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  • I've been eating wild mushrooms all my life.

    My grandmother, who was from Italy and who ate dandelions and other wild plants, taught me as a young child to eat the common field mushrooms which are like the ones in the stores--only outdoors. We also ate some kind of fairy-ring mushroom, but I no longer know which kind. Later, I learned to eat morels, puffballs, shaggy manes and Coprinus (Inky caps) and later yet, chicken of the woods and hen of the woods. At some point, many years ago, I got some mushroom books and started learning and eating other mushrooms.

    I avoided white mushrooms with veils. Or any all-white mushrooms. I avoided anything I could not positively ID.

    So far, so good.

    I went to college at ESF (The SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry.) I remember learning that some mycology professors had DIED by collecting multiple kinds of mushrooms and cooking them up at once. We were told this by several professors several times--but the story seems odd, now that I have done more research.

    These days, if you eat poisonous mushrooms, even the Destroying Angel, and get to the hospital on time, quickly, before too much damage is done to liver and kidneys, you have a reasonable chance of being saved--not everyone is saved, but some are. I won't write about that here, but you can read about it online if you're interested.

    I am working on a novel that came from my cogitating about those professors who died. It is called Death Angel. I don't think posting serial novels works well on Cowbird--too hard for most people to follow. And it would only be worse, if I posted TWO at once, LOL!!! :-D.

    I have friends who also collect wild mushrooms. On our recent trip to Maine, we stopped to visit friends in New Hampshire and ate wild mushrooms there. The photograph shows my friend Heidi with her husband Ken's find of hen of the woods--yum--we ate it in gumbo. Mmmm.

    I have other friends who refuse to eat wild mushrooms. They will only eat mushrooms purchased at the supermarket. One friend remembers an incident where I messed up. I used to teach courses in survival and courses in wild edibles. We had collected a bunch of puffballs and other wild edibles and were making a meal for the class at the end. In all the rush and confusion of sorting everything that was collected and preparing the meal, we (I) forgot to cut all the puffballs in half to ascertain that they did not have gills.

    Later, that thought occurred to me, and I mentioned it to my friend. While I felt reasonably confident that the puffballs were all puffballs and not destroying angels, I wasn't absolutely positive. I wasn't sure what to do--I didn't want to alarm 30 people unnecessarily and have them all rushing to the hospital, so I spent a nervous couple days worrying. No one got sick, but my friend has never eaten another wild mushroom since then. It's my fault.

    However, that experience has not stopped me from eating wild mushrooms. I just cut every puffball in half. I did, however, stop teaching classes that involved group meals at the end. Too bad. Loved those flower fritters.


    This story is sprouted from Kathy Weinberg's story, "Devil's Snuff Box"

    It is also dedicated to Heidi and Ken Chester.
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