Posted in foraging, fungi

Poisonous Toadstools

fly agaric

Before we begin this post I must stress you shouldn’t try this at home because you could do yourself serious harm. So if that’s cool with you, lets go on an epic hallucinogenic foraging adventure!

So I was on Facebook and professional chef friend Chad Hyatt was saying he’d been out foraging:


And I was like “for realz”?!

Chad says:

“I respect very much the Amanitas [eg Fly Agaric, above], and don’t take any wild harvest lightly. I eat LOTS of a few species of Amanitas, though. I am extremely comfortable with id’ing them vs their dangerous/deadly relatives. If there is ever the slightest doubt or ambiguity of an id, it doesn’t get eaten. Mushrooms don’t scare me cause I feel I have enough knowledge to be safe (at least locally). Plants are another matter. In the whole plant kingdom there are probably less than 10 species I’d harvest in the wild. Way too many dangerous/deadly mistakes possible.”

So there you go!

But folks on Facebook were also wondering how you can eat them and Chad was happy to elaborate:

“Really, it’s about parboiling em in enough water before sauteeing em. The toxins are water soluble… and if you don’t get em all, you get a little high…
but the texture is pretty good. Comparable to the other good edible Amanitas. The taste is mild after the treatment, but good. Unfortunately, they don’t keep the brilliant color after cooking.”

This is corroborated by the research I’ve done which says that the active component in the fungi is mainly muscimol (AKA pantherine, I kid you not) which is indeed water soluble and is generally pretty fascinating stuff:

“Muscimol is a potent GABAA agonist, activating the receptor for the brain’s major inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA. Muscimol actually binds to the same site on the GABAA receptor complex as GABA itself, as opposed to other GABAergic drugs such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines [my emphasis] which bind to separate regulatory sites. GABAA receptors are widely distributed in the brain, and so when muscimol is administered, it alters neuronal activity in multiple regions including the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum.”

There you go! (Sources: wikipedia and pubmed)

lucky charms

Anyways, I asked Chad what he cooked with his stash and if he had any more pictures and this is where the trail ran dead for I never got a reply so I hope he’s doing OK and everything.

Anyway, as he gets better,  it turns out that these kinds of poisonous delights have been used for thousands of years among certain cultures:

  • In Siberia, tribal shaman would consume A. muscaria  as a religious intoxicant to attain a trance like state as a means for communicating with the gods.  In many regions, consuming it was forbidden to all, with the exception of religious figures.
  • Before invading villages, Vikings would perform a ritual in which they consumed A. muscaria.  Through the ingestion of this mushroom, Vikings were able to raid villages fearlessly in a berserker rage [I clearly didn’t write this, ‘natch]

And while we’re in the festive spirit, allegedly Christmas:

  • Like the cap of A. muscaria, the main colors on Santa’s suit are red and white
  • Some animals, including reindeer, have been known to consume and trip on A. muscaria.  In Christmas myths, Santa Claus flies from house to house in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.



So there you have it; you can eat these guys and they have probably been eaten quite widely by a whole range of folks. Although if you do, you might possibly see Santa, or attack your local shopping center in a berserker rage.

Thanks to Chad Hyatt for the quotes and stuff and if you want to chat some more, a lot of chefs and other food geeks are on Facebook (talking about McDonalds at the moment) and Twitter.

I also blog at Huffpost when I feel like it.


I write dumb things about food

3 thoughts on “Poisonous Toadstools

  1. I would say more than just “could do yourself serious harm.”
    Feck up and at best you’ll end up on a transplant list and worst well your foraging days are over..
    I’d stay clear of all of these and learn to id some of the choice edibles, looked what happened to this guy –

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