I Wouldn’t Swallow That If I Were You

Inky Cap mushrooms

No telling how many things I’ve read about as edible and either tried them or thought about it. Mostly, I thought twice and didn’t. But you can ask my kids–we tried some pretty odd wild foods during their growing up. We didn’t have to eat them or starve; but you have to think about the things far stranger than puffballs or crayfish that folks have been hungry enough to munch over the course of human survival–or not.

Take a quick tour through the slide show at Forbes Traveler at some of the bizarre things people eat, including a disproportionate number of poisonous fish.

I learned something that I think I knew and forgot: that if you eat Inky Caps (guilty, see image, consumed an hour after the photo) then for up to five days, if you even come close to alcohol, you’ll be very sorry. And elderberries: we tried to make wine from them one time long years ago. It’s probably a good thing it went to vinegar instead.

I think my favorite on this list is the “illegal cheese, Casu Marzu that

“has an almost un-acquirable taste and may have catastrophic, long-term health results. The Sardinian delicacy is made from rotten goat’s milk and served coursing with live maggots. If you can handle the idea and tactile sensation of eating live larvae, you’re rewarded with a strong sour taste that can reportedly stay with you all day. Unfortunately, the human body has difficulty processing maggots, and in some extreme cases the little guys bore through the small intestine, causing bleeding, vomiting and other cheerful moments.”

Got your mouth watering? Then you might want to enter the “stinky cheese eating contest” that includes an elder-flower liquor to wash it all down (where it will stay, hopefully.) Man is such a strange beast, don’t you agree? (Women, no clever retorts here.)

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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. I realize that’s not Scottish, but it reminds me of the line from So I Married An Axe Murderer: “I think most Scottish cuisine was based on a dare.”
    I frequently wonder who was the first person to see a chicken lay an egg and think, “I bet I could eat that.”

  2. Carrie’s comment about eggs sure made me laugh. Boy, when we get used to something, it sure doesn’t cross most minds to think hiw strange it is.
    I am glad to have a name for the mushrooms. Allen got a lovely fall photo of two of them in New Hampshire last year. A slug was crawling up one. The next day, they had gotten all curled up.