Monday, September 26, 2011

Before You Forage: A cautionary tale of flying reindeer!

Amanita muscaria mushroom (posionous) growing in a poison ivy patch
photo courtesy of Shane McElwee

Wild edibles have been a source of fascination for me for as long as I can remember. I think
my hunter-gatherer thought process kicked in when I was five or six years old; a little explorer running barefoot through meadows and woods and puddles in rural Connecticut.
I sampled many wild treats.
 I have not killed myself yet. But there was that day down by Puget Sound when I was a graduate student at the College of Forest Resources of the University of Washington when a co-conspirator and I gathered an assortment of mussels and clams and seaweeds to make a "survival soup."
That did not go very well.
But we survived and never made that soup again.

If you follow my ramblings or have hiked with me you know I  am always preaching the goodness of what Mother Earth gives.  But now a brief warning for these early days of Autumn. Wild berries are ripe. Nuts are falling. Leaves are changing and  colorful woodland fungi is  fantastically shaped.  Before you forage remember if you are not 100% certain of identification walk away.
 And even if  Mr. Chipmunk eats  something that does not mean you can.

And now--Flying Reindeer!

Just as I was thinking about writing this blog Shane McElwee, sent a photo she took in her Ohio backyard last week. The shiny green plant is poison ivy (soon to turn red with autumn) and the colorful 'shroom is Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) a favorite of fairy-tale illustrators and artists, a 
 mushroom with both sinister and myth rich reputations. 
 Its active poisons are hallucinogenic to man and beast and have been claimed by researchers and historians to be the fungi rooted origin of Father Christmas myths in Lapland and Siberia involving reindeer that fly and strange figures clad in red and white.
Father Christmas crossed the oceans and morphed into Santa Claus.
Watch what you eat when you forage, or a mystical and mysterious figure may emerge----
or you just may die. (Call that my disclaimer of responsibility)
Edibility is not learned overnight.


Blogger Rusty Kjarvik said...

A respectable depiction of this fungal specimen!

Interesting how through the most dangerous natural entities we may uncover sources of the sacred or the revered within the human race and our connection to the soil. This image reminds me of the first great fresco of enlightenment, as it poured into the human mind a passion to convey the imagination through storytelling in the form of cautionary tales. Why in today's modern religion it's wildly encouraged to see God through the telescope of church in lifetimes of artificial suffering, yet to know a thing or two about our fungal ancestry is deemed a hoax and trap filled with superstition and subversion, no! Instead, these are our foundational inspiration for our sacred metaphors.

every Xmas, thank an amanita!

October 4, 2011 at 3:20 PM 

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