Archive for July, 2011

Wood ear – an Asian cooking favourite

Wood ear mushrooms, Auricularia cornea, are often seen for sale in Asian food shops.  The grow quite widely on the east coast – I have seen them around the Lismore area, and they grow in the  Cairns area as well as in the Hunter valley, where you can find an excellent description here.

I don’t have an image in my collection, but if someone would be kind enough to donate one, I would be happy to use it and give appropriate credit.

I have not eaten this one, and don’t know how to cook it either, but would be happy to have information on this.   Cultures of these mushrooms are available in Australia, via an enthusiast, on the east coast at least.

Update 29 June 2012

I have had a kind offer of use of images from Kathy.  Here is one reproduced below.

Auricularia cornea by Kathy

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Chlorophyllum-a mixed bag

Chlorophyllum brunneum

brunneum
Chlorophyllum brunneum

A species which is frequently encountered, particularly around chicken coups is Chlorophyllum brunneum, pictured above.  (You may see this same picture in a book, used without permission and mis-labelled)  This is distinguished by the basal bulb which is described as ‘abrupt’, which means that there is usually a definite change in geometry at the top of the bulb and it often has quite a flat top. They often cluster together from a common large basal bulb as shown below.

 It also has a surface that is broken up into scales that have a fibrous appearance.  When cut it turns red.

Personally I find Chlorophyllum brunneum to be a very tasty mushroom with a strong meaty smell and flavour.  But apparently it does not agree with some people so caution is wise.  There is some reason to believe that bad reactions can be avoided by making sure that the mushroom is well-cooked  It is possible that this mushroom contains a toxin similar to Chlorophyllum molybdites but of lower amount or strength. Since this is a protein toxin with a known molecular weight it should be possible to determine this by electorphoresis.

Although this mushroom is similar to Chlorophyllum rachodes, we are advised by mycologist Else Vellinga that that species does not occur in Australia.    Here is a link to Vellinga’s paper.

Below are another couple of images of Chlorophyllum brunneum.  The first shows a young fresh specimen and the other shows a close-up of the gap between the gills and the stem where a green ring can be seen.

This tale of poisoning by my friend Martin is reproduced with his permission

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I post and record this experience here so others won’t make the fatal mistake I did but also to potentially kill off some of my mushroom ego if you like

So as some of you may know I escaped the mainland last week on the last flight into tassie to go bushwalking with my wife who is not my wife who I would like to be my wife and step daughter etc both to Bush walk but secretly to hunt down in my opinion what I have heard to be the worlds greatest tasting mushrooms – and later I will post other things about various finds and it was really tongue to ground amazing but the story I am about to share was not so amazing well actually it was kind of amazing – you can see from the above grammar is not my strong point

So I picked some C brunneum (pictured) before the 7 day hike – and they were growing on mass like most mushrooms in Tasmania do – and on day one of the hike I got lost and a 7 hour walking day turning into an 11 hour walking day so when I arrived to camp I got out a bottle of wine and the Brunneys – Now I have eaten these mushrooms on three previous occasions and they are marvellous – so I told the rest of the camp the stories of hunting them down and cooked up a batch on high heat in the pan and surprisingly everyone except one fellow took my word for it and ate them – I was surprised as most people I find not so open to new mushrooms – but my banter must have been right on point cause everyone agreed a great tasting mushroom – and at this point I was the mushroom king

But this is where the story takes a twist

My wife who is not my wife but I would like to be wife offered to cook the next batch as I was tired and dead from walking and getting lost and mentioned something like I will cook these with less oil and low heat to save on gas etc and by this time I was tipsy and ranting about black trumpets and finding the lost porcini of Tasmania etc that I didn’t give it a second thought and a very large plate of mushrooms shortly arrived in front of me warm and a little on the raw side which I devoured very quickly with waving arms and dancing.

Fast forward a few hours later in my sleeping bag and I turn to my wife who you know isn’t my wife and she has ear plugs in and i say I feel sick and she says you always say that after eating mushrooms etc.

I just make it out the door and I am projectile vomiting all over the forest and everybody can hear the mushroom king – and this vomiting goes on and off for the next hour and it’s minus 3 outside and my wife is yelling at me also and nothing is subtle here – maybe no one can hear me I think – after cleaning up and hiding all the spew and evidence I think maybe no one will catch on And I make it back to bed.

After an hour or so there are indescribable sounds coming from my belly – and I should probably wind it up here but I really want to crush a good part of my mushroom ego here so I will continue – I find myself in thermal onesie which happens to be inside out
And I am listening to the sound in my belly going wow that sounds very impressive and then I think I need to get out of here quick
I make it to a tree and can’t find the zip as it not on the outside and what unfolds now is many folds and it’s too late to stop it and it’s coming out my ankles

The rest of the details and screams and tears into the frozen night is not that important here the clean up in frozen river etc

Over the next 6 days I found amazing edible mushrooms but I was now on a ban – my wife who is not my wife who I want to marry who won’t currently marry me has banned me from eating mushrooms and I had lost my title of the mushroom king – but over the next days I would find fields of giant laccaria and 10s of thousands of golden chanterelles and wild enoki and fist sized hedgehogs and I was banned
And no one believed anything I said at the camp – I was reduced to nothing and a laughing stock – but secretly I was happy to have lived through it cause you need some setbacks to clarify where you are headed in life don’t you think ?

The ban was lifted when on the 7th day the chants appeared thank the lord – and I am alive to tell the tale – I remember shouting into the night my kidneys are going to explode get a helicopter here now to Rosie my wife who is not

So what to take from all this –
Peter Donecker will probably be able to tell me what chemical I ingested in the brunneum and the importance of making sure chlorophyllum is well and truly cooked at a high heat etc before sticking them down the throat

The good news is I am alive
And have been eating many mushrooms and have been taken down a fair few pegs
But haven’t eaten Brunneum again
But I will be in Melb on Tuesday so hoping to find some.

Chlorophyllum molybdites

Another member of the genus, Chlorophyllum molybdites (below) has a very similar appearance, but the scales do not have the fibrous nature of C. brunneum.  The gills start out white then gradually turn green. This green colour becomes much more pronounced as the specimens age and eventually the gills become very dark grey-green. It also has a green spore print when mature.

Green_gill
Chlorophyllum molybdites showing green gills

The spores have a green colour that can be seen from a spore print.

Green spore print of Chlorophyllum molybdites

It is sometimes claimed that this mushroom does not stain red, but this picture shows that it does indeed give a red stain when cut in two. Not quite as vivid as Chlorophyllum hortense but undoubtedly red.

Red colour of cut stem

The lower half of the stem on this mushroom has dark shading. This can vary a little in intensity. The annulus has two edges. These features are seen on the next image.

View showing gills and annulus

Sometimes the scales are almost absent as in this specimen from a verge in suburban Perth where it is sometimes particularly prevalent in periods of high temperatures and wet conditions.

It is not a deadly mushroom, but it may make you very sick and is a common cause of mushroom poisoning in North America. The nature of the poison in this mushroom was a mystery for a long time, particularly since it doesn’t affect all people at all times.  It was revealed in 2012 to be a  protein called molybdophyllysin by Yamada et al.  It is heat labile, beginning to break down at 70 degrees, which may explain why some people, including the Cribbs report having eaten C. molybdites without ill effect.

The effect of temperature on the toxin in Chlorophyllum molybdites is shown in this graph from the above mentioned paper which plots activity against temperature for a 10 minute hold time.   It might be anticipated that prolonged boiling might considerably reduce toxicity.  There is similar information on the heat lability of this mushroom in a 1974 paper by Eilers and Nelson where it is referred to by an earlier name, Lepiota morganii.   They report extraction of the toxin with different solvents, water being the most effective.  One of these days I will take this data and try to concoct an equation for the reaction kinetics.  They also mention that the toxin occurs in both young and mature specimens and in all parts of the fruiting body.  This snippet of information eliminates a hypothesis that the toxicity is related to the stage of development of the mushroom.

molybdophyllysin temp effect

As a footnote, there is a report of the effects of eating this mushroom in the Medical Journal of Australia, by local academic Lindsay Mollison. I note that his report is in December 2011 and that he speaks of doing an extensive internet search to find out what he had eaten.   Perhaps his experience was just prior to when I made this original post in July 2011.  A shame. The first publication scientific publication describing this mushroom from Perth was written by mycologist Neale Bougher in

Although Chlorophyllum molybdites is considered poisonous in most places, there are reports of it being eaten in various places, particularly in Benin, in Africa.  If you don’t know where that is, I have included a map below.

benin map

Here is a quote from a long treatise on the edible mushrooms of this country.

“In the area where we worked, there is no information on cases of poisoning caused by ukulé malu, nan bisu or bela-dedji. Benin is apparently only occupied by an edible form or with a low toxicity rate. It is also found that Chlorophyllum aff. molybdites is known and appreciated by the Peuhls, an important ethnic group that crosses the entire Sudano-Guinean region of West Africa. Finally, we point out that in Benin, mushrooms, with a few rare exceptions, are always eaten after preparation, that is to say after warm and relatively long heating. If the Chlorophyllum from Benin contained a labile toxin (thermolabile), it would be systematically destroyed by cooking or by blanching. It is clear that further toxicity and taxonomic studies will be needed to clarify and understand the toxicity of Chlorophyllum. For this reason we identify all our collections provisionally as Chlorophyllum aff. molybdites.

from: (PDF) Guide to edible mushrooms in Benin. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328043576_Guide_des_champignons_comestibles_du_Benin [accessed Mar 08 2021].

It is possible that the species from Benin is in fact the closely related Chlorophyllum paleotropicum which also features green-grey spores.

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Laetiporus sulphureus – an exciting prospect

In other parts of the world Laetiporus sulphureus is known as chicken of the woods and is  considered a good edible mushroom. I had not heard of any occurence in Australia, but Ray Palmer of north Queensland has reported it growing on Eucalyptus near his home.  You can see Ray’s pictures on his Flickr site, here.

I would emphasise that I have not eaten this mushroom, and I am not aware that Ray or anyone else has either. So it is in the ‘potential’ category for the moment. But an exciting prospect!

Note 26/2/2013.  Since it is reported as edible in the comments below, I have upgraded this to the ‘edible but untried’ category.

If should be noted that the edibility of L. sulphureus depends on the substrate.   On this page, they recommend that you don’t eat it if it is growing on Eucalyptus.

If anyone has any further information on this, I would be most interested to hear about it.

Footnote:

As noted in the comments below, Forthferalz has drawn my attention to some other references to this fungus in Australia.  This picture is provided by blueswami.

I am not sure what angle this was taken at, but in comparison with other pictures, it seems to be upside down.  I think it looks more realistic like this:

There appears to be quite a wide variety of morphologies and colours for this genus.  Even in North America, where it is widely consumed, there appears to be differences between the east and west coast experiences, as well as some confusion about which species is being consumed.

Update  16/04/2016

I have recently had the chance to observe this mushroom first hand in the Dorrigo/Bellingen area of NSW.   It was growing on fallen logs and on the base of a living tree which was also host to Omphalotus nidiformis.  These observations were made in March of a dryish year and I was able to see examples of it over a range of forests.  Here is a picture of one on an exposed lateral root of a rainforest tree along with Omphalotus.

Laetiporus and omphalotus

Laetiporus sp. together with Omphalotus nidiformis

I haven’t shown a picture of the pores, but they were white .  This isn’t the right colour for Laetiporus sulphureus.  It is interesting also that this species appears to be restricted to the warmer regions of the country, while L. sulphureus grows in places like England.

Some light is thrown on this subject by Michael Kuo, the Mushroom Expert.  His comments can be found at this link.

It seems that there are numerous closely related species of Laetiporus in the US.  It is entirely possible that the species here in Australia is yet another one.  The fact that the ones I have observed grow at ground level indicates that they are not L. sulphureus.  To my knowledge it has not been formally named yet. Neither has it’s edibility been established.  Given that there have been numerous cases of people experiencing gastro-intestinal distress from eating various forms of this mushroom in America, it is entirely possible that our local species will cause the same problems.   So there it stands.  At first exciting, but in the end an enigma.

 

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