The early colonists of Australia were mainly of British origin and they brought with them the trees with which they were familiar. Such trees include pines and oaks. With these trees came the fungi that were associated with the roots of the trees. There are quite of few of these fungi that have now become established in various areas in Australia. One of these is the infamous Death Cap, Amanita phalloides.
Because of the lethal consequences of eating Amanita phalloides, people have a natural caution about eating anything in the Amanita genus. This includes some of the most enthusiastic mycophagists, including myself.
I had not been aware of any edible Amanitas in Australia until I heard of Amanita rubescens. It occurs in the Adelaide hills and in Queensland and probably in places in between. My encounter with it was in the Adelaide hills. It was growing in a park filled with oaks and pines and in this case I believe it was growing on the oaks. Here is what it looks like in its various stages of growth.
Some important general features are the lack of a volva at the base and the presence of ‘warts’ on the surface of the mushroom. When it is broken open or cut, the white flesh and gills take on a red/pink colour as shown in the next picture.
There are not too many mushrooms that this could be confused with. The main one that crops up in the literature is Amanita pantherina. A distinguishing feature of A. rubescens that sets is apart from A. pantherina is the presence of striations on the annulus. These are shown in the picture below. You can also see the pink colour of the broken flesh of the cap there.
This mushroom is known to contain a toxic, haemolytic protein that is destroyed by cooking. This in mind, I cooked some up on a barbecue until they were quite soft. In fact they were so soft that they did not really appeal much. This being my first taste of a new mushroom, I tasted the cooked material without swallowing it. The taste reminded my a bit of Volvopluteus. I have read reports that it is better cooked hard until it starts to brown. This is the case with many other mushrooms.
It is scary eating an Amanita for the first time. People who I know and respect regarding edible mushrooms in Australia cannot bring themselves to eat this one. My caution was brought into sharp focus the next morning when I felt decidedly ill. I don’t actually think that this was the mushrooms, as I had felt a little ill the night before with food from the place where I was staying.
I will try this again, next time with hard cooking.