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.
1. Pleasant taste and odor.
2. Peeling of the skin of the cap from rim to centre.
3. Pink gills, turning brown in older specimens.
4. The stem easily pulled out of the cap and inserted in it like a parasol handle.
5. Solid stems.
6. Must be gathered in the morning.
7. "Any fungus having a pleasant taste and odor, being found similarly agreeable after being plainly broiled without the least seasoning, is perfectly safe."
8. Boiling with a "silver spoon," the staining of the silver indicating danger.
9. Change of color in the fracture of the fresh mushroom.
10. Slimy or sticky on the top.
11. Having the stems at their sides.
12. Growing in clusters.
13. Found in dark, damp places.
14. Growing on wood, decayed logs, or stumps.
15. Growing on or near manure.
16. Having bright colors.
17. Containing milky juice.
18. Having the gill plates of even length.
19. Melting into black fluid.
20. Biting the tongue or having a bitter or nauseating taste.
21. Changing color by immersion in salt-water, or upon being dusted with salt.
These present but a selection of the more prevalent notions. Taken in toto, they would prove entirely safe, as they would practically exclude every species of mushroom or toadstool that grows. But as a rule the village oracle bases his infallibility upon two or three of the above "rules," and inasmuch as the entire list absolutely omits the only one test by which danger is to be avoided, it is a seven-days' wonder that the grewsome toadstool epitaph is not more frequent. I once knew an aged dame who was accepted as a village oracle on this as well as other topics, such as divining, palmistry, and fortune-telling, and who ate and dispensed toadstools on a few of the above rules. Strange to say, she lived to a good old age, and no increased mortality is credited to her memory as a result of her generosity.
How are these popular notions sustained by the facts? Let us analyze them seriatim and confront each with its refutation, the better to show their entire untrustworthiness.