A QUITE casual examination of contemporary literature will show that fungi of various kinds have from a remote past been greatly appreciated as table delicacies. Naturally enough it is the larger fungi that have received attention in this way. Mildews, except those used in the ripening of special cheeses, such as Rocquefort, only appear on the table by accident. The larger fungi on the contrary are commonly used either as delicacies or for flavouring purposes, as, for instance, the manner in which truffles are used in Pate de foie gras, or dried Boleti are commonly used on the Continent for flavouring soups. Those who have tasted or smelt many of the Continental dried mushrooms, however, may be astonished to learn that they are supposed to be edible.
Many fungi are commonly eaten abroad that in England
would not be looked at save with derision, as here, except in the houses of a few learned enthusiasts, mushrooms are practically the only fungi that find their way to the table. From time to time accounts are published of families dying from fungus poisoning because they had thought they were eating a mushroom, whereas actually they had digested one of the manyvarieties that abound everywhere. Punch’s practical method of distinguishing between a mushroom and a toadstool by making the experiment of eating it is hardly one to recommend generally. There are many popular tests for distinguishing edible toadstools from toadstools, but they are uniformly quite valueless. Stories that poisonous fungi do or do not peel, do or do not turn silver coins black, or have some weird effect upon an onion are all discredited by competent botanists, who declare that the only way to tell a mushroom from a toadstool is to be able to recognise it from its botanical characters. A mushroom must be recognised and distinguished from its fellows in the same way as a daisy is told from a dandelion. There is no other safe way.