Just recently, in our newspapers and on the news there’s been a story about how a lady cooked a meal of mushrooms for her guests, allegedly poisoning them, ending in hospital admissions which sadly led to the subsequent demise of three of her guests.
But what is this little mushroom that can cause so much strife?
Commonly known as the ‘death cap’ (Amanita phalloides), it is a deadly poisonous fungus and is distributed around the world and sometimes introduced into new regions through cultivation of some native species of oak, chestnut and pine.
The caps are generally greenish in colour with white stripe gills and resemble some edible varieties that are commonly consumed by humans.
‘Amatoxins’, the class of toxins found in these mushrooms, are ‘thermostable’. That is they resist changes due to heat, so their toxic effects are not reduced by cooking.
Phalloides are one of the most poisonous of all mushrooms, it is estimated that as little as half a mushroom contains enough toxins to kill an adult human. The main toxic constituent is ‘Amanitin’, which causes liver and kidney failure.
‘Osha straw’ mushrooms, also known as Chinese mushrooms or paddy mushrooms are the general ones sold in stores, they can be canned or fresh. They look similar to the death cap and there have been a few times in Australia where people have gone out into the forest or paddocks and picked the wrong type, with some paying for the mistake with their lives.
The more mature paddy straw mushroom has pinkish brown gills with no ring on the stem, whereas the death cap has white gills and a ring around the stem.
Native to southeast Asia, these ‘good mushrooms’ have the ability to compliment a wide range of dishes, from stir-fries to soups and salads which has continued their wide demand in both traditional and modern recipes.
In their natural state these mushrooms start at pin head size, gradually growing to a tiny button then onto a larger button size. The egg stage is next, where the cap although closed starts to push against the veil from within thus creating a bulging egg shape. The next stage is elongation where the mushroom cap emerges from the egg shaped structure and elongates allowing the gills to be exposed. The final stage is maturity, the cap is fully extended and the gills are open and visible.
Straw mushrooms are nutritious, full of flavour and are good for you. They provide plenty of vitamins and minerals and are also a source of dietary fibre which aids in digestion and contributes to feelings of satiety. (satisfying the appetite).
Often the larger stores have boxes of mushroom spores, together with the medium to grow them, which you can try at home, generally a darkened shed or garage is suitable.
I’m told that they mature in about 7- 10 days and are pretty fast growing.
Maybe this could be the way that you could garden if you don’t have room outside. Any surplus could be given to friends or family. For around $30 dollars you could start mushroom farming yourself….. Just don’t grow the death cap ones!
Source: Majority of information was gained from various parts of the internet