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  • The mushrooming season is about over here in the Northeast, but elsewhere fungi are frolicking. Just today, my Turkish father-in-law skyped us from his isolated retreat 900 meters upslope of the Mediterranean Sea to show us some. I've picked with him, but he only knows one type that's safe to eat, Lactarius deliciosus. (Despite the name, not everyone appreciates their taste.)

    Seyfettin had found four kinds of mushrooms on his property that he couldn't identify, even with the help of a handbook I had given him. He only speaks basic English and I tourist Turkish, so my wife had to listen and talk for me. Together we proceeded to try to ID his shrooms.

    I inspected his specimens as he held them up before his computer. The fuzzy video stream did not make positive identification possible, so I had to ask, through my wife, things like did that one grow on trees? Were there clusters of them? Are the gills broad or narrow? Are they the same color inside as outside?

    The specimens looked like they were all past their prime, so eating them might not be advised. But as there were more outside, I wanted to help him know if any might be comestible.

    I was pretty sure that the biggest one was some type of oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus, most likely) but I thought he said it grew from the ground, not from a tree. Oysters hardly ever sprout from soil because they devour wood. Here's its underside.
  • He also had something like a chanterelle (some sort of Cantharellus), yellow top and under, but too blurry for me to see the vein structure that is a key characteristic. The next picture shows the yellow one's underside.
  • Next he showed us several specimens that looked like puffballs (Lycoperdon, probably L. perlatum). I was quite sure what I was looking at, and asked Seyfettin to slice them open to see if their interiors were a solid mass without structure (just to be sure they were not Amanita buttons). One was white within, the other one pale yellow. I told him he could eat the white one, but to toss the yellowing one because eating aging puffballs can make you pretty sick. The next picture shows that the torn-open puffball is indeed white inside.
  • He has another white mushroom with dark spots, which he said was attached dirt from growing under leaf duff. I suspected it was Lactarius piperatus, which has to be pickled to eat because it is so peppery raw and even cooked. I asked Seyfettin to bite off a small bit, chew it and spit it out. He said it wasn't peppery, but a minute or two later he said his mouth started burning and went to get a shot of water. Here's that specimen.
  • We texted him the Latin names in Skype so he could get them right. Then he looked them up on Wikipedia in Turkish translation. I told him to be careful; maybe just cook small pieces of the oyster, chanterelle and puffball to see how they tasted, but not to eat much. We don't know what he did then, but I'm sure he won't get sick if he followed my instructions.

    It was late for him and I don't know what he did after we signed off. We'll ring him tomorrow to see if he's OK.
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