Monday, September 21, 2015

September 21, 2015 - The Death Cap

Isn’t it pretty?  Sitting all by itself.  A pretty green mushroom has emerged from the even greener moss.  It sits in the center like a purposeful decoration.  It’s unmistakable.  I had to take a picture as it called to me across the path.  “Look at me!  Aren’t I the prettiest mushroom you’ve ever seen?  Pick me and take me home!”

The Death Cap (Amanita phalloides).

It would have been my last meal on Earth if I’d taken this mushroom home and fried it up and eaten it.  This is Amanita phalloides, known better as the “Death Cap.”  These are greenish mushrooms, usually a more olive drab sort of color.  You can see the olive in the center, but as the mushroom has aged and opened up completely, its color has faded outward until almost white at the brim.

The Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) along with the Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera) are the culprits involved in most of the deaths that occur from mushroom poisoning.  While the Destroying Angel is native to North America, the Death Cap is not.  It is a European mushroom, but evidence of it being in North America was confirmed in the 1970s, most likely imported with various woods carrying the spores.  In any event, the Death Cap is now part of the mushroom scenery in North America in late summer and fall.

The Death Cap has been implicated in the assassination of emperors and popes.  One half of a cap is enough to kill a person.  It is reported to be pleasant-tasting, and the initial problems are only some gastric upset and nausea, which could easily be attributed to anything.  But in the several hours it takes to realize that you might have more than a tummy ache, irreversible damage will have been done to your liver and kidneys.

And so . . . avoid the pretty green mushrooms with the white gills underneath when you see them.  Don’t listen to a word they say, no matter how much they flatter you.  Even if they promise to be good, you must leave them where they are and keep on walking.  The Death Cap plays for keeps.

(This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as culinary advice.  If you are not intimately familiar with mushrooms, err on the side of caution and do not collect or eat them.  This article is also not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any ailment.  If you need medical advice, seek a physician.)  

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