I’ve mentioned this loads within the feedback earlier than, in particular person and within the physique of this submit. Let me say it yet one more time, proper up right here to start with: Except you’re an knowledgeable mushroom hunter and you may 100 p.c determine this mushroom, DON’T EAT IT. I wrote this submit for different specialists, not for simply anybody to suppose they’ve discovered A. muscaria. That is critical stuff, people. Mistake this mushroom for an additional amanita and you may die. Severely. ~Hank
No mushroom presents extra of an enigma than the fly amanita, Amanita muscaria. It’s the most recognizable mushroom on the planet, and is broadly often called the hallucinatory ‘shroom chargeable for Alice’s journey into Wonderland and fairly probably our beloved pictures of a red-suited Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.
I’m not into hallucinations. Or abdomen cramping, for that matter. So for years I let this stunning mushroom cross on my mushroom hunts. Till final weekend. We have been ostensibly trying to find porcini, Boletus edulis, however as any king bolete hunter is aware of, the fly agaric is actually a crimson flag indicating porcino may be nestled close by: They flush across the identical time, in across the identical place. And the place we have been on California’s Central Coast there have been 1000’s of muscaria, a crimson tide within the woods.
Picture by Hank Shaw
As we walked, choosing porcini and different great boletes, I started having a nagging dialog with myself: You realize you may eat these amanitas, proper? Sure, however don’t they want all kinds of loopy processing first? Most likely. However you’ll by no means get a greater probability to experiment than with this flush proper right here, proper now. OK, OK. I grabbed a separate bag and commenced choosing.
I stuffed a grocery bag very quickly. Actually, I may have stuffed the again of my pickup with muscaria. However I additionally had an enormous haul of porcini, the prize of the day. So I handled them first. My dehydrator ran morning and night time for days. I made porcini powder, dried quarts of porcini, made porcini risotto, and even gave some contemporary ones as Christmas presents. All of the whereas my sack of amanitas lay uncared for within the storage.
I got here up for air a number of days in the past and determined to perform a little research. I’ve lots of mushroom books. Most say that Amanita muscaria is poisonous and hallucinatory. A couple of name it lethal toxic, which appears to be a stretch contemplating there are fewer than a handful of confirmed deaths by this mushroom and all have extenuating circumstances. (A facet word: fly agaric seems to be engaging to canine and cats and may kill them in the event that they eat it, so preserve it away out of your pets!)
There’s additionally, apparently, a complete trendy subculture devoted to tripping on this mushroom, and its use in visions dates again 1000’s of years — particularly amongst those that stay within the boreal forests of the north.
That is the place Santa is available in. My colleague Greg Marley, whose wonderful ebook Chanterelle Goals, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms goes into this at size, says that fly agaric has been a logo of yuletide happiness in Central Europe, Russia and Scandinavia for hundreds of years, calling it “a crimson mild shining vivid within the winter darkness.” And the individuals of the North, as any mushroom hunter is aware of, are mad about mushrooms.
There’s a frequent trade between us Anglo ‘shroomers after we see numerous, “lesser” species of ‘shroom: Is it edible? Nicely, the Russians eat it… Amanita muscaria falls into this class.
Traditionally, the Siberians boiled fly agaric after which drank the pot liquor to get roaring drunk. They then preserved the mushrooms for consuming later. Because it occurs, the Siberians’ livestock additionally loves this ‘shroom. And I’m not speaking about cattle, I’m speaking about reindeer.
Yep. Caribou will search out Amanita muscaria only for the excessive — or a minimum of it seems to be that approach to us people. So it’s not too far a stretch to conjure up a picture of a jolly, roaringly drunk, fats, bearded dude all dressed up for the North Pole — in a crimson go well with with white trim — chillin’ with flying reindeer.
Picture by Hank Shaw
However like I mentioned, I’m not into that kind of factor. So I seemed deeper. Plainly the first toxins, er, “energetic components,” in Amanita muscaria are ibotenic acid and muscimol. In contrast to the amatoxins within the lethal amanitas — the demise cap and the destroying angel — ibotenic acid and muscimol are water soluble.
Extra analysis turned up William Rubel, who is aware of his stuff relating to mushrooms. Rubel wrote an article about how you can detoxify fly agaric that proved enlightening.