Archive for Edible Fungi

Vascellum pratense – an edible puffball

A very common sight in lawns in autumn in WA is Vascellum pratense, a small white puffball that grows no more than about 50 mm across.  If you pick one of these when it is new, the interior is white and is has a mushroom smell.   Later on the inside becomes a mass of brown spores that emerge through a hole in the top.  The sheer quantity of spores released by these mushrooms is so vast that one can only imagine the success rate of germination and formation of a new colony is extremely small.   Investigations of other puffballs support this conclusion.

As it is rather difficult to photograph this mushroom in situ, I have taken a few pictures of one that I have picked.  Here it is as it has been freshly picked from a lawn:

Vascellum pratense as picked

Vascellum pratense as picked

When cut in half, the mushroom shows two distinct zones:

Sectioned specimen showing two zones

Sectioned specimen showing two zones

The upper surface has a fine warty texture:

Texture of upper surface

Texture of upper surface

Examining a specimen day after picking, the outer surface takes on a slightly gold colour if it is rubbed hard with a finger.  The inside flesh also shows a very faint yellow when bruised.

To eat these, it is recommended that they be picked before the top zone begins to turn into a spore mass.   In other words, while the flesh is all white.  They are not considered to be a particularly desirable edible.   I fried some up in oil, where they browned very quickly, and then incorporated them in an omlette.  The taste was not unpleasant.  There did appear to be an after taste that suggested a flavour enhancing effect.

Comment, May 2016

I think it is important to cook them while they are very fresh.  I left some overnight and they softened slightly and the taste took on a slightly bitter edge.

These are quite a distinctive species.  The main thing to be careful of is not to confuse them with the genus Scleroderma.   There is one suggestion that the skin should be removed prior to cooking.   I didn’t do this however.

These can be a problem for greenkeepers when they colonise bowling greens or golf greens.  Here is an example of such an invasion on the bowling green at Nannup in May 2016.

circle of pratense

Fairy rings of Vascellum pratense on the bowling green at Nannup

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Dictyophora indusiata – an edible stinkhorn

There are quite a few mushrooms that are classified as stinkhorns.  Many of these are said to be edible in the  egg stage.  Dictyophora indusiata is however edible as the mature mushroom and it is cultivated in significant quantities in China.  It is an attractive looking mushroom as shown below.

Dictyophora_indusiata

Dictyophora indusiata, Cairns, Queensland, by Steve Fitzgerald

The name refers to the net-like skirt or indusium which is a transient feature, soon falling away to reveal the stem.  The mushroom is also known as Phallus indusiatus, for obvious reasons but for the purposes of this post I have retained the earlier name.  This is a mushroom of tropical areas.  I have not encountered it in the wild personally, though I have seen the very similar Dictyophora multicolor in Cairns.  I have however encountered it in canned form in an Asian food shop in Perth.

 

When opened up, the contents of the can were almost pure white, odourless and contained the entire mushroom, including the cap, cut into pieces, in brine.

 

Like other stinkhorns, when encountered in the wild,  it has a disgusting smell.  Rather remarkably, this repulsive smell has been claimed to cause spontaneous female orgasms in the case of a Hawaian species!  Whether that is the case or not (and I have my doubts) the canned product does not have any hint of this smell.  From what I have been able to determine, the fungus is washed to remove the spore material that contains the odour components.

I cooked up some of the pieces, which contained quite a lot of water, in a frying pan with a little olive oil and then added them to an omlette.   I found that the taste was best in the pieces that had been slightly browned.  This may be due to the considerable amount of glucose contained in the structure of the cell walls.

I should note that one Chinese site (that is a translation) indicates that species that have a yellow veil (indusium) are toxic.  That would include Dictyophora multicolor.

I report this mushroom because it does occur in Australia and it is edible.  However, it might be an adventurous person who attempts to eat it.   I would be interested if anyone finds this or any of the other stinkhorns, and can let me know if the smell can be removed by washing.  Meanwhile, it is readily available in canned form.  And if you want a genuine Chinese recipe, you might like to try this one from the site above:

“Casserole in disposable full of water and put it into the old hen, add ginger fluff block a, a teaspoon of cooking wine first and bring to a boil over high heat, low heat slowly stew. 炖鸡时,为了防止汤水溢出,可以在砂锅上架两根竹筷,再盖上锅盖。 Stewed chicken, in order to prevent the soup overflow in the casserole shelves two bamboo chopsticks, then cover the pot. 大约三小时后,鸡汤已经呈现金黄色。 After about three hours, the chicken soup has a golden yellow. 这时可以将已经用水发过的竹荪切段,投入鸡汤中,再炖,等竹荪充分浸润了鸡汤的味道后,根据个人口味加盐,关火,撒一点点葱花增香,就可上桌了。 Then you can the segment of the water has hair Dictyophora cut, put into chicken soup, then boiled, etc. Dictyophora fully infiltrating the taste of chicken soup, according to personal taste with salt, and turn off the heat, sprinkle a little chopped green onion flavoring, can be serve.

【要点】给鸡焯水时不要弄破鸡皮;水发竹荪要多浸泡一会儿,才会去除那股怪味儿,竹荪不要放多,否则会夺鸡汤的鲜味;如果老母鸡肚子里油很多,要挖出来扔掉一点,尤其是在夏天对于喜欢清淡的人来讲。 [Points to the chicken boiled water not to break the chicken skin; The the water hair Dictyophora to soak for a while, before removal of the sense of smell children Dictyophora Do not put too much, otherwise it will seize the flavor of the chicken soup; old hen stomach where oil is a lot to be dug up and threw it away a bit, especially in the summer for people like light.].
(I think that was written by the person who did the instructions for my portable router table  🙂

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Laccaria proxima – an abundant species

Laccaria proxima is known from both Europe and North America.   In my area it is strictly associated with pine plantations.   I believe that the pine species is the Maritime Pine, Pinus pinaster.  The occurence of L. proxima is variable, but it appears to be extremely common in well established plantations with trees of a diameter of around 300 mm.

In June in these forests there is a wide variety of fungi, including several small mushrooms with brown caps.   Laccaria proxima is distinctive in that it has pale salmon pink gills that are not crowded.  This distinguishes it from another abundant species with yellow gills that are crowded as shown below.  Laccaria proxima has a white spore print.  This should be checked.

Laccaria proxima, with pink gills on the right.

L. proxima varies in size from about 20 mm to 80mm in diameter.  The stems can be up to 100mm long and they emerge from the pine needle mat. Underneath the mat, one can see the white mycelium in a layer on the top of the soil.  As the mushrooms grow, they move from having slightly inrolled margins to curling up so that the gills are exposed.   Below are pictures of the different stages.

A young specimen

Mature specimens

A distinctive feature is the striations on the stem.  These stems are quite tough.  A small white mite was present on the specimens  that I picked in late June.   They are a long lasting mushroom that does not otherwise get attacked by insects.

I prepared some of these by washing them and then frying in a pan with oil.   I had to decant some of the water during cooking as it had caught up in the gills.  I added some ham to the mixture in the pan and ate them on toast.   The taste resembled Volvariella slightly, though it was not as intense.   I found that it left a pleasant after taste when I had finished the meal and this lingered for some time.

There is a smaller abundant  native species, Laccaria lateritia.  It is very similar in general appearance, but it is smaller and the stems do not display the same striations as in L. proxima.  It is probably edible as well but I have not tried it at this stage.

This is an interesting mushroom because of its abundance and well established edibility from overseas experience.  Though it is not considered to be a choice edible, it is quite palatable and the pleasant after taste makes it interesting.  I suspect that it has a flavour enhancing quality to it.

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Xerula australis – edible and medicinal

Xerula australis has synonyms Xerula radicata var. australis and Oudemansiella radicata var. australis.  (ref: Bougher and Syme)  There are several closely related species that are difficult to distinguish even with a microscope.

While this species is reported to be edible, it does not find too many rave reviews, although one variety of Xerula radicata is being sold in kit form in China and they describe it as delicious (I suppose they would!).

It has been suggested that they might make a colourful addition to a stir fry.  You would need to find a few of them though, as they are only a small mushroom with a cap 20-40 mm across and a tough inedible stem.  They have quite a distinctive appearance as shown in this image kindly provided by sunphlo.

Xerula australis

An interesting feature of Xerula radicata and most probably this variety is that it contains an anti-hypertensive agent known as  oudenone.  (who’d have known?)  The cultivation of  the fungus in liquid medium and extraction of the active ingredient is the subject of US patent 3835170.  The information in that patent suggests that the active ingredient is reasonably heat stable and should survive a mild cooking process at least.  Whether this is a good thing or not might depend on the individual.

I have set up a new category for fungi that I have not had any personal experience with, or reports of, other than that they are mentioned in the literature as being edible.   If anyone has experience with eating these, I would like hear about it.

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Gymnopilus junonius – a possibility?

Gymnopilus junonius is also known as Gymnopilus spectabilis according to some sources (Arora p 411 for example) and I am assuming that equivalence in much of the discussion that follows. It is also known and Big Laughing Gym, since there are reports of the species being hallucinogenic.  However, it is more likely that it has been confused with another species of the same genus.  Either that, or the chemistry varies a lot (and in fact there are sources which suggest such regional variation in the chemistry).  Bettye Rees, an Australian authority on the genus, describes it as a cosmopolitan species (6).  She does not equate it with G. spectabilis though, but with G. pampeanus.

This fungus is extremely common in Autumn in my part of the world, forming huge clumps on the base of dying trees and old stumps.  It occurs widely across the continent and Rees even suggests that it may be an import due to its presence on pine stumps.   I have seen it both on pine stumps and at the base of marri trees.  Apart from the reports of hallucinogenic activity, the species is not considered to be poisonous.  The dominant feature to anyone who tastes this mushroom is its extreme bitterness.   It is seriously unpleasant! Nobody with any sense of taste could possibly consume these, even if desperate for some thrill.

A little bit of experimentation however reveals that the unpleasant bitter taste can be removed by washing with vinegar and probably any other food acid.  By contrast, sodium bicarbonate does not remove the bitter taste.  This simple experiment reveals that the taste is acid soluble.

Given the knowledge gained from this experiment, I prepared some strips of the mushroom, leached them twice with vinegar and then rinsed with water.  The result was something that retained some vinegar taste but was free of the horrible bitterness.  I consumed a small portion without ill effect, or hallucinations!  So, I put this mushroom forward a possible food.

As with everything, one would need to be very sure of identification before proceeding with this.  And any experimentation should be undertaken with caution, but I see some possibilities.

Further notes 28 June 2012

My background in chemistry has caused me to become intrigued with this mushroom.  I have done some more research and find an amazing array of conflicting statements, first hand experiences and views on chemistry.

The first thing is that this species does appear to have been responsible for various hallucinogenic experiences and reports of this range from traditional Japanese sources (1), to present day forums that discuss these things.  It is said that the mushroom is consumed by people in Oguni in Yamagata prefecture, a mountainous area in Japan without ill effect when the bitter components are removed by boiling in water. (2).  The fact that the mushroom is mentioned from traditional Japanese stories, as well as the comment that it is eaten today makes the history of Japanese consumption an interesting topic.   It may well have been eaten for a thousand years in Japan. Kusano’s comment “Some people have described intoxication as a result of accidental ingestion of incorrectly cooked mushrooms” is an interesting comment, as it would be hard to eat them if the bitterness was not removed.

There are many sources that say this mushroom contains psilocybin, but many more that refute that.  I cannot find any reports in peer-reviewed journals of isolation of that chemical from this species.  It seems much more likely that the presence of that component has been inferred or simply claimed without due diligence (3) and many others.

Correction  23/02/2013:  There is a report of psilocybin in this genus, including G. spectabilis, which is another name for this mushroom.  The levels are low though.

Lloydia. 1978 Mar-Apr;41(2):140-4.  (just beyond the online numbers).
An example of a report that fails to find psilocybin is:
Stijve and Kuyper (1988)  Absence of psilocybin in species of fungi previously reported to contain psilocybin and related tryptamine derivatives. Persoonia 13:463-465
as well as ref(2)

Other literature sources report and discuss the presence of bis noryangonin and compare these to the components of kava to account for the observed activity.  This may be the case, but one might expect the resultant experience to be mild.  Rees reports the presence of hispidin and bis-noryangonin in many but not all specimens of the genus in Australia.  These are responsible for the yellow colour that has allowed the mushroom to be used to dye fabric.

Yet another explanation of the effects of the mushroom attribute it to the bitter principles, gymnopilins, that are said to have neurotoxic effects.   (4).  I have a copy of this last paper and the striking thing from my point of view is that the components that they examine are ones that are in the acidic fraction, which is the one we would expect to extract with a solution of sodium  bicarbonate.  We would not expect these to be extracted by vinegar.   It brings me to wonder if they have actually proven that they are examining the bitter principle.  There is no mention of taste tests.   Their initial extraction with methanol may leave a mushroom devoid of bitterness (it does), but they do not report on the bitterness of subsequent fractions.

So, I caution the reader.  The chemistry is not well-defined.  The source of any psychotropic effects has three explanations, none of which may be correct.  For the moment, I can only report my experience which is that the bitter taste can be removed with vinegar  and small portions of the resulting mushroom are edible and non-toxic.

Further tests involving boiling and (acid leaching followed by alkaline leaching) are indicated.  This may take years.  It is a very interesting exploration though.

References to follow.

Further note 24 July 2012

I found a large specimen and cut off a quarter of the cap and boiled it in about a litre of water for 5 minutes.  I then removed the piece and rinsed it with cold water.   Tasting revealed that the boiling process had indeed removed the bitter taste from the mushroom.  Further tasting revealed that the bitter principle had been transferred to the water broth, which had taken on a rusty orange colour.

Perusal of a forum dedicated consumption of  psychotropic mushrooms (5)  indicates that people consume the bitter ‘tea’ made from the mushrooms to get intoxicated, so that is further support that the leached mushrooms should not cause any ill effects.

August 2015

This year I tried slicing one of these mushrooms thinly and boiling it extensively for an hour.   I then fried the resulting pieces.   The bitter taste was still there.  I can’t really much hope of rendering these things into anything taste-worthy.

May 2016

Even if you can’t eat these, they may be useful in another way.  According to the book ‘Mushrooms for color’ by Miriam C. Rice, they can be used with or without mordants to create dyes for fabrics.   The fresh mushrooms without mordant give a bright lemon yellow.  Dried ones give pale lemon yellow with all mordants except tin which gives mustard.  Fresh ones with alum mordant give yellow.

 

References:

1.  Tom Volk’s fungus of the month for  April 2005

Kusano et al.  Chem Pharm Bull 34:3465-3470

3. In-Kyoung Lee et al.  Mycobiology 36(1):55-59 (2008)

4. Tanaka et al.  Neurotoxic oligoisoprenoids of the hallucinogenic mushroom, Gymnopilus spectabilis.  Phytochemistry 34

, 661-664(1993)

5.  Shoomery forum post #3307843

6. http://www.australasianmycology.com/pages/pdf/20/1/29.pdf

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Marasmius oreades – an expensive import?

Marasmius oreades is known the world over as the fairy ring mushroom.  I have not come upon them in the wild, though they do grow in Australia, having probably been imported from Europe.  I came upon them in a market in Perth, where they were being sold for $160 per kilogram, imported from France!  The picture below shows what they look like by the time they have been picked, shipped and packed. Mousseron In France, these are known as Mousserons. Note.  October 2012.  After investigating further during my trip to France, it appears that Marasmius oreades is known as the Faux Mousseron.  Mousseron is applied to Marasmius oreades by English speakers, while the French refer to Calocybe gambosa or St George’s mushroom as mousseron, or mousseron vrai.  This muddies the waters somewhat as it is not easy to distinguish the identity of the dried specimens above.  The way the stems split and their relative thickness would seem to be contrary to what one would expect from M. oreades.  I will pick some in the morning and investigate this further. I will leave the reader to investigate further the identification of these mushrooms.  This investigation should be undertaken with care, as there are lots of mushrooms that come up in fairy rings, and some of them are extremely poisonous. Here is a link describing them in Victoria. (I need to find a new link it seems) Update October 2012 Here is a picture of some of these mushrooms growing in France, in the village of  Correze, which I am visiting to attend the annual mushroom festival.  These are in the lawn of the place where I am staying.   I will take one down to the fete tomorrow to have the identification verified.

Marasmius oreades growing in France

A couple of distinctive features of this mushroom are the dark raised central region of the cap, and the toughness of the stem, which can be twisted back on itself without breaking.

Twisted fairy

While I was in France, I was invited to visit a farm in the Alpes Maritimes, at an elevation of 1000m.  Here I was shown M. oreades growing in classic fairy rings in an open paddock.   The rings could be seen quite clearly by their dark green colour in comparison to the surrounding grass.  The image below shows my host kneeling down to harvest some mushrooms from one of the rings.

Picking M. oreades from fairy ring.

Picking M. oreades from fairy ring.

See also my fellow blogger for further information

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Wood ear – an Asian cooking favourite

Wood ear mushrooms, Auricularia cornea, are often seen for sale in Asian food shops.  The grow quite widely on the east coast – I have seen them around the Lismore area, and they grow in the  Cairns area as well as in the Hunter valley, where you can find an excellent description here.

I don’t have an image in my collection, but if someone would be kind enough to donate one, I would be happy to use it and give appropriate credit.

I have not eaten this one, and don’t know how to cook it either, but would be happy to have information on this.   Cultures of these mushrooms are available in Australia, via an enthusiast, on the east coast at least.

Update 29 June 2012

I have had a kind offer of use of images from Kathy.  Here is one reproduced below.

Auricularia cornea by Kathy

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