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Monster_Mycelium

"Inedible" vs. Poisonous - What's the difference?

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So after doing a spore print on a possible P. cinctulus I came to learn that it was (as I predicted) actually Panaeolina foenisecii.

After doing more research into Pan. foe. I learned some very interesting things about the compounds found within it. It contains the anti-depressant seratonin as well as 5-HTP and 5-HIAA (the main metabolite of seratonin). As a person who suffers from severe depression this sounds wonderful, but here is the catch.... everywhere I can find info about Pan. foe. it is always listed as "inedible."

My question to you all is what is the difference in mycological terms between inedible and poisonous?

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Inedible could mean lots of things...unpalatable, indigestable, in this case "Mushrooms of Northeastern North America" book says this mushroom contains psilocybin, and is edible in small quantities but causes hallucinations in large quantities therefore inedible.

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There have been a few reports of problems with P. foenisecii... but nothing that I know about which is recent. One of my old field guides --not sure which one-- describes a situation in which a toddler became ill after grazing on this type.

Whatever compounds are present in P. foenisecii, it's likely that one would need to ingest a large number of these small fragile mushrooms in order to experience any effect. This sounds to me like very risky business. For if there is some undesirable compound present, eating a large number of the mushrooms may push one's tolerance beyond tipping point for the undesirable compound.

Like eat-bolete says, "not edible" includes several possibilities. It may mean that little or no information exists regarding the edibility of the species under consideration. Authors of field guides sometimes play it safe when discussing untested mushrooms.

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Several of us at the wildlife center have periodically attempted to track down and verify accounts of illness from various foraged foods which do not normally make people ill. Most of these have not been mushrooms. Methodology we use ranges from locating the original publication sources of the reports of illness to contacting those doing research that measurably quantifies the actual chemical compounds in whatever it is that is under question.

In a number of cases what we've turned up falls into one of several common categories. One is contamination. The opportunity for pathogenic vectors from bacteria, fungus, animal or insect contamination or chemical contamination definitely exists in the wild. Eat mushrooms (or anything else) from the side of a road that has been sprayed heavily by the city for mosquito control and you will be very sick indeed. Slugs and snails (a common companion to mushrooms) can harbor some pretty horrific pathogens which are fortunately easily destroyed by heat, but raw nibble could be problematic in some areas. It's not difficult to get a piece of something inedible in your foraging basket. In fact it's almost impossible not to. Some of the inedibles are benign, like grass or pine needles. Some may be less so, like the yew I had to brush off of yesterday's Leucoagaricus haul. There are some highly irritant or toxic insects that could cause issues if a bug part was missed. One dead firefly or blister beetle in your haul, or the chemicals a squished one leaks, could certainly cause some problems.

Another is allergy or sensitivity. Some individuals can be allergic or sensitive to some foods, and wild foods are not an exception. About one in fifty people are sensitive to compounds found in daylilies, which are otherwise a good edible. These compounds are most concentrated in some parts of the plant, and the curve goes up the more you ingest. But the cooked buds in moderate quantity are unlikely to affect any but the most genetically sensitive.

Mistaken ID comprises another category. How sure are you that every piece of plant matter that made it into your collecting basket was positively identified? You might be, but the source of that "made somebody sick" report might not have been.

Plant toxins, like those of animals, can be highly variable in individual expression as well as ontogenetically and seasonally. Every individual poisoning event is a multifactorial crap shoot where the observable symptoms depend not only on the dose and specificity, but on the metabolic and pharmacokinetic response of the individual. This is a fancy way of saying "Even doctors mostly ain't got a clue" when it comes to what, exactly, caused a poisoning event. We have diagnostic tools, but the focus in treating a patient is recovery rather than research. You can treat a poisoning event without being 100% sure of the specifics of the underlying cause, though narrowing it down definitely helps. Some cases will be clear and obvious as to causality, others not so much. A whole lot of the reports of "X people got sick from eating Y wild edible" fall under the not so much category.

This isn't to say you should go eat things with impunity that have reports of causing illness. Especially if the same underlying causes may also apply to the mushroom you have in your hand, or if you don't known which underlying causes might apply. Genetic variant of phytochemical expression in some populations? A local pathogen vector that likes this species but doesn't affect all of them in all areas? External contamination that isn't easily visible or detectable? Consider all these factors before putting it in your mouth, and you'll probably live to forage many more days.

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Nicely done, ChefsWild. One of the more comprehensive posts, invovling wild edibles, with many of the same explanations I've used myself.

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Thanks ladyflyfish. Just bookmarked the link found above. Busy now, but I'll eventually get around to reading the article.

Chefs, that's an absolute tour de force regarding the issues related to the consumption of wild foods. I urge our members to scroll up and read your excellent post.

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