Magic Mushrooms

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.


  1. I hate mushrooms...but interesting story..
    If you drive near Reading PA you can smell the mushroom farms...GROSS, but you enjoy the fungi...
    So a mushroom walks into a bar
    Bartender says "we don't serve your kind here!"
    Mushrooms says "why not, I'm a FUNGUY!

  2. We have several varieties of mushrooms in our woods, and they were abundant with all the rain we had this year. We have red, orange, yellow, tan and white. I don't touch any of them because I don't know what's good or bad. Maybe you can check it out next time you're here?

  3. I have a book. But they all look the same to me. Except the electric green and purple ones. I figure the ones that look like deer have been nibbling on are ok, but you never know what these deer are up to, do you?

    FUN GUY ! Love it.

    1. There is nothing better than some Gelberles and scrambled eggs!

    2. I still have some Maronen in the freezer. I never thought of making them with eggs.

  4. I love mushrooms and would love to be able to grow them myself in the kitchen!

    cubensis spore syringe