My home state of beautiful Ohio boasts 2,000 species of wild mushrooms, some deadly, but many that are positively edible. Perhaps it is my urban upbringing, but somehow, these springy, lush-looking caps beckoning from the floor of the woods continue to appear oh-so-tasty. (Maybe that’s how Adam felt when Eve lured him with that lustrous apple).
I know, I know. There are greater risks in life. Cronies are skydiving, bungee jumping, and scaling mountains. And here I am ruminating about these fine-looking fungi.
It can’t be that difficult, can it? How did the famous Eul Gibbons successfully “Stalk the Wild Asparagus”? In his era of frugality and conservation (similar to our own), he encouraged us to “Turn every field, forest, swamp, vacant lot and roadside into a health-food market with free merchandise.”
So what of the lowly hiker, biker, or suburban would-be gardener?
What happens if you err on the wrong side of edibility and accidentally devour a poisonous specimen? Experts advise you to “get some experience” picking wild mushrooms, and only “consume mushrooms you have positively identified yourself.” What if things go awry and you un-positively identify and consume one alone in the middle of the woods? (Consider the innocent “twin” of the common white mushroom button found at the market – the deadly Chlorophyllum Molybdite). You are told to “retain a sample of any mushroom you are not well-experienced with for analysis in case of poisoning.” Apparently, that would be the contents of your stomach when they finally locate your corpse!
So why do we so desire the elusive, mysterious mushroom? Maybe you are among those avid individuals glued to the television as a famed chef tosses treasured truffles into his mouthwatering creation. Thanks to Europe’s rainy summers and coveted soil, certain truffles sell for several thousand dollars a pound, thus rendering them the costliest delicacy on the planet.
In a completely different realm, consider the Psilocybe species. Many have longed to experience this ultimately lethal “high” – the precarious world of the “Magic Mushroom” (“Shroom”) – revered since ancient times and still lending so-called psychedelic pleasure.
Maybe this remains one of the mysteries of life, one of the true delicacies continuing to tempt and niggle at us throughout our earthly lives. Fear and common sense reign in our wild desire to hunt for something so readily accessible yet so ultimately exotic. Certainly, we can learn from our quest for the mystic mushroom.