Mysterious Mushrooms

Marion spies some mysterious mushrooms

Some years ago, when staying with my grandparents over the summer holidays, I often used to join my aunt and uncle mushroom-picking in some nearby fields. Picked shortly after dawn, fried with butter and served beside a couple of rashers, an egg, and some white pudding, those mushrooms made quite a feast.

The memory came back to me when I spotted some more wild mushrooms the other day. They’d popped up by a wall overnight and looked so cute and appealing – but they were nothing like our lovely field mushrooms.

By the time I took their picture, a few hours later, they’d already started to look slightly more sinister. There was no way these were going near a frying-pan!

Varieties of Mushrooms

There are so many varieties of wild mushroom that a session trying to identify them online yielded a few suspects, but no real answers. “Friend” colleagues made some suggestions, and we eventually settled on “some sort of ink cap” as a possibility.

If they are ink caps, they belong to a really interesting class of mushroom. As the name suggests, as the gills decay, or “deliquesce” to use the technical term, they form a black, ink-like liquid. Boiled up with cloves and water, it actually used to be used as ink at one time.

Some ink caps are edible, but these look like they’re the other kind . . . We think they might be the common ink cap “Coprinopsis atramentaria”, which is a semi-poisonous variety. Another name, “Tippler’s Bane” gives a clue as to why this might be.

Fun guys

Apparently, these fun guys contain a compound that interferes with the processing of alcohol in the liver. Teetotallers should be able to eat them quite safely – though even the use of perfume or aftershave has been thought to cause a reaction. However, imbibing any alcohol even several days before or after consuming these little chaps can cause nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat and tingling in the limbs. There’s no record of them causing fatalities directly, but it seems the symptoms can be deeply unpleasant and can last up to a week.

There’s no way I’d eat any mushroom found in the wild, unless assured of their harmlessness by an expert. But genuine edible mushrooms are delicious and there are so many types it might be fun to expand the horizons a little. Maybe I’ll have a look for a proper foraging course one day!

In the meantime, if you can reveal the true identity of these mysterious mushrooms, why not let us know?

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Marion McGivern

As editor of the cookery, money, pets and eco pages, Marion covers a wide range of regular Features content. Along with the rest of the Team, she enjoys finding interesting features for both the weekly and Special issues that readers will love. Having so much variety every day means that over ten years with the “Friend” has just flown by!