summer or after a bad day at the office, usually blossoming at the dinner table. 

Observations  This is a variable species and one that is frequently misidentified. To the outside world, R. cantankerous appears easygoing and pleasant.  You’re never sure what triggers its bad temper and bullying tendencies.  The best way to deal with a bully is to confront the tormentor.  Most bullies intimidate out of fear and nothing scares a bully like synchronized swimming.  When confronting R. thisisallyourfault, a swim cap and a tube of lip gloss are sufficient to make the toadstool dry up and back down. 

Parasola youcouldcallonceinawhile  Common name:  The Fainting Matriarch

Identification marks  The cap is heavily ribbed and initially egg-shaped, then convex and finally flat.  A distinctive central “eye” contrasts with the cap.  This “eye” glares at family members to instill feelings of inadequacy, disappointment and the sentiment, “I gave birth to you and this is how you show your gratitude.”

Edibility/Compatibility  Generally regarded as inedible unless you call on Mother’s Day.

When and where  May to November in meadows or grassy areas. Frequently on the sofa with one arm draped over the eyes.  Also found in the emergency room complaining of chest pains after you bring home a date with a tattoo.

Observations This ink cap species is a decomposer that fruits at night after rain.  It eventually collapses under the weight of its caps and bring down the closest family members with it.  P. youcouldcallonceinawhile keeps you in control not just by inducing guilt, but also creating shame.  It manipulates with ultimatums such as, “If you really loved me, you’d roll Easter eggs.”  Before you confront P. youcouldcallonceinawhile, look at your own actions.  Then, look at your own stillness.  Then, look at taking banjo lessons.

Lactarius youbelongtome  Common name:  No Contact by Phone, Text or E-mail

Identification marks  This mushroom in the milk fungus family is easy to recognize by the golden tawny to brownish orange dry cap and the milk-white latex which stains the gills brown on exposure to air.  It starts the relationship nice and courteous, frequently bringing office supplies for Thanksgiving.  Office supplies become sewing kits and soon L. youbelongtome is under the table, stitching your socks to his pants.

Edibility/Compatibility  We have no information on its edibility.  L. youbelongtome has destroyed all evidence of people who have eaten it.

When and where  Grows under conifers, especially well rotted wood, in late summer and early fall.  Also found peering into bedroom windows late at night and early morning.

Observations  Of the milk fungi, this is the easiest one to identify with field characters-the beady caps and shadowy stature is characteristic. Over time,  L. youbelongtome will eventually allow no person in front of, next to or behind their partner and will walk down the street pirouetting and spinning in circles.   When confronting L. youbelongtome, give a clear message that you are no longer willing to participate in their mind games.  This message is best delivered by a large man in a silk suit named Vito. 

Armillaria youcanquitanytime  Common name:  My Way or the Highway

Identification marks  The flesh is white to watery tan.  The cap is convex at first, becoming shallow and depressed with age and time with the company.  Can be loud and obnoxious or quiet and repulsive.  Often seen placing orange traffic cones in hallways to control workplace flow. 

Edibility/Compatibility Cases of poisoning have been linked to eating this mushroom or taking lunch without written permission.  

When and where Grows in clusters on hardwood roots, specifically maple and oak, in late spring and early fall.  Often found hovering over your shoulder imitating a stopwatch.

Observations  It pops up quickly, seemingly out of nowhere.  A. youcanquitanytime is parasitic in nature, especially on the roots of trees or on more qualified employees.  Will ask you to finish work at home.  Then finish work at Home Depot. Then read “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Often communicates using trained gerbils. When dealing with A. youcanquitanytime, you may have to assert yourself.   Use the element of surprise but be professional. Invite A. youcanquitanytime to a tap dancing recital under the ruse that it’s an animal themed costume party.  When he arrives in a lemur costume, inform A. youcanquitanytime that he’s responsible for of counting the taps. 

Coprinopsis cantyoutakeajoke  Common name: Bra Snapper

Identification marks  The cap is egg shaped, becoming conical and then flat and the edges turning upwards when old.  It is grey-brown and short-lived, much like the reception to their humor. Attends parties wearing lime green T-shirts with the caption, “My girlfriend is out of town.”

Edibility/Compatibility  Inedible and the caps are so insubstantial that they’re not worth trying.  Should be avoided in places where megaphones are handy or in locations that obey the laws of gravity.

When and where   Grows on wood chips, compost heaps and vegetable scraps from autumn to winter.  Also found near the bar at office holiday parties and the liquor cabinet at family gatherings. 

Observations  The generic name Coprinopsis indicates that this mushroom genus is similar to the genus Coprinus, which literally means “living on dung.”  C. cantyoutakeajoke frequently orders their partner to wiggle their nose like a bunny or stuffs pieces of Honeydew melon in their pockets.  Above all, C. cantyoutakeajoke seeks attention but is easily distracted by the words “Chicken nuggets.”

If you enjoy mushrooms, please like and share this post and feel free to leave a comment.

A special thank you to Michael Orzechowski for designing the book covers for Toxic Mushrooms: A User’s Guide and Toxic People: A Guide to Users and Abusers.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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