a peek inside the fishbowl

07 May, 2019

More about mushrooms

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Last week I shared a quick recipe for mushrooms on toast. I deeply regret not running out and shoring up my mushroom supply because I have a serious craving at the moment.

That post got me thinking more about mushrooms. You probably didn’t know this about me but I really like mushrooms. Like really really. They are just so interesting! In fact, my eldest actually bought me a book to help me identify the mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada, which I find myself turning to more and more frequently.

I like nature in general. I like being outside, but there’s something about mushrooms that really captures my fancy. Some mushrooms are edible, even delicious, while others will make you hallucinate or send you into spasms of pain and/or raging diarrhea and vomiting. There are some mushrooms you can’t consume with alcohol. Some varieties, if ingested, will damage vital organs so slowly you won’t even know what hit you until days have gone by and your innards have melted. By all accounts it doesn’t sound like a peaceful way to go (e.g. convulsions leading to death). After consuming a bite of Cortinarius orellanus, there may be no symptoms for weeks. The first thing you might notice is intense thirst and frequent urination, followed by muscle pain, nausea, and a headache (at which point I imagine many people just think they have the flu) but surprise! Your kidneys are failing and before you know it you’re in a coma!

One mushroom I looked up the other day can be eaten by some people but not others. (“It is often eaten but has caused numerous deaths.” Er. Alrighty then!) This one is called a False Morel and I found one in the woods the other day. I didn’t know what it was but I thought it was cool because it looked like a little brain:

A false morel (mushroom)

The photo doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s only a few inches in diameter. Next time I’ll bring my good camera and a quarter for scale.

Mushrooms seem to grow out of thin air, don’t they, even appearing in weird places overnight. My neighbour has a regular mushroom bloom on her front lawn after a couple days of rain and there is nothing she can do about it. SHE IS AT THEIR MERCY. I also find it interesting that mushrooms grow and thrive in conditions inhospitable to plants, like on a forest floor that doesn’t get much sun.

They also have pretty cool names, and they sure paint a picture: Devil’s Urn, Elfin Saddle, Dead Man’s Fingers, Witch’s Butter, Fairy Thread, Bleeding Tooth, Chicken of the Woods. I could go on! The colours and shapes are equally fantastic and some of them look positively alien. While many have that typical dome plus cap appearance of mushrooms, some look like yellow slime, birds nests, ocean coral or little white, er, puffballs:

Puff ball mushrooms

As much as I like wild mushrooms (honestly, what’s not to like about fungus!) I am very wary of eating any of them. I am alarmed by the descriptions in my book that point out that the “Common Yummy Mushroom” I am admiring is perfectly edible but is easily confused with “Common Harbinger of Death Mushroom.” So I won’t be making mushrooms on toast with anything I find unless I’m accompanied by someone in the know. Speaking of which, I’m eagerly following Forged Ottawa on Facebook and hoping there’s a woodland walk coming up in the near future.

p.s. I am also very interested in moss and lichens. But maybe I’ll save that post for another day.

4 Responses to "More about mushrooms"

1 | Quail

May 8th, 2019 at 3:07 pm


Mushrooming is a fantastic hobby. Take a course in late September. These fun fall outings are usually very productive and often led by keen experts. Oh and do eat them, once you’re confidant. Start with oyster and chanterelles. Plenty of educational specimens at Herb & Spice.

2 | Tiana

May 9th, 2019 at 10:25 am


Oh there’s a great book, if you haven’t read it already – Gathering Moss by Robin Wall-Kimmerer.

3 | andrea tomkins

May 17th, 2019 at 4:58 pm


I will definitely check that out Tiana!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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