Don’t Pick Your Wild Backyard Mushrooms. Get a Good Supplier Instead!

If you’re self-isolating in Melbourne, you may have found a burst of mushrooms popping up all over your backyard and nature strip. You may even be tempted to pick said mushrooms and fry them up in your kitchen. However, do you know if your newfound mushroom bloom is actually edible?

When do mushrooms grow?

It’s Autumn in Melbourne which is the best timing for mushrooms to grow. Wetter weather, cooler climate and damp dirt make for perfect growing conditions. You’ll find them sprouting up on grass, among garden beds and around the bottom rim of trees. So, there’s a good chance you’ll find edible – and non-edible – mushrooms growing in your neighbourhood. It’s the non-edible ones you need to avoid, and it’s the non-edible ones that may look edible.

Which mushrooms do you need to avoid?

In Melbourne, the two most common species of non-edible mushrooms you need to avoid are Death Cap mushrooms and Yellow-staining mushrooms. Both species may look harmless, but they will put you in hospital on your deathbed quicker than you can fry them up for your Sunday breakfast! Because of recent rainfall, they are currently found in abundance around town and regional areas.

Death Cap mushrooms are white mushrooms with a tall stem and a flat, rotund head up to 16 centimetres. You’ll generally find Death Caps around the base of trees, but you’ll find them sprouting on nature strips during your daily walks in your neighbourhood.

Yellow-staining mushrooms are a rounder mushroom, and one that looks like the variety you may find in a supermarket.  You’ll know them by their tall stalk and umbrella-like head.  Currently, Yellow-staining mushrooms are not as prolific in nature as Death Caps, but you’ll still find them sprouting.

What will happen if you eat a Death Cap or Yellow-staining mushroom?    

Death Cap mushrooms are extremely poisonous and can kill you. As the name suggests, consuming just one Death Cap can be fatal. You will experience violent stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea resulting in liver damage. Yellow-staining mushrooms can cause the same symptoms as eating Death Caps, and the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. Remember that peeling, drying and cooking these mushrooms will not remove the poison.

In addition, pets are not immune. Be aware of mushrooms on your property (even remove them) because your pets can suffer from gastroenteritis type syndrome, severe live threatening disease and death. Dogs are more inclined to eat mushrooms than cats, but you still need to be alert.

Oops, you’ve eaten one. What do you do?

The advice from the Chief Health Officer in Victoria is simple – don’t pick wild mushrooms if you’re not an expert.  If you do consume the wrong mushroom, seek medical attention as soon as possible because you have a better chance of survival. Don’t wait for symptoms to present themselves.

Also, identification of the mushroom you’ve eaten is essential for your medical treatment. If you need to identify the mushroom you ate, you can contact the Victorian Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Australia wide). Take a photo of the mushroom in case you need to supply a visual.

Don’t eat your local wild supply. Support a local grower instead…

Sugarloaf Produce is a small-scale, organic farm located near Mount Sugarloaf. They’re currently selling Pine and Swiss Brown mushrooms. You’ll find Sugarloaf Produce at Abbotsford Convent Farmers’ Market, Carlton Farmers’ Market, Collingwood Children’s Farm Farmers’ Market, Eltham Farmers’ Market, Hurstbridge Market, and St Andrews General Store and Post Office. In addition, they’re taking orders via the Open Food Network.

Urban Farming Collective’s mission is to connect people to food; “nature is our teacher.” So, Urban Farming Collective is helping people grow their own delicious food and become more sustainable. They sell instant garden beds, seedlings, plants and reusable swap and grow mushroom kits. Urban Farming Collective also sells fresh mushrooms online, from Swiss Brown to Oyster and Saffron Milk Caps.

Melbourne Gourmet Mushrooms grows specialty mushrooms from Golden Oyster, to Shiitake and Lion’s Mane mushrooms. As they say, “the only thing that gets spayed on our mushrooms is a very fine water mist.” You’ll find Melbourne Gourmet Mushrooms at Alphington Farmers Market, Coburg Farmers Market, Eltham Farmers Market and Gasworks Farmers Market.

Once you buy your mushrooms and you need some mushroom recipes, then head to vegan websites like Plant Based News that have a stack of delicious recipes to try.

So, are you eating a lot of mushrooms during self-isolation? Are you supporting a local grower? Let me know how you’re eating your mushrooms and who you’re supporting in the comments below.

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