Wild Arkansas

October 17, 2008

Mushroom poisonings

Filed under: foraging, mushrooms, thistle, toxic plants — Tags: , , — WildArkansas @ 12:53 pm

With all the excitement about mushroom hunting (this is the season!), everyone going out on a foray should pay attention to all the warnings about poisonous look-alikes.

Here’s an article published last year at SF Chronicle about a whole family consuming death caps.

I learned just recently that milk thistle is regularly used to treat Amanita poisoning in Europe, but has not been approved by the FDA to use in this country. Nice to see a reference in which the medical community actually makes use of the knowledge available.

So far this year, I haven’t seen one poisoning in Arkansas…


October 10, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Mushroom Season

Filed under: Edible plants, foraging, mushrooms, Wildcrafting — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 3:24 pm

Mushroom hunting lately?

It’s an exciting season in Arkansas and the Arkansas Mycological Society is almost always active during this season.

Here are a couple forays below:
Arkansas Mycological Society’s Jay Justice is leading a mushroom hunt at Woolly Hollow State Park, tomorrow (October 11 and again on Nov. 22), 10 am to 3 pm.

In the newsletter I receive the event will be cancelled if it rains.

Another foray will be at Lake Sylvia Rec area, Perry County on November 1st, 10 am to 3 pm. Weather permitting.

For all forays it is suggested that you bring a sack lunch.

If you choose to go mushroom hunting without an expert, remember that there are at least 100,000 species of fungi out there and approximately one percent are poisonous. Arkansas happens to have species from nearly every poisonous class.

Know without question the type of mushroom you have before taking a bite. Your first nibble could be your last.

October 1, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Maitake

Grifola frondosa, commonly called Maitake is one of the more popular and tasty wild mushrooms found today.

On a recent forage, Jack and I ran across a large bunch of the fungus and took a bit home. Though I’ve seen the mushroom in the produce sections of specialty stores and plenty of photos, I’ve never tried it.

Maitake in Japanese, literally means dancing mushroom. At one time the mushroom was so prized (for its medicinal properties) that those who found it would dance with joy.

After cleaning, I decided to cook a bit of it in butter and garlic and found this to be the most excellent mushrooms I’ve tasted. It’s light, crisp with a unique taste, not really comparable to anything else.

The research shows that Maitake is used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine for lowering cholesterol, blood glucose and as an immune booster in addition to a few other things and has been used as far back as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.).

Those who use Maitake tea, made with the dried mushroom and say it tastes and smells brothy. Though I haven’t tried it, that’s next on the ‘To Do’ list.

Researchers believe the mushroom may have constituents that promote programmed cell death and for cancer patients this is good news, as it would reduce tumor growth.

There have been several reported cases in Japanese studies in which subjects have experienced “…partial or complete remission in most cases.” Read more…

Though the research is inconclusive there is some talk of new trials and more extensive research into the mushroom and its medicinal benefits.

Regardless, I’m going to enjoy the culinary aspect.



The specimen I found was found at the base of red oak and most foragers do usually find it somewhere near oak trees.

Though I don’t see that this mushroom resembles others, some think it resembles Berkley’s Polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi).

If you do harvest your own Maitake, be sure to correctly identify and only collect healthy specimens. Cut away any damaged areas before preparing.

How to prepare Maitake

Maitake can be used in a variety of dishes and is excellent stir-fried or sautéed on its own.

Wash thoroughly before cooking.

Maitake Pesto

Pasta with Maitake and Camembert Cheese

Maitake and Eggplant Cheese fry and a few other Maitake recipes.


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