“Incredible Inedibles: A Colorful Last Meal”
Story & Photos by John Vonderlin & Dawn Vonderlin
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Here’s the second part to the Mushroom posting I sent you earlier. While my first posting was about local “Incredible Edibles,” this posting is about an “Inedible Incredible,” found in our coastal forests, “Amanita Muscaria.” I’ve attached a photo of me in my “Amanita Hat,” photographing
some unidentified local mushrooms. I’ve also attached a few pictures my brother’s wife, Dawn, sent me, of some “Amanita Muscaria,” that popped up in their cranberry bog.
To me, amongst the local-deadly-mushroom cabal, they are a relatively harmless member. Like so many other things that are toxic, they look like they are, making them less deadly. Like the fear-inspiring, but deadly-interaction-preventing rattlesnake rattle.
It is hard for me to visualize somebody going, “Yum, that fiery-red, blister-covered mushroom sure looks scrumptious.” I suspect the “Moth-to-the-Flame Syndrome,” might be involved in most poisonings associated with this loudly-announcing, “I Want To Be Left Alone,” fungi. This Wikipedia article explains the facts about this fungal hand grenade, Enjoy. John
Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly Amanita is a poisonous and psychoactive basidiomycete fungus, one of many in the genus Amanita. Native throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, Amanita muscaria has been unintentionally conveyed to many countries in the Southern Hemisphere, generally as a symbiont with pine plantations, and is now a true cosmopolitan species. It associates with various deciduous and coniferous trees. The quintessential toadstool, it is a large imposing white-gilled, white-spotted, usually deep red mushroom, one of the most recognizable and widely encountered in popular culture.
Though generally considered poisonous, Amanita muscaria is otherwise famed for its hallucinogenic properties with its main psychoactive constituent being the compound muscimol. Used as an intoxicant by the Koryaks of the Kamchatka Krai of eastern Siberia, the mushroom has had a religious significance in Siberian culture and possibly also in ancient Scandinavian culture. The American banker and amateur ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson proposed the fly agaric was in fact the Soma talked about in the ancient Rig Veda texts of India; although this theory has been refuted by anthropologists, it gained common credence when first published in 1968.
The common name in English is thought to have been derived from its European use as an insecticide, sprinkled in milk. The fly-killing agent is now known to be ibotenic acid. Another compound isolated from the fungus is 1,3-diolein which is an insect attractor. An alternative derivation proposes that the term fly- refers not to insects as such but rather the delirium resulting from consumption of the fungus. This is based on the medieval belief that flies could enter a person’s head and cause mental illness.