No mushroom presents additional of an enigma than the fly agaric, Amanita muscaria. It’s essentially the most recognizable mushroom on the planet, and is broadly known as the hallucinatory ‘shroom responsible for Alice’s journey into Wonderland and pretty most likely our beloved pictures of a red-suited Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.

I’m not into hallucinations. Or stomach cramping, for that matter. So for years I let this gorgeous mushroom go on my mushroom hunts. Until ultimate weekend. We had been ostensibly searching for porcini, Boletus edulis, nonetheless as any king bolete hunter is conscious of, the fly agaric is definitely a pink flag indicating porcino is more likely to be nestled shut by: They flush throughout the equivalent time, in throughout the equivalent place. And the place we had been on California’s Central Coast there have been 1000’s of muscaria, a pink tide inside the woods.

Photograph by Hank Shaw

As we walked, choosing porcini and completely different nice boletes, I began having a nagging dialog with myself: You acknowledge you probably can eat these amanitas, correct? Certain, nonetheless don’t they need all kinds of crazy processing first? Most certainly. Nevertheless you’ll not at all get a better likelihood to experiment than with this flush correct proper right here, correct now. OK, OK. I grabbed a separate bag and began choosing.

I crammed a grocery bag in a short time. Truly, I could have crammed the once more of my pickup with muscaria. Nevertheless I moreover had an infinite haul of porcini, the prize of the day. So I dealt with them first. My dehydrator ran morning and night for days. I made porcini powder, dried quarts of porcini, made porcini risotto, and even gave some up to date ones as Christmas presents. The entire whereas my sack of amanitas lay neglected inside the storage.

I received right here up for air a few days up to now and decided to perform a little evaluation. I’ve quite a lot of mushroom books. Most say that Amanita muscaria is toxic and hallucinatory. Just some title it deadly poisonous, which seems to be a stretch considering there are fewer than a handful of confirmed deaths by this mushroom and all have extenuating circumstances. (A side observe: buy amanita  appears to be partaking to canines and cats and should kill them within the occasion that they eat it, so protect it away out of your pets!)

There could also be moreover, apparently, an entire modern subculture dedicated to tripping on this mushroom, and its use in visions dates once more 1000’s of years — notably amongst people who dwell inside the boreal forests of the north.