(From α, priv. and madness).
The eatable mushroom, not poisonous. Their tribe is therefore called Aminita, Fungi, and Tubera. The fungous productions called mushrooms, truffles, etc.
Among the ancients these are noticed only by Oriba-sius, Paulus AEgineta, and N. Myrepsus.
Among the moderns, they have only within about fifty years claimed particular attention, and it was long doubted whether they were really vegetables, or only the nidus of numerous animalcules. It is needless, on a point not connected with medicine, to enlarge by adducing the history of opinions on this subject. M. Bul-liard has, at last, proved them to be really organised bodies of the vegetable kingdom. That they are propagated by seed is highly probable; but what Bulliard seems to have mistaken for the seed, Gaertaer and Mir-bel have shown, with some success, to be buds. Par-mentier joins in the same opinion. What has been described as the male and female organs are consequently parts whose uses have not yet been discovered. Mushrooms, however, resemble plants in this respect, that their nutrition is derived from fluids drawn in by vessels; and the more solid kinds, resembling cork, show the annual deposition of concentric coats: in those still more solid, the resemblance to plants is stronger; while, in the transitory productions of short duration, the fluids, instead of being conveyed by vessels, seem to pass through a cellular substance by capillary attraction. From analysis they appear, as we have said, of an animal nature; and, under water, give out hydrogenous, azotic, and carbonic acid gas; by distillation, ammonia.
Parmentier considers mushrooms only as condiments. He thinks them incapable of being assimilated, and without any nutritious particles. In this, however, he is evidently mistaken; since tanin precipitates an albuminous substance from the water in which some of the species have been infused. A few only of the mushrooms are eatable: some are insipid, and some poisonous. Of the eatable ones, however, the flavour is delicious; and, as it is volatile, mushrooms are employed in Piedmont to give a flavour to some liquors. The poison of the injurious kinds is of a sedative nature, resembling, as we shall find, in its effects, hemlock. Some authors have therefore advised substituting a similar flavour from other vegetable substances. We know that an Indian bean, a species of dolichos, will, in a great degree, supply it as in the soy. The bottoms of artichokes resemble it very nearly; and, by some management, even celery is not very unlike.
The only sorts in general use are the mushroom, the truffle, and the morille.
The true mushrooms, agaricus cumpestris Lin. art known by their external whiteness, and by being of a pale red within when young, and of a deeper red, or dark, when older; they are, at their first appearance, of a round figure, and not much larger than a small nut; after they have a little unfolded their membranes, they appear red, full, and close; on the top is a disagreeable softness, equal and white; the matter within is very white, with short and thick stalks. They grow in fertile ground, and should be gathered for eating as soon after springing up as possible, for they then contain an oily and a saline part; and if they stay long before they are gathered, their salts become more active and hurtful.
Another species of agaric, which now begins to attract the attention of the luxurious, is the a. orcades of Bolton; that kind which produces the circular appearances in fields, styled fairy rings, its substance is tough, and consequently it is used only to make catchup, or in powder. It greatly resembles another species, the muceron of the French, employed in ragouts. There are several other species of agaric used, particularly a large one found in Cornwall, near the coast,- but we need not enlarge further on the subject,
The truffle belongs to that family of fungi whose seeds are internal. The tuber cibarium of Bulliard is, we believe, the only species generally eaten; though the musk, the white, the American truffle, and some others, specifically distinct, are mentioned among delicacies. It is firm and fleshy, and its surface covered with prismatic tubercles; when at its full growth blackish, with white veins. It is buried about four or five inches deep in the earth, and discovered by hogs, or dogs trained for the purpose, as these animals are very fond of this fungus. De Bosch, who has written at some length on the truffles of Piedmont, informs us, that numerous tipulsae may be found over the place where truffles abound; and the larvae of little flies, with red eyes, which likewise feed on truffles, lead to the spot. With respect to truffles, Bulliard gives up his seminal system, and calls them viviparous; as he finds the young fungus attached to the parent by a cord resembling the umbilical. As a food, truffles are stimulant and difficult of digestion. M. Bouillon la Grange has engaged at great length in their analysis; of which we find an abstract in some late volumes of the Critical Review. It differs little from the chemical analysis of other fungi; but we may remark, that truffles contain magnesia and some portion of albuminous matter. From the truffle the most odoriferous and pleasing liqueur is prepared.
The morille is a mushroom whose stalk is hollow, and whose head is irregularly indented and wrinkled. It belongs to the family whose seeds are on the superior part of the mushroom, or, more strictly, which adhere to the surface of the cavities of the hat. It is of the genus phallus, and two sections have been distinguished; of which the p. esculentus and impudicus are examples. Ventenat, however, has shewn that this distinction is not strictly accurate, (Mem. de I' Institut, vol. i.). Yet on the whole, in a general review, it may be adopted. The morille, in its early stages, is of a greyish brown, but becomes afterwards black. In the period it is preferred on account of its odour and flavour; for at last it becomes insipid. It should be cut oft", not torn up, because the water, which rises in the cellular substance, conveys some earth with it; and, if collected while the dew is on the ground, it soon becomes mouldy. When strung on cord, they will keep in a good state a long time, but should be moistened with warm water before they are used. Some other specie's of phallus are esculent; but it is useless to enlarge on them. If we recollect rightly, 13 species are described by Ventenat in the Memoirs of the Institute, and three other American species have been since added.
To various causes are attributed the disagreeable effects which some persons experience after eating them. The deleterious effects of these vegetables have been attributed to little worms, to their being too old, too long kept, etc. We cannot deny the effect of the worms; but as they are seldom, if ever, observed in the esculent kind, it is not probable that any injury can arise from them. The other causes are certainly inadmissible; since mushrooms are generally eaten at every period of their growth with impunity. We suspect that-the mischief rather arises from mistaking the species, which, from the similarity of the poisonous to the esculent kinds, is easy. Bosch, however, informs us, that steeping the mushroom in water, or, what is preferable, vinegar, for a short time, will take away every probable inconvenience. The poison of the deleterious kinds, which differ in their chemical analysis from the others only in being more watery, is not of a volatile nature, and does not rise in distillation. Mushrooms raised from seed in hot-beds are never, we believe, poisonous. They are said to contain a larger proportion of oil; but they are less sapid, and more firm in their substance. It is the agaricus esculentus, or campestris of Linnaeus, the amanita esculenta of La Marck, that submits most readily to this artificial mode of propagation.
When offended by eating them, some of the following symptoms are produced; a qualmishness first affects the patient, which increases to a considerable degree of sickness, swelling of the stomach or of the belly, restlessness, giddiness, a palpitation of the heart, heartburn, colic, hiccough, diarrhoea, accompanied with a tenesmus, flushing heat in the skin, with more or less of redness there, and swelling in the face, and sometimes a sensation all over the body, which resembles what is felt from a general swelling; the patient stares in an unusual manner, all objects appear different from what they did before; a difficulty of breathing comes on. and the mind is strangely confused; delirium, trembling, watching, fainting, cold sweats, apoplexies, and convulsions, have followed the eating of this sort of fungus.
For the relief of persons under these circumstances, as speedily as possible, from gr. x. to Э i. of white vitriol, dissolved in a draught of warm water, should be given; and if the sickness is still urgent, the same quantity repeated two or three times, that the stomach may be well emptied. After this a large spoonful of vinegar in a glass of water should be frequently taken. The poison is not of the acrid kind, so that fat broths and oily medicines are useless. After evacuations upwards, a passage downwards by purgatives or clysters must be procured. After due evacuations of each kind, and besides the vinegar, cyder and perry, that are brisk and sparkling, may be now and then given. If any paralytic symptoms appear, sinapisms or blisters are necessary.