The magic that is mushrooms pt3 The invisible danger

Black sabbath , iron Maiden who would of thought that these guys were a factor worth considering when foraging for mushrooms .

What ??

Ahh ok it’s another type of heavy metal that is teetering on the edge of my mind a danger not mentioned in my other posts , I find I’m becoming robot minded when foraging familiarity leads to complacency but in this case I’ve found that I’ve become quite seasoned in my approach to choosing my favoured spots subconsciously avoiding areas of risk.
In reality knowing the dangers associated with habitat and environment is just as important as learning the the deadly and poisonous mushrooms that all serious fungi foragers studiously imprint into our mind .
Let’s be honest we all know that harvesting mushrooms from roadsides is a not done but do we know why ?
It’s actually simple and is answered when we understand what mushrooms are and hey shock horror recycling is Not a new concept as long as the kingdom of fungi have been on earth they have been recycling

They are non-photosynthetic organisms, getting all their energy and nutrients for their biosynthetic pathways through the degradation of other plants and matter,

Well that’s what my chemistry of fungi says any way , basically they use all and everything they can from the habitat which they grow and unfortunate as it may be this includes heavy metals and some pretty nasty chemicals and even though they can absorb these heavy metals and can thrive quite happily with them in their makeup they do not have the ability to break them down and release them so when they are in they are in and this holds a real danger for anyone wanting to forage for edible wild mushrooms .
So we know harvesting from a road side holds the danger of lead poisoning from an otherwise perfectly edible mushroom and they have no visual or sensory indication that any danger is present , theoretically this hazard is easy to determine and is open information to most new fanatics so is it really that simple or do we need to be more complex about our choices ,
I hope I’ve been clear when I say we need to be aware of all the information when foraging and this often involves some degree of research on your intended foraging patch lets look at a few locations and I will share some information which I hope will enable you to evolve a thought pattern of your own .

This is a former apple orchard in Somerset that every year yields a good crop of giant puffballs ( Calvatia gigantea ) and several massive rings of fairy ring champignons (Marasmius oreades) and has several public footpaths crossing within the orchard , sound good ?

Now what if I was to tell you that this location posses more danger than this well traveled road side ,

The biggest thing to remember when considering possible chemical infection is that there is no visual warning the mushrooms that grow in this orchard are healthy and thriving but with some understanding I am aware that when in use this orchard was subjected to continued treatment of arsenic-based pesticides in fact nearly all orchards were from the 1800s to the 1950s (when it was replaced with DDT), and was finally banned from use in fruit orchards in 1988 but is still present in the soil even now and in levels that when absorbed by the otherwise edible fungi can cause poisoning for the forager , and it is so easy to look for the busy roads and ex industrial sites but sometimes the danger hides in plain sight .
I recently read a paper from a Spanish based investigation on the heavy metal levels from 100 edible mushrooms found growing along side a busy road and the average content was one fifth of that ,that is found acceptable in fish caught from our coasts and huge numbers would need to be consumed to cause I’ll effect , I then also read a newspaper article from the states about a gentleman that suffered from heavy metal poisoning from fungi he had been foraging for on an infected site and had suffered for many months before the cause was diagnosed , the two story’s only gave me more understanding into the fact that the chemical absorption undertaken by fungi is very much an under investigated area and that being said is a danger we need to be aware of . we are much like the fungi and store the heavy metals in our system and prolonged digestion and retention of these can make us very very sick and are easily overlooked by doctors , and one harvest from a infected area could be enough to tip the balance and land you of a family member in distress ,
Another site that frustrates me every single year is my local park that yields morels on the bark mulch that the parks warden lays each winter , what could be wrong there you may ask and immediately the danger seems negligible but the mulch itself is a byproduct of the timber industry when still in log form and in storage the logs are treated chemically to prevent splitting and reduce the flammability and these chemicals are still present in the mulch used on gardens and parks accord the country and in turn are absorbed by fungi .

It’s important to understand this hazard is in majority man caused and becoming aware of potential risks is as important as learning the poisonous natural mushrooms themselves as I have continued to portray foraging is a massive subject learned only over time , effort and experimentation but also holds flavours , excitement and feelings of gratification unrivalled by any other interest and my reasons for posting about its risks is not to cast doubt but hopefully aid anyone who has an Interest and to be aware of the obvious dangers but just as important the not so obvious dangers

3 thoughts on “The magic that is mushrooms pt3 The invisible danger

  1. Thanks for another very informative post.I am shocked and upset to learn that wood/bark chip could be chemically polluted in this way.I had no idea that timber could already be chemically treated before it was even machined! This summer I found a lovely mushroom emerge from the base of the Blackthorn on my allotment.I was thrilled to bits for my soil :o) I have been wondering about finding an affordable source of wood/bark chip to increase fungal/microbial activity on the plot.I will be very careful to make sure I know the history of any wood mulch that goes on my soil in future.It can be hard to not get depressed by the constant need to be so vigilant in the face of so much desecration.I guess resilience is the key,and not getting overwhelmed,so that we can keep doing what we know is right and good for us and our planet. Whenever I get too knackered and scared I will remember that lovely mushroom and the joy it gave me – helping me to be ‘grounded’ in the truest sense of the word.I’m sure you can relate to that. Thanks again Mouse,so pleased to be learning from people like you Stay well xx

    • TY for your kind comments it can be one quite daunting but that is life in general , try looking for your local tree surgeon as they very often have mobile chippers to reduce cuttings that you will know are chemical free and also normally cost the price of a drink or two , obviously look at getting your wanted species spruce/ fir or a good mycorrhizal species . Many thanks xx

      • That’s great,thanks for the advice. Feeling more positive and energised today so will make the most of it :o)

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