|image by Alan Rockefeller|
The tree line glows a warm golden brown in the late afternoon sun. A hawk calls as he sails over the tops of the spruce trees. The smell of fallen leaves and fungi make me leave the path and venture into the brush. This is the season for a popular German pastime: Volkssport Pilze sammeln.
Collecting mushrooms is a learned talent. Either you’ve had some guidance or you don’t touch the things. Many varieties are edible and downright delicious. I have a colleague who finds Boleus (Steinpilz) the size of a baby’s head when she jogs in the woods. She jogs home and fries them in butter with a bit of onion and garlic.
But for every edible mushroom, a poisonous doppelganger exists. I bought a book to try to learn to tell them apart. The differences are so minuscule that a mushroom hunt on my part would be preprogrammed for disaster.
Now here’s one mushroom I can always identify:
|original photo by Laura Libricz|
These were beauties. I was so pleased that I had my camera in my pocket.
The fly agaric. German: Fliegenpilz
The name comes from its use as a pesticide. They were crushed in milk and used to kill flies. Yes, they are toxic, but no deaths by ingestion have been reported. And they can be eaten. The Chinese remove the red covering from the meat, marinate overnight and then sauté in butter with few side effects.
Siberian shamans used the mushroom to travel ecstatically into a godly world. After he consumed the mushrooms, tribal members were known to drink the shaman’s urine, because the active ingredients of the fungus practically passed through the body unchanged and in the form of urine, still retained the intoxicating effects.