Not all varieties of mushrooms are edible. Poisonous mushrooms, when ingested, can result in a whole lot of adverse effects on the body, ranging from gastrointestinal irritation to kidney failure.
The cases of mycetism or mushroom poisoning have become quite common of late, primarily due to the fact that more and more people are mistaking toxic mushrooms for edible mushrooms. It is very unlikely that you will be able to differentiate between the two on the basis of appearance alone. For that, you will have to get well-versed with the identification of different varieties, the poisonous ones in particular.
Initial signs of mushroom poisoning include headache and cramps, which are triggered within a few hours of consuming them. With time, the condition worsens. At times, the toxins in these mushrooms cause severe damage to the kidney and liver, thus resulting in organ failure and eventually cause death. Other signs of mushroom poisoning in humans include vomiting, nausea, sudden drop in blood pressure, fall in heart rate, etc. Some varieties of poisonous mushrooms are more harmful than the others. The adverse effects of some of these toxic mushroom varieties is restricted to headache and nausea, while others are known to cause damage to the liver and kidney.
Among the thousands of mushroom varieties identified in the world, approximately 32 are known to be fatal, while 53 are known to be toxic, but relatively less harmful. Mushrooms of Amanita and Cortinarius genera are considered the most poisonous in the world.
- Genus Amanita
- Death cap (A. phalloides)
- Destroying angels (A. virosa and A. bisporiga)
- Fool’s mushroom (A. verna)
- Genus Cortinarius
- Deadly webcap (C. rubellus)
- Fool’s webcap (C. orellanus)
Other than these varieties, even the ones belonging to the Galerina, Lepiota, and Conocybe genera have a significant amount of toxic chemicals in them. You should not consume wild mushrooms without confirming that they are not toxic.
How to Identify These Mushrooms?
The best way to do so, is to memorize their features. Amanita mushrooms, for instance, are typically characterized by an umbrella-like cap, rings on the stem, and a cup-like rounded base beneath the layer of soil. When going mushroom hunting, carry an identification checklist along with you. A step-by-step identification process will help you eliminate a wide variety of poisonous mushrooms you come across. Basically, any variety of mushroom which is brown in color and has rings on the stem is poisonous and hence, best avoided. Never consume mushrooms that you are not able to identify. If you are skeptical about a particular variety, it is better to avoid it.
Yet another method of identifying inedible mushrooms is to check their stem by slitting it open with a knife. If the stem is hollow, there are high chances that this mushroom variety is lethal. If the inner part of the stem is slightly hollow and straw like, these may contain significant amount of toxins, so you should check for other characteristics mentioned in the identification checklist.
On a safer note, always go mushroom hunting with an experienced person, especially if you don’t have prior experience or required knowledge to identify them. This is also important, because theoretical knowledge pertaining to identification process may not always be reliable. And lastly, you also need to take into consideration the fact that certain edible mushrooms can also cause allergic reactions in people.