When Urban Gleaning Goes Wrong

March 10, 2009 at 8:11 am | Posted in News | 2 Comments

amanita_ocreataThis is why urban gleaning, while fun and rewarding, requires a clear head and a little homework. Ya gotta know what you’re picking. Your life depends on it.

“An 82-year-old Santa Barbara man is dead after eating wild mushrooms he picked and sauteed with a steak,” we read in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. “The man, whose name is being withheld, died March 5 at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. The man had picked poisonous amanita ocreata mushrooms, which are common in the Santa Barbara area, at the Douglas Family Preserve above Arroyo Burro Beach.His family says he sauteed the mushrooms and ate them with a steak. About six hours later, he became seriously ill and was hospitalized.” 

Most foragables, especially the domestic varieties, are easy to identify: apples, lemons, plums. Wild plants are harder. Although blackberries are pretty unmistakable, smooth round berries in various colors could be any number of things, some of them lethal. Of all foragables, mushrooms are the most problematic. Too many varieties look too similar, so every year we see a steady stream of stories like this one. Just two months ago, the Chronicle reported on three members of a Bay Area family — a grandmother and two preteen boys —  that had been hospitalized after harvesting and eating amanita phalloida (aka “death cap”) mushrooms, a sister species to the kind that killed the Santa Barbara octogenarian. The preteen boys were expected to need liver transplants. 

“Even connoisseurs can be duped by the way a death cap presents itself,” reads the story. “The toadstool with white spores is common in the Bay Area, but the color varies and can be affected by weather and odd growing conditions. Its telltale signs are often buried in soil.”



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  1. It’s tragic this man died, but mushrooms require an expert eye. Often times you’ll hear stories like these about teenagers trying to find hallucinogenic mushrooms. It’s tragic, but without better education on what you can eat in the wild, we can expect to see more of these types of stories.

  2. A sad story indeed. One must carefully examine the mushrooms, especially wild ones before eating them. They can be very dangerous if you’re not careful. free samples Thanks for keeping us updated on matters as important as this.

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