This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
On this topic it is interesting to note the epicurean perversity of a certain French author, who, in the face of the already overwhelming abundance of nature's esculent species of fungi, must needs include all the deadly Amanitas as well, though he gives a recipe by which the poison is extracted by the copious aid of salt, vinegar, boiling water, and drawing. This process, on general principles, might invite humorous speculation as to the appetizing qualities of the residual morsel thus acquired, or as to the advisability of deliberately selecting a poisonous substance for the desideratum of the washed-out, corned, spiced, nondescript remnant which survives the process of extraction, not only of its noxious properties, but of even what nutriment it might possibly contain.
Fancy a beefsteak similarly "prepared," all its nourishing ingredients extracted and thrown away; its exhausted remnant of muscular fibre now the mere absorbent vehicle for vinegar, salt, lemon-juice, butter, nutmeg, garlic, spice, cloves, and other seeming indis-pensables to the preparation of the Champignon à la mode!
The verdict of the extreme fungus epicure upon the delectable flavor of this or that mushroom must indeed be taken cum grano sails, the customary culinary treatment, or maltreatment, of these delicately flavored fruits having for its apparent object the elimination as far as possible of any suggestion of the true flavor of the fungus. I fancy that even the caustic, rebellious root of the Indian-turnip or the skunk-cabbage thus tamed and subdued in a smothering emollient of spiced gravy or ragoût might negatively serve a purpose as more or less indigestible pabulum.
While, as already mentioned, a few of this genus Amanita are edible, it is well in concluding our chapter to emphasize the caution of an earlier page as to the absolute exclusion of the entire genus from the bill of fare of the amateur mycophagist. There is an abundance of wholesome, delicious fungi at our doors without them.
Many species of Amanita are to be found more or less frequently in company with the esculent varieties recommended in the chapters following. Among these the two extremes of variation from the typical form are seen in the Agaricus muscarius in its permanent retention of the volva scales and the obscurity of its cup, and in the Agaricus phalloides, herewith pictured about half natural size, with the frequent entire absence of these remnant scales, which wither and fall off, leaving the yellowish or greenish cap perfectly smooth.
It is to the volva or cup, then, that we must turn for the one fixed permanent character by which this genus is to be identified.