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Picking poison: Toxic mushrooms land scores in hospital

Bay Bolete, pored mushroom. Source: Wikicommons

Threefold increase in hospitalizations from toxic mushrooms signals early start to mushroom season

By BOHEMIST STAFF

PRAGUE – Mushroom picking, or houbaření, is more than a simple pastime in Czech Republic. It’s a passion.

But it’s landed 52 people in hospital wards this year alone. Local media Radio Praha reported that there had been a three time increase in the cases of hospitalization of mushroom pickers this year. Drought conditions last year, coupled with unusual rain this season has seen the toxicity of mushrooms increase and the proliferation of poisonous varieties.

Brings to mind a Czech saying, “Všechny houby jsou jedlé, ale některé jenom jednou”, loosely translating, in typical apocalyptic Czech style, as, “All mushrooms are edible, but some only once”.

However, the Czech Mycological Association sees this year as being a boon for mushroom picking.

In a statement yesterday, the Association said mushroom season had officially come early to the Czech Republic, describing the difference between this season of mushroom picking and 2015 as “chalk and cheese”.

“With regard to the season’s growth, already there is full fungus assortment representation. Mushroom pickers should be happy especially those lovers of mushrooming who prefer popular mushroom species of mushrooms for culinary use,” the Association said.

It warned of the large numbers of poisonous mushrooms that had popped up in forests beside their culinary cousins.

“Attention, there is a longer growth of unpleasant and poisonous mushrooms, among them toadstools and green tiger, and the most insidious, deadly poisonous mushroom, Cortinarius,” the Association said in the statement.

“Its devastating effects sometimes occur after many days […] It is often too late,” the mycologists ominously warned.

So which are the safe ones to eat?

Nothing very beautiful, mycologists agree. Beautiful, perfect looking forest fungi is usually perfect looking for a reason – it’s been left alone by all your forest friends because it’s poisonous.

Mushrooms should be a shade of brown and without any frills, ribs or beauty sports.

Don’t store mushrooms in plastic bags, they need to be stored in something well ventilated.

The bolete mushroom is a generally safe and delicious species, although it has one bad egg cousin that turns a little pink when you press its round head. This is innocuously called the “bitter bolete” but it will leave you hospitalized, FYI.

If in doubt, pop into the Czech Mycological Association in Prague 1 and pick up a guidebook.

Bohemist

Bohemist is an upstart news outlet serving the Czech Republic. Feel free to write us at editor@bohemist.cz.

About Bohemist

Bohemist is an upstart news outlet serving the Czech Republic. Feel free to write us at editor@bohemist.cz.

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