The Amanita Muscaria

Part 1: The mushroom madness

Greenman of Sooke talks about the delectable fungus

Wild and Cultured:  Musings from the GreenMan

Disclaimer:  this article is meant to provoke insight into the many uses and mysteries of the mushrooms that live among us. It is not an invitation to experiment into the potentially lethal ingestion of some of the mushrooms mentioned. Consult with a experienced guide, and not merely a book or website when attempting to identify species for consumption.

 

Meaty, medicinal, mystical…maddening mushrooms.  The allure of the mushroom in our Southern Vancouver Island rain forest climes captivates our deepest animal impulses. When on the hunt, the crazed ‘mushroom eyes’ kick in—the body becomes enveloped by an extra-sensory perception of sorts. Perhaps it is an invisible whiff of a cloud of spores on the air that alerts us to our moss-concealed cousins of the Fungi Kingdom. Whatever one may call it, this ‘mushroom craze’ may be felt as a benign form of madness.

Then again…maybe not.  Some Viking warriors of old would froth into a mad dog frenzy after reportedly consuming a brew of Amanita Muscaria.  Storming battlefield in a wild fury, they were deemed invulnerable to attack. Hence the name, “Beserkers”, who would curdle the blood of the all-too-sober enemies of these insane warriors.

On the other hand, this same species of mushroom  also divined us the gifts and giver in Old St. Nick, or Santa Claus. This beloved jolly figure resembles the Amanita Muscaria, or ‘Fly Agaric’ mushroom, both of whom are portly, jolly and brightly coloured in red and white. The mushrooms were dried and hung by the stockings near the fire place or on trees as ornaments. This entheogenic (“generating the divine within”) fungi is thought to have given rise to the stories of “flying” reindeer, Christmas trees, magical elves, and chimney sliding in relation to the partaking of the shroom.

Deeper into this history of the ‘Fly Agaric’ we discover the magical worlds of the Siberian shaman who entered states of non-ordinary consciousness in order to promote healing, balance and well being in the community. This ‘sacred madness’ is bound deeply to the power-animal relationship that the shamans had with the reindeer, who incidentally loved to eat the mushrooms as well, leading them to prance and trance about wildly….”On Dasher, on Dancer on Prancer on Vixen!!”

The kindred kind of the Amanita range from the scale of ‘choice edible’ Amanita caesarea, to the not so subtle devastatingly poisonous “Destroying Angel” and “Death Cap.”

“Know thy mushrooms!” a Delphic Oracle once whispered into the ears of an initiate in the hove-trodden woods of Pan and the Greenman. We may as well throw in ‘know thy trees’, as mushrooms are often found in a symbiotic jive with chosen species of their arboreal cousins.

On edibility, the mushroom is often said to have a “meaty” texture and “umami” taste:  the taste bud sensation coined by the Japanese which is said to have a pleasant “brothy” or “meaty” taste with an enduring, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue.

Wild mushrooms transcend the tasty but domesticated and monocultured Agaricus bisporus of the grocery store variety.  Portobellos are merely oversized versions of this same tame species.

Both the scarcity and wildness of the choice edibles makes them a rare treat to the cultured palate and gut.  Gastronomically speaking, Lion’s Mane, Chanterelles, Cauliflower, Porcinis, Oysters, Lobsters and Morels have no equal on the humdrum shelves of the shop. These names may sound arcane to the uninitiated in the savoury flavours of fungi, but to those who have ever been tempted by even a morsel of the above, there is no turning back to the mundane world of white supermarket mushrooms.

The wild chef pursues the delectable edible with reverence and desire.  It is this quest for the choice edible that leads the culinary artist to a special kind of madness. When combined with the fanatical devotion of the mushroom hunter, the frenzy gets upped a few more notches.

 

Next time: How mushrooms may restore health and save the planet. Part 2.

 

Just Posted

MISSING:Victoria police seek 42-year-old Craig Hughes?

Hughes was last seen on May 20 at 5:45 a.m.

Some showers, high of 18 C for Tuesday

Plus a look ahead at your weekly forecast

Peninsula crews extinguish early morning boat fire in Central Saanich

Firefighters saved nearby home from further damage

Bay Street Bridge construction begins today

Point Ellice Bridge will be closed to eastbound vehicle traffic until October

Rescuers finally persuade Eiffel Tower climber to come down

The official said the man was ‘under control and out of danger’ on Monday night

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Oil companies, 24-cent gap between B.C., Alberta to be focus of gas price probe

Premier John Horgan called the spike in gas prices ‘alarming’

Meals on Wheels needs volunteers

Cooks, meal planners desperately required

Motorcycle deaths spike 50% since 2017

Riders were most likely fatally crash on the weekends compared with the rest of the week

Mother of accused charged in death of Surrey teen girl found in torched SUV

Manjit Kaur Deo charged with ‘accessory after the fact’ in 2017 death of Surrey teen

Family of B.C. pilot killed in Honduras trying to ‘piece together’ tragedy

Patrick Forseth has a number of friends in the area and was loved by everyone

Justin Trudeau credits immigration for Canada’s growing tech sector

Trudeau stressed that Canada has become a major source of talent for tech all over the world

Feds launch tourism strategy designed to boost sector 25 per cent by 2025

The fund is supposed to back experiences that show off Canada’s strengths

Most Read