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Further Reflections on Amanita Muscaria as an Edible Species (2012) (bayareamushrooms.org)
39 points by benbreen 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

Back when I studied biology, I found it fascinating that two of the major categories of neurotransmitter receptors are muscarinic and nicotinic receptors, named after: muscarine, from the Amanita muscaria mushroom; and nicotine, from tobacco and other plants from the nightshade family.

An amazing amount of biochemistry has been worked out in reverse from drugs and poisons. I once worked on a protein called TOR, which is a key regulator of cell growth; that gets its name because it's the Target Of Rapamycin, rapamycin being a drug.

In fruitflies and nematodes, the preferred way to shake things until they break is mutation rather than drugs, so genes often have names describing what happens when the gene is broken - which is quite confusing. So, another protein i worked on is called Dlg, short for "discs large", because in fruitflies, when missing, the imaginal discs get too big. So you know Dlg's function is somehow to keep imaginal discs small.

Nit, Amanita muscaria does not really contain muscarin but muscimol and ibotenic acid. Latter causes stomach upset.

I see, you're right - according to Wikipedia:

"Muscarine is only a trace compound in the fly agaric Amanita muscaria; the pharmacologically more relevant compounds from this mushroom are ibotenic acid and muscimol. A. muscaria fruitbodies contain a variable dose of muscarine, usually around 0.0003% fresh weight."

Looks like there's a historical reason why muscarine is associated with Amanita muscaria: it was first isolated from the mushroom by a German chemist in 1869.

What’s the difference between a mushroom that is poisonous unless boiled, and, say, a potato? If we consider potatoes “edible”—do we?—then it’d make sense to me to classify these mushrooms the same way.

With many edible fungi species - Boletes for instance - boiling can be the difference between getting sick (2-3 days of GI distress) and a good meal.

When it comes to other species like Amanita phalloides (death cap) or Galerina sp. - which contain Amatoxins and resemble edibles - boiling will have no effect: You will need a liver transplant [1].

Amanita muscaria does not contain amatoxins - but it does contain muscimol and ibotenic acid, which are interesting in their own right [2].

1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amatoxin

2 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscimol

> With many edible fungi species - Boletes for instance

What are examples of bolete species that are only edible if boiled? I know of a lot that are only edible if well cooked, but haven't heard of any that are only edible if specifically boiled. (I'm from New England / mid-Atlantic though, so I only know the ones around here.)

Boletus erythropus, but eating Boletus with red pores is a bad idea. The venomous species share this feature.

In theory, Is said that venomous boletus boiled are less toxic, but they still have unpleasant effects.

Interesting. Yeah I've never used the regional bolete rules-of-thumb (not red/orange pored, not fast blueing, not B. huronensis) to decide whether or not to eat something.

I think I need to just go take the Eagle Hill bolete class with the Bessettes one year if they keep offering it, otherwise I feel like they're just too hard to really ID beyond the handful of really easy ones.

The best known edible boletes (penny bun / cep / porcini) don't require boiling, they're fine eaten raw. Which varieties need to be boiled?

Most of the nutrients in mushrooms are behind a cell wall of chitin, which is a fibrous substance consisting of polysaccharides and forming the major constituent in the exoskeleton of arthropods and the cell walls of fungi.

because of this chitin, eating a mushroom raw is not very nutritious and you miss out on most of the health benefits.

Not being nutritious and making you sick are rather different though. Although porcini can be eaten raw it is probably most commonly fried or sautéed. Boiling it seems like a bit of a waste of a food prized for its flavor.

The toxins in Amanita muscaria can apparently be removed via sufficient boiling and discarding the water.

The toxins in the potato (and tomato for that matter) have been removed over generations of breeding. However, I believe some of the toxins remain in those green parts you see on potatoes.

Yeah the green spots on potatoes contain solanine. Potato leaves are also poisonous.

Tomatoes have smaller amounts of solanine in their leaves. You'd need to eat a lot to get sick. Around a pound or something.

Interesting. What about eating fried green tomatoes? I've always been curious about that.

Hmmmm this I guess.


>There are tomatoes that are green in nature and stays green even if it reaches its maturity stage. These tomatoes grow in areas with lower temperature and are edible. On the other hand, young tomatoes before turning red are usually green, hard, and tough to digest. The compound in these immature tomatoes is at a higher concentration of toxicity level than in ripe ones.

>While green tomatoes are proven safe to consume, whether it be cooked or eaten raw, there are still people out there that are sensitive to the alkaloids found in green tomatoes which may cause a negative reaction if ingested. It may also be gut irritants to sensitive individuals. That is why it is mostly eaten cooked or fried.

Personally I find tomatoes in general give me indigestion, whether cooked, raw or made into a sauce. Though i've always assumed it was due to the acidity. That being said, i'm usually pretty good with most other acidic foods.

That's an interesting example. My impression is that most Americans consider raw potatoes to be unpalatable, but not poisonous. It's rare to eat them, but mostly because of taste rather than health consequences. Other countries seem more likely view them as actually harmful. I was surprised in Russia to realize that potato peels were always removed, with the Russians I spoke to being alarmed that Americans didn't worry about eating them. Are you possibly Russian, or at least close enough to incorporate similar cultural views?

This article (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/raw-potatoes) is "fringe" for suggesting that one might eat raw potatoes, but I think summarizes the scientific viewpoint: "Raw potatoes are more likely to cause digestive issues and may contain more antinutrients and harmful compounds. Yet, they’re higher in vitamin C and resistant starch, which may provide powerful health benefits. In truth, both raw and cooked potatoes can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet."

Anyway, while not the same as the Amanita Muscaria case, I wonder if there is something close to parallel happening with potatoes, with one culture feeling a particular preparation is necessary for safety, and another thinking it is just a culinary desire.

It was my impression (as an American) that the only potato safe to eat raw is nagaimo.

My dad was quite into collecting wild fungi and we ate quite a lot of them and had a number of field guides around the house. My memory is that "edible" was reserved (quite sensibly) for varieties that could be eaten in quantity with no special preparation with no known ill effects. Poisonous was not the only other category, there was inedible for not known to be harmful but not considered pleasant to eat, deadly poisonous for the really scary stuff and then sometimes more details on varieties that had some reported ill effects, required special preparation, etc. some of which could be eaten safely, at least by some people, but were not listed simply as edible.

You can eat raw potatoes.

Just not a bucket full of green potatoes, cooked or raw.

> You can eat raw potatoes.

If you can get them down, presumably.

I've eaten a lot of raw potato as the base for gluten free muesli: grated raw potatoes + grated raw apple + nuts and seeds + dried fruit.


I don't find raw potatoes particularly offensive, though rather boring by themselves.

The big difference is that amanita muscaria is a hallucinagen, so if that got popular it would probably end up as a schedule 1 drug...

A schedule 1 drug that you can easily find in almost all forests of the Northern hemisphere. Might be a bit hard to enforce.

Aren't psylocybin mushrooms (ie. magic mushrooms) considered schedule I in the US as well? You can find those in most forests.

> You can find those in most forests.

Sure, but the ones that grow in forests are relatively uncommon and pretty hard to find. Whereas Amanita muscaria are so easy to find that it's almost impossible not to find them on a regular basis by accident, even if you're not looking for them.

Note, there are false positives, e.g. amanita pantheris, that foragers should be aware of.

For sure. They mostly grow in groups though, e.g. five or ten within a few feet, so at least you usually have enough ones in good condition and in various states of their lifecycle to make identifying them relatively straightforward.

Foodie here. I love a good Chantarelle or Maitake as well as the next guy, but I don't understand what could be left of the flavor (not to mention nutrition) in anything that you boiled long enough to detoxify it.

What's the point in all of this tempting of the Fates who are in charge of poisons?

Interesting (scary?) to note that the Wikipedia article for Amanita muscaria briefly mentions de-toxification in the above-the-fold section.

As with many things that may or may not be too poisonous to count as food, it's worth looking at these compared to ethanol. The lethal dose of ethanol is fairly low multiple of the dose that will provide a buzzed or pleasantly drunk state. Seems like these Muscaria follow that same pattern.

In a sense, they are less toxic than ethanol because they can in principle be detoxified by cooking. Compared to ethanol, the main worry seems to be the inconsistent concentration of intoxicants between mushrooms, and the delayed psychotropic effect making it hard to tell if you've consumed too much.

You pointed out one aspect: the in inconsistent concentration of intoxicants.

You are missing another crucial point: time until onset of the effects.

It is much easier to consume a lethal dose of mushrooms than ethanol before your body violently rejects the poison (colloquially known as "vomiting")

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