Poisons By Contact And Odor

The moral of this story is that the less the reader has to do with Amanita fungi the better. Let them have a wide berth, or at most an annihilating kick, lest by their alluring beauty they tempt the next unwary traveller who shall encounter them. But you desire a specimen "to show a friend," or "to make a photograph of, or a sketch," perhaps. In such case it were well to consider further the experiences of Mr. Palmer, which will show the wisdom of keeping your gustatorial and artistic mycology in separate expeditions, or at least of providing your poison-exhaling Amanita specimen with a cage by itself. In the same article he continues:

"Mushrooms make the same use of the atmosphere as men, even their exhalations are accordingly vitiated with their properties. Those not deadly thus attack humanity - namely, by absorption of their essential elements by the whole system. They also inoculate each other with or without contact, so that if edible and noxious toadstools are gathered together the former will absorb the properties of the latter"

In proof of this assertion he instances a personal experience as follows: "About four years ago a number of poisonous mushrooms (not Amanitas, but of a totally different family) were sent me with edible fungus. The two varieties had lain twelve hours in the same box. The noxious ones were rejected, and the esculent washed and eaten. In a moment my appetite was gone; violent perspiration, vertigo, and trembling were the next symptoms; then chills, nausea, purging, and tenesmus, all within thirty minutes. Now the substance could not have reached the intestines. The virus absorbed from the noxious fungus permeated the whole system through eating the harmless ones; unmixed with other food it acted upon the muscles through an empty stomach; once spent, the ailment passed off," etc.

A Wide Berth To Amanita. Mushrooms Inoculated By Contact

From these and other experiences he draws the following conclusions: The poisonous principle of a fungus being absorbed by a harmless element, if the latter be eaten the venom acts more quickly. In reinforcement of this he states that "if the Amanita be cut in sections and laid in vinegar the fungus may be eaten without danger to life; but on a very small dose of the vinegar, death will follow more speedily than if the whole toadstool be eaten." Further interesting matter upon this topic is contained in the article from which I quote, and to which the reader is referred in his volume included in my bibliographical list. The work also contains numerous other collected articles of Mr. Palmer's upon this subject of fungi, to which he has devoted so much attention, and with which his name has become so popularly identified in America.

The allusion to vinegar as an absorbent of the poison suggests the prevalent habitual use of salt as a safeguard by many in the employment of the fungus as food, as both of these ingredients play a prominent part in a fungus cuisine. It is averred by some writers that one of the most noxious of Amanitas - the Fly-agaric - is eaten in some countries, notably Russia, without unpleasant results, while it is confidently asserted to be harmless after, as it were, having its venom drawn by a soaking in brine previous to cooking. Boiling - both in the possible neutralizing of the poison through heat, and in the withdrawal of the same in the solution - would also be contributive to safety in such cases, provided the tainted liquid were not retained as in a stew or soup.