It's mushroom season in Denver again, when yards start to produce the strangest looking fungi, from white and scaly to stinky and slimy.
This year, one large mushroom, with off-white little scales on top and greenish "gills" under the cap, is plentiful, despite the record heat.
It's called the "Vomiter" because, if you eat it...
Linnea Gillman of Denver ate it once by accident, thinking it was an edible "Shaggy Parasol" mushroom, and she said it tasted great.
But, she told me, it wasn't worth the subsequent four hours she spent heaving.
And the trouble with the Vomiter is, it looks like it should be delicious. It's meaty, sweet-smelling, and robust, as if it would be perfect in a vegetable stir fry, or on a nice pizza.
It doesn't smell rotten and look obscene, like the "Stinkhorn" mushroom. Most everyone is scared to touch a Stinkhorn, much less eat it, even though it's edible.
Another problem with the lovely Vomiter, whose scientific name is Chlorophyllum molybdites, is that it looks a lot like a few delicious edible mushrooms that grow in Denver lawns and gardens. So people confuse it with edible fungus.
These include the yummy Shaggy Parasol, which Gillman thought she was eating when she accidentally had the Vomiter for dinner.
It also looks a bit like the edible Meadow Mushroom and the Horse Mushroom, both of which are close relatives of the Portobello, the big brownish mushroom found in supermarkets.
It's no surprise, then, that the Vomiter, which could easily be growing in your grass at this very moment, is the most common cause of mushroom poisoning in the United States, according to Denver mushroom-poison expert Marilyn Shaw.
Fortunately, it won't kill you, and touching it is harmless. And, actually, no one has died of mushroom poisoning in Colorado ever.
Still, the best course of action is not to eat any mushroom out of your yard unless you know absolutely what it is.
One way to begin to learn about urban mushrooms (and the ones in the mountains) is to attend the Colorado Mycological Society's annual Mushroom Fair, at the Denver Botanical Gardens, Sunday, Aug. 28, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Experts will be on hand to help identify your mushrooms and to explain the ins and outs of mushroom hunting.
Another option is to check out UrbanMushrooms.com, which has photos and descriptions of mushrooms that grow in lawns, gardens, and other city habitats.
Whatever you do, don't eat that big white mushroom in your yard, just because it looks good.
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