Saturday, June 18, 2011
I've had a growing interest in mushrooms and other fungi during the past few weeks, due in part to our finding those black morels growing on the place, which I wrote about earlier. It's been an especially wet spring and summer. Such a variety of mushrooms -- so lovely or so lethal-looking -- I've begun carrying my camera with me on walks. I ordered the National Audubon Society's Field Guide to Mushrooms, determined to identify what I photograph. Last week I found the most remarkable large black mushroom, I thought certain that an evil black fairy must have used it for a throne. To my disappointment, It shriveled up within a day. And when my field guide arrived, I couldn't find that black beauty in it. However, some white egg-shaped mushrooms had sprung up nearby, but I'd forgotten my camera. When I came back a day later, in between rain showers, they were gone. I was certain the deer had eaten them. But there were two more black mushrooms. Today, I solved the mushroom mystery when I was able to finally photograph another egg-shaped mushroom that popped up this morning. My field guide identifies it is a shaggy mane mushroom and in the same photo is the black mushroom I couldn't identify -- one in the same at a later stage. What an amazing transformation on its way to death. It consumes itself and turns to black ink in order to release its spores. In fact, in olden days ink was made from this dissolving comprinus comatus. They are edible if picked young, but must be cooked or dried within a short time after picking because the autodigestion of its gills and cap will pick up speed with picking. Within a few hours it will have dissolved itself. However, according to the Internet, it should not be consumed with alcohol because of it contains comprine, causing symptoms such as flushed face, burning gums, and fear of imminent death - all of which will pass in a few hours. Sometimes this occurs without alcohol, so I don't think I'll be eating any. Remember my cautious husband, Jay, our gourmet cook. Nevertheless, I find it all fascinating!