Friday, September 22, 2023

Caesar Mushroom

With names like destroying angel, deaths cap, and the panther, it is easy to understand why these mushrooms are to be taken seriously. All occur in a family of mushrooms call the Amanitas and making a mistake with any of these mushrooms will land you in the hospital or even the morgue. For those who seek mushrooms the name Amanita may conjure up nightmares of potential toxic poisoning, and with good reason. The destroying angel, if eaten will cause nausea, diarrhea, and severe stomach pain. Several hours to several days later you will start to feel better. This is the dastardly part of the destroying angel; it falsely leads you to believe you are going to be fine. Then you will find yourself experiencing pain and sickness like never before. The toxins, called amatoxins have spent your remission time eating away at your kidney and liver. You will fall into a coma, with liver damage so severe your only chance at survival is a liver transplant.  This is why I cannot express loudly enough---ALWAYS know what you are picking and plan to eat.

There are a few mushrooms within this family that are considered edible, and not just edible, but choice edibles. People who seek these mushrooms nearly salivate when the season returns for them. I am speaking of a colorful mushroom called the Ceasar mushroom, or sometimes referred to as the American Ceasar mushroom. This brightly colored mushroom is hard to mistake for any other mushroom, but always seek the help of an expert before delving into experimenting with any fungi. Ceasar mushroom caps vary from reddish-orange, red, or bright orange, with yellow stalks standing up to eight inches high. There is a highly visible “skirt” around the upper part of the stem. The cap does not have warts or patches. They grow from an egg-like structure called a volva, before eventually reaching their mature stage. They form Mycorrhizal relationships with oaks, pines, as well as other hardwood trees throughout the Eastern United States. In simple terms, mycorrhizal is a symbiotic relationship between the roots of the trees and the tendrils of mycelium from the mushrooms. The hyphae of the mycelium surround the tree rootlets with a sheath, and the mushroom helps the tree absorb water and nutrients while the tree provides sugars and amino acids to the mushroom. The organisms may need each other to survive.

During the time of the Roman emperors these mushrooms were referred to as boletus, which today are classified in an entirely different family of fungi. Eventually they were given the name Ceasar mushrooms due to the fact it was widely known the elite of Rome ate them frequently. Every man who took the position of emperor,  used the name Ceasar. Talk about confusing. One emperor in particular, Claudius, loved these mushrooms more than any other. His wife, Agrippina desired her son Nero, from a previous marriage, to be emperor. She devised a plan to rid herself of poor old Claudius. She knew of his proclivity for these tasty fungi. She conspired with the palace medic, Xenophon, to slip some destroying angels in with his meal. When he became deathly ill and called upon his medic, instead of providing him some relief for his misery, she administered another dose of deadly amanita. Such a cruel, miserable way to die, but Agrippina got her wish and Nero became emperor.

The American Ceasar mushroom is said to taste like a mixture of brie and camembert cheese with a somewhat chewing texture. They are even considered one of the few mushrooms that can be consumed raw. This may be true, but I would strongly encourage you to cook all mushrooms before consumption. Many of us eat mushrooms for their culinary value and their unique texture, and delicious taste they add to our favorite dishes. Still others consume them for their medicinal value, although these particular mushrooms aren’t known to have any medical uses.

Because these mushrooms belong to the largest group of mushrooms, which contain the most toxic of species, these are not considered beginners mushrooms. Because there is a chance that they could be confused with other more toxic species I cannot stress caution enough. If in doubt throw it out.

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