Love Mushrooms? Learn to Forage Them (and Avoid the Bad Ones).

Whether it's berries or mushrooms or any other sort of free-growing food, the most important thing to learn is which types are safe to eat and which ones are better left alone.

Tama Matsuoka Wong has the very cool title of "Resident Forager" at cooking website Food52. In a piece posted yesterday (and cross-posted at Grist), Wong offers her readers a very basic introduction to visiting local fields and forests in search of flavorful fungi. As is becoming of any good nature writer, Wong's words are beautifully strewn on the page, her rain-softened landscapes come alive with every sentence. Needless to say, I highly recommend giving her a read.

Wong began foraging mushrooms after learning about them through her local mycological association. Mycology, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the biological study of fungi. Wong recommends that you talk with an expert before you walk out into your local woods and start collecting every ol' mushroom you see. That's because a good mycologist can give you tips so you can avoid becoming a victim of poisoning via ignorance. 

For example, Wong learned to identify one of the most poisonous mushrooms in nature: the deathcap (Amanita phalloides):

"It looks beguilingly like an Alice in Wonderland toadstool, with a little parasol cap on top of a stem and gills. There is no antidote for consuming this mushroom, and within a few days you will die of liver failure. My mycologist advises that the safest way to start foraging mushrooms is to avoid the ones that look like, well, mushrooms! Poisonous young amanitas can look like small puffball mushrooms before their gills grow. Other poisonous mushrooms include the false morel (the inside is not hollow) and the little brown mushroom."

So it sounds like if you're staring down a mushroom that resembles the character Toad from Super Mario, it's best to leave it be.

Wong explains that there are many advantages to foraging your own mushrooms. Not only can it be a fun outing and an opportunity to get in touch with nature, your fresh fungi will taste better and fresher than those you buy under plastic wrap. If you're interested in giving it a shot, check out Wong's article (linked again below) to learn how to get started, as well as how to keep your liver working once you cook up your catch.

Read more at Grist

Photo credit: Coffee Lover / Shutterstock

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less