Category Archives: Friday Fungus!

Friday Fungus! Full-Figured Fungi

Back by popular demand (upwards of 3 people), it’s the return of everyone’s favorite quarterly, mushroom-focused series! Today we’re talking about fungi that are big, beautiful and fabulous.

Pop Quiz: Do you know that the largest living organism on earth is? If you would have asked me this last week, I would have guessed blue whale, a redwood tree, or maybe something like a giraffe riding on a blue whale. All would have been incorrect; as I’ve learned this week that the world’s largest living thing is none other than a fungus! Fungi never cease to amaze!

In the Malheur National Forest in Oregon lives a full-figured fungus so large it is hard to comprehend. Apparently the extensive ‘honey mushroom’ mass covers an area of about 3.5 miles, or more than 2,200 acres. Most of which is underground but my mind is still blown. (I was way off on my original guess. You’d have to stack an incredible amount of giraffes on top of a blue whale to come close to matching this formidable organism.)

In other large fungus news, just this week a real beauty was discovered in China’s Yunnan Province. Coming in at a whopping 33 pounds, this glorious heavyweight has over 100 caps; or according to my calculations, enough to complement 500 dishes of General Tso’s.

There are many more big & tall fungi out there that deserve recognition. The Fomitiporia ellipsoidea species can grow up to 35.5 feet long and weigh 800-1,000 pounds, while the Giant Puffball’s not so shabby either. We could go on for days but let’s go ahead and call it here to allow time for reflection.

I encourage you all to spend some time this weekend and marvel at how great fungi are. Especially the large ones! I don’t know about you, but I haven’t thought about how awesome huge mushrooms are since level 4 of Super Mario 3. I’m grateful for this reminder today.

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Friday Fungus! Familiar Fungi

It’s time for another installment of everyone’s favorite (quarterly, mushroom-related) series!

I saw a couple ‘shrooms sprouting in our lawn a little while back and thought, “Wonder if I could eat that?”

Not having any idea what the ‘shroom was or if I could add it to one of my patented “fancy Ramens” (Pizza Ramen, Hot Pocket Ramen, McNugz Ramen, etc.) without dying was the impetus for today’s post… in which we’ll identify a few common fungi seen around the world and whether or not they should be consumed.

According to my new handy mushroom field guide, our culprit here from my lawn appears to be a semi-tasty common puffball, or Lycoperdon perlatum, OR for mushroom enthusiasts who like to party: THE DEVIL’S SNUFF BOX.

Common Puffballs (all imgs on this page via Wikipedia, send yer donations you freeloaders!)

(Please if you are a mushroom expert and believe I’ve made a grave error and this is really a deadly toxic ‘shroom, thanks for the heads up).

It’s head-scratching the names they come up with these fungi. I do like that every fungus seems to have multiple aliases, like gangsters, but most of them seem pretty negative. I’m not sure who the marketing gurus responsible for naming these things are, but to be saddled with descriptors like canker, blight, rot, rust, stinkhorn, decay, smut etc., is a real social barrier. Hopefully the Friday Fungus! series will help restore the good name of some of these unfortunately named beauties.

In the meantime, here are a few other common fungi to be aware of.

Grifola frondosaA.K.A. Hen of the Woods, Ram’s Head. The Japanese call this edible gem maitake. It has been praised by many cultures around the world for its taste and also touted for its supposed medicinal purposes.

A lovely Hen of the Woods.

Clathrus ruberA.K.A. Red cage, Witch’s Heart. This stinkhorn can be seen around the world. Fully grown it emits a foul odor and would only be eaten by a foolhardy drunkard, but apparently it can be consumed when still in ‘egg’ form.

A very lovely but smelly Red Cage.

Pseudocolus fusiformisA.K.A. Stinky Squid. Another bizarre but common stinkhorn, this is another one to steer clear of when fully grown. So help me if I hear about any of you trying to eat something called Stinky Squid I will send our intern out to smack you.

Another smelly beauty, the Stinky Squid.

Fuligo septicA.K.A. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Scrambled Egg Slime.  This unfortunately named common fungus gets a further dent to its reputation by being accused of causing asthma. I say we band together to change the nickname to something more appealing, like Hero Fungus.

Dog Vomit Slime Mold, or Hero Fungus?

Be sure to join us next time as we learn more about the wild, wonderful world of fungi together!

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Friday Fungus! Fly Agaric

Before starting this Friday Fungus! series, I must admit I never gave mushrooms much thought or respect. An okay salad garnish, the lone morsel of viable nutritional value from one of those Japanese places at the mall, a fried appetizer when passing through ‘Bama, something to stuff down a bad neighbor’s chimney, or just something to kick and watch explode – this is what ‘shrooms have meant to me in the past.  But the deeper we dig into the world of fungi, their astonishing role in the development of human history continues to be an absolute revelation.

The unassuming appearance of today’s mushroom belies its wild and surprisingly checkered historical ties to Viking berserkers, zany fertility cults and according to at least one person, the foundation for the spread of Christianity. No big deal.

Today’s shroom: the Fly Agaric. Photo via Luigi. J/K photo via Wikipedia.

The Fly Agaric is the quintessential image of a mushroom. Thanks to garden gnomes and Mario, the classic red cap with white stem has become the face for fungi worldwide. But man oh man that’s not even scratching the mildly poisonous dermis of this toadstool.

I invite you to read on in disbelief, or if you have a super amount of free time and enjoy wacky Dale Gribble-esque conspiracy theories, have a go at this video.

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Friday Fungus! The Darker Side of Fungi

It’s that time again… let’s talk some fungi!

Today we’re going to talk about the darker side of fungi – namely shrooms that can kill you. For the love of Pete do not try to eat any of the things we mention from here on out.

There are a surprising amount of deadly shrooms out there. For today’s segment, we’re going to look at one in particular – the ol’ Lepiota brunneoincarnata, AKA, the “deadly dapperling.”

Now, for starters, when thinking about consuming a mushroom, a good rule of thumb is to make sure it does NOT have a nickname that sounds like a cheezy metal band. European Destroying Angel, East Asian Death Cap, Deadly Webcap, Yellow Clubbed Foot, Autumn Skullcap, Sulfur Tuft, Yellow Knight… clearly these are all mushrooms you should NOT eat.

Now, should you find yourself in a “European coniferous woodland” do NOT eat this mushroom, for you will surely die. The Deadly Dapperling will kill you very painfully via “liver toxicity,” which is another excellent name for a metal band but no way to go.

Deadly Dapperling photo via Wikipedia.

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Friday Fungus!

In an attempt to improve the image of yet another F word with unfair, negative connotations (tough to overcome athlete’s foot/jock itch commercials), occasionally on Fridays we take time out to celebrate the wild, wonderful world of fungi. By the time we’re done with this feature, you’ll amaze at dinner parties and make the ladies swoon with your flair for fungus.

“Haha you fool! Hen of the Woods! Obviously, it’s a Hexagonal-pored Polypore!”

“Hey where are you going?” Continue reading

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