Before you attempt to use fungi for the table be sure that they are edible; the consequences which follow a mistake are too serious to warrant any risks. Unless you are experienced in making careful observations and comparisons, eat only those fungi which have been shown to you by some one who has tried them and knows them to be wholesome. If you are experienced in making careful observations and comparisons, and wish to make experiments, make them cautiously, using a small quantity of the fungus for the first trial, and, if no ill effects are felt, increase the amount until you are satisfied as to its edibility.
There is no general rule by which one may know an edible species from a poisonous species. One must learn to know each kind by its appearance, and the edibility of each kind by experiment.
Some edible mushrooms change colour when bruised, some edible ones do not.
Some poisonous mushrooms change colour when bruised, and some poisonous ones do not.
Some mushrooms with bright colours, or viscid caps, or pleasant taste, or agreeable odour are edible, and some are poisonous.
Some edible mushrooms will turn a silver spoon black, and so will some poisonous ones.
Cautions for the Inexperienced
Never use specimens which are decomposed in the slightest degree.
Never use those which are at all burrowed by insects.
Never collect, for food, mushrooms in the button stage, as it is difficult for a novice to distinguish the buttons of poisonous species from the buttons of harmless species.
Never use fungi with swollen bases surrounded by sac-like or scaly envelopes.
Never use fungi with milky juice unless the juice is reddish.
Never use fungi with caps thin in proportion to the width of the gills when the gills are nearly all of equal length, especially if the caps are bright coloured.
Never use for food tube-bearing fungi in which the flesh changes colour when cut or broken, nor those with the tubes reddish. Be very cautious with all fleshy tube-bearing fungi.
Never use for food fungi with a web-like ring around the upper part of the stem.
The Food Value of Fungi. - Many people thoughtful for the welfare of those with limited opportunities for varying their bill of fare have hoped to solve the problem by introducing into more general use the varied and abundant fungi which grow everywhere throughout our country. In order to accomplish this object, bulletins have been published by the several agricultural departments, and have been distributed freely to those wishing to have them. The result has been that a wide-spread interest has been created in this branch of botany, and fungi have become a common dish on tables where they were never before seen.
As accessories, for relish or variety, edible fungi are undoubtedly valuable ; but that they can never take the place of meat, as many fondly hoped, nor rank very high as an essential food, has been shown by the experiments of Mr. L. B. Mendel in the Sheffield Laboratory of Physiological Chemistry, Yale University. Mr. Mendel has demonstrated by chemical analysis and by ex-periments in artificial digestion that the proportion of proteid matter - the material which meat supplies - is smaller than it was formerly supposed to be, and also that a large proportion of that present is not acted upon by the digestive juices. Since, also, the proportion of water to solid matter is very great, being from seventy to ninety per cent, in the most desirable edible species, it would be necessary that a man should eat a great many pounds of even the richest fungi in order to obtain the daily requisite of proteid matter necessary to maintain a healthy constitution.
The specimens marked edible in this book have been repeatedly tried by many people, and without ill effects. Some marked edible are harmless, but poor, while others are extremely delicious and appetizing.
A few directions for preparing different species for cooking are given below, that those who wish to experiment may have the benefit of the experience of others. Receipts for cooking the common mushroom, Agaricus campestris, may be found in all complete cook-books, and these receipts as they are given or modified may be used for other kinds also, provided that the directions for the preparation of the different species are followed.
To Keep Mushrooms Temporarily. - Cleanse, remove the parts to be rejected, rinse in cold water the parts to be used, dry with a cloth, then put in boiling water and keep boiling for five or ten minutes. Drain, and wipe dry.
To Prepare the Edible Agarics for Cooking. - Cleanse, cut off the stems and throw them away. Rinse the caps in cold water, drain, and leave in cold water acidulated with lemon or vinegar until just before using.
To Toast Agarics. - Dry with a cloth, dust with flour, put a little butter, pepper, and salt on the gills. Lay the caps, gills upward, on a wire-net toaster, over a moderate fire, and cook from five to ten minutes.
To Bake Agarics. - Dry with a cloth. Line a porcelain pie-dish with toast, spread the peeled caps on the toast, sprinkle with pepper and salt, and pour over them a few spoonfuls of thick cream. Cover with a plate, and place in a moderate oven for fifteen minutes. Serve hot. Or, Line the dish with toast dipped in hot water and buttered. Spread the caps on the toast, with half a teaspoonful of butter on each one. Cover, and cook in a warm oven for ten minutes.
To Broil Agarics - Broil lightly on both sides over a bright fire. Arrange on buttered toast, sprinkle with pepper and salt. Put bits of butter or bits of toasted bacon on each, and set in the oven a moment. Serve hot.
Mushrooms Stewed - Caps, peeled, one quart; butter, two tablespoonfuls; salt, one teaspoonful; pepper, one-third of a teaspoonful; water or stock, one-half cupful. Boil gently in a covered stewpan for five minutes. Or, Caps, peeled and cut in pieces, one pint; butter, one tablespoonful; salt, one-halfteaspoonful; pepper, one pinch. Simmer in a stewpan for ten minutes.
To Prepare Russulas - Reject the stems and gills, but not the peel. Cleanse the caps, rinse in cold water, then put for a moment in boiling water, and dry with a cloth. Cook by the receipts given for agarics.
To Prepare Fungi with Milky Juice - Remove the stems, cleanse, rinse, and scald. Steep for six hours in a liquid prepared by mixing one wineglass of strong vinegar, one table-spoonful of salt, and one pint of water. Boil for ten minutes in salt and water. Cook by the receipts given for agarics.
Lactarius deliciosus - Known by its greyish-orange cap marked with brighter zones, and by its orange milk. Also Lactarius volemus - Known by its reddish-brown cap, two to five inches across, with stems of the same colour, and white milk. May be prepared by simply removing the bases of the stems and then rinsing in water.
To Prepare Amanitas - Reject the stems and peel, and cook but a short time.
To Prepare Chanterelles - Cut off the base of the stems, rinse in cold water, soak in warm milk for six hours. Stew a long time with plenty of butter or stock. Use with meat hashes and stews, or in omelet.
To Fry Chanterelles - Wash, slice, put in melted butter, and stir for ten minutes, simply keeping them warm. Add more butter, pepper, salt, crumbs of bread, and minced parsley, and fry over a hot fire.
To Prepare Coprini - Ink Caps - Use only young specimens. Remove the base of the stems, wipe with a damp cloth. Throw for an instant into boiling water. Fry in boiling butter or lard. Remove from the pan as soon as they break or sink. Serve on toast.
To Prepare Boleti - Remove the tubes with a spoon. Reject the stems.
To Prepare Hydnum repandum - Remove the bases of the stems, and scrape off the spines. They require little cooking.
To Prepare Morels - Cleanse; rinse by shaking them in several waters, or run the cold water from the faucet over them until the pits are thoroughly cleansed. They require to be cooked for a long time.
To Prepare Beefsteak Fungus - Gather when of a light-red colour. Remove the hard base, cleanse in cold water.
For salad - Cut in thin slices and serve with dressed lettuce.
Minced - Mince fine, put in a stewpan with butter, three ounces to the pound. Season with salt, pepper, minced parsley, and onion juice. Stew gently for twenty minutes. Bind with egg-yolk beaten in cream, and serve with toast. This mince may be used with veal or chicken hash.
To Prepare Gyromitras. - Cleanse, cut in slices, boil in water fifteen minutes, then wash by shaking in two successive waters boiling hot. Dry on cloths, and cook as directed for morels.
To Prepare Woody Pore-bearing Fungi - PolyporAE.- Take the soft parts of young specimens. Put in boiling water for a few moments, rinse in cold water, and dry on cloths. Spread with butter, lay in a stewpan, and cover; then keep them for ten minutes just warm enough to melt the butter. Strain, broil for fifteen minutes, or stew half an hour or more with gravy.
To Prepare Clavarias and Branched Hydnums. - Cleanse, throw into scalding water for a moment, and then put into cold water made acid with lemon or vinegar until they are to be cooked. Divide the large ones, and tie the small ones into bundles. Place in a stewpan with bits of butter laid on them. Cover the pan, and expose to heat enough to melt the butter. Leave for ten minutes, and drain.
To Cook Clavarias. - Put into a hot stewpan with bits of butter; season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Cover closely, and stew for half an hour. Thicken with cream and flour, season to taste, and cook until tender.
Clavarias may also be cooked as directed for agarics.
To Prepare Puffballs. - Cleanse, peel, trim off the base. Cut in two pieces, and reject all those which are not pure white within.
To Cook Puffballs. - Fry in lard five or six minutes, with bacon, parsley, onion juice, salt, and pepper; or cook as directed for agarics.
To Cook the Giant Puffball. - Cut in slices half an inch thick, dip in the beaten yolk of egg, pepper, and salt. Fry in boiling fat for five or six minutes.
Puffball Salad. - Cut in strips, and serve with green salad dressed with mustard, oil, and vinegar.