Good Enough to Eat?

The outward expression of an inner fungal desire

I am, unfortunately, unable to say with absolute certainty which Boletus edulis-like mushroom we have growing in such great profusion and to such size on our hillside. (This one was almost 6″ across.) They look so like pedestalled loaves of bread that their fresh-smelling white flesh seems destined to be eaten and enjoyed, but alas–not by me. Even though…

…all mushrooms are edible. Once.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Yes, wisdom dictates that a lot of research be done before ingesting mushrooms. I did a rather rapid read of Paul Stamets’ book, Mycelium Running today and looked up what he had to say about boletus edulis. It is a mycorrhizal species, which is to say that it grows in association with tree roots and it is a heavy metal accumulator of cadmium and mercury. Some mycologists speculate that it could also absorb cesium-137, the isotope that Chernobyl scattered all over Europe. On the other hand, boletus edulis also accumulated selenium, which is a positive. So, yes, make sure you know what you are dealing with before thinking of eating a mushroom. Most places that I’ve visited recommend consulting several books about the species in question.