Mush­rooms are fun, but be care­ful

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KYLIE KLEIN-NIXON

Beloved of fairies and hob gob­lins, de­li­cious in stews and sal­ads and stig­ma­tised as poi­sonous; mush­rooms are the real fun guys of the plant world.

Puns aside, you may have no­ticed more fun­gus and red-capped mushies pop­ping un­der trees on road­side verges or at the bot­tom of your gar­den lately.

That is be­cause it is mush­room sea­son and our damp sum­mer – and even damper start to au­tumn – cre­ated the per­fect grow­ing con­di­tions for the more than 3000 va­ri­eties of mush­rooms and fungi that thrive in the re­gion.

The na­tional poi­sons cen­tre an­nual re­port says uniden­ti­fied mush­rooms were the most com­mon plant in­quiry they re­ceived from the pub­lic in 2010.

How­ever, Mush­rooms and Other Fungi of New Zealand au­thor Geoff Ri­d­ley says fruit of fungi – what we call mush­rooms – are noth­ing to worry about as long as you don’t eat them.

‘‘There’s a lot of lit­tle brown [type] mush­rooms out there . . . a lot of them will be hal­lu­cino­genic, some will be poi­sonous and some will be noth­ing,’’ he says.

‘‘The best thing to do is teach kids not to put things in their mouths.’’

With many of the va­ri­eties there is no way to tell which is which with­out look- ing at the spores – the ‘‘seeds’’ they re­lease from un­der the caps – un­der a mi­cro­scope. ‘‘Just steer clear of the lit­tle brown ones.’’

Dr Ri­d­ley says he has never heard of dogs or chil­dren be­ing poi­soned by wild mush­rooms though, be­cause they nat­u­rally avoid them.

‘‘You get a few poi­son­ings each year but it tends to be adults who want to ex­per­i­ment with what they eat . . .

‘‘ We have an in­nate fear of mush­rooms. We don’t want to eat them. We’ll buy them from the su­per­mar­ket, but we don’t want to eat [wild fungi].’’

They can be al­lur­ing though. Dr Ri­d­ley re­cently led a cen­tral Welling­ton fun­gal foray in the Wil­ton bush to look for the na­tives like the bright blue En­tolma which he calls the ‘‘holy grail’’ for fungi spot­ters. ‘‘They all want to see that one.’’ How­ever, he says his favourites are the clas­sic red capped mush­room, Fly Agaric.

‘‘You know it’s fun­gus sea­son when you see them start to pop up.’’

For more in­for­ma­tion on which mush­rooms to avoid see poi­sons.co.nz.

For in­for­ma­tion about the kinds of mush­rooms you may see in the wild, see A Pho­to­graphic Guide to Mush­rooms and Other Fungi of New Zealand by Dr Geoff Ri­d­ley, from New Hol­land books.

In sea­son: Mush­rooms are pop­ping up all over the re­gion thanks to a cli­mate per­fect for grow­ing fungi. How­ever, those par­tial to road­side for­ag­ing need to know which mush­rooms they can eat and which they should leave.

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