Now for the vast number of uncertain toadstools. Remembering always that any hannless-looking species, like a long-legged anĉmic mushroom or like a pretty white parasol, is probably deadly Amanita or Sure-death, and that an odd poisonous-looking freak like a coral, a poker, a pounds and heard of one weighing forty. In color it is white becoming grayish, yellowish or brown. In shape nearly round with a strong root. It is found in grassy places. McIlvaine says that we can cut slices from a growing one, day after day, and, if we do not disturb the root, it keeps on neither dying nor ripening for many days.
Three to six inches in diameter, dull pinkish or ashy brown, often covered with a network of white cracks. Common on open grassy places bugle, a bird's nest, a spring bonnet or an Indian club, is likely to be wholesome, we may follow the suggestions of the authors already cited (p. xxxii), as follows:
"There is but one way to determine the edibility of a species. If it looks and smells inviting, and its species cannot be determined, taste a very small piece. Do not swallow it. Note the effect on the tongue and mouth. But many species, delicious when cooked, are not inviting raw. Cook a small piece; do not season it. Taste again; if agreeable eat it (unless it is an Amanita). After several hours, no unpleasant effect arising, cook a larger piece, and increase the quantity until fully satisfied as to its qualities. Never vary from this system, no matter how much tempted. No possible danger can arise from adhering firmly to it".
Safety lies in the strict observance of two rules: "Never eat a toadstool found in the woods or shady places, believing it to be the common mushroom: Never eat a white - or yellow-gilled toadstool in the same belief. The common mushroom does not grow in the woods, and its gills are at first pink, then purplish brown, or black".
Also there are many mushrooms of the Genus Boletus that are like ordinary mushrooms of various pale and bright colors, but instead of gills they have tubes underneath. Some are eatable, some are dangerous. Avoid all that change color as being wounded or that have red-mouthed tubes or that taste peppery or acrid.
"There is no general rule by which one may know an edible species from a poisonous species. One must learn to know each kind by its appearance, and the edibility of each kind by experiment," says Nina L. Marshall in the "Mushroom book" (page 151), and gives the following:
Never use specimens which are decomposed in the slightest degree.
Never use those which are at all burrowed by insects.
Never collect for food mushrooms in the button stage, as it is difficult for a novice to distinguish the buttons of poisonous species from buttons of harmless species.
Never use fungi with swollen bases surrounded by saclike or scaly envelopes.
Never use fungi with milky juice or any juice unless it is the reddish.
Never use fungi with caps thin in proportion to the width of the gills when the gills are nearly all of equal length, especially if the caps are bright colored.
Never use for food tube-bearing fungi in which the flesh changes color when cut or broken, nor those with the tubes reddish. Be very cautious with all fleshy tube-bearing fungi.
Never use for food fungi with web-like ring around the upper part of the stem.
Mushroom growing is a good way to make some money, provided one has a cellar or roothouse at one's disposal. To learn how, send to the United States Department of Agriculture, for Farmers' Bulletin, No. 204, "The Cultivation of Mushrooms".
The following are standard and beautifully illustrated works on mushrooms and toadstools; they have been freely used for guidance and illustrations in the preparation of the above:
"Edible and Poisonous Fungi of New York," by Charles H. Peck. Published by New York State Museum, Albany, 1895.
"Edible Fungi of New York." by Charles H. Peck. Published by New York State Museum, Albany, 1900.
"The Mushroom book." by Nina L. Marshall. Published 1902 at New York by Doubleday, Page & Co. $3.50.
"One Thousand American Fungi," by McIlvaine & Macadam. $5. Published by the Bobbs-Merrill Company of Indianapolis, 1902; add 40 cents express.
"Mushrooms," by G. F. Atkinson. Holt & Co.
"The Mushroom," by M. E. Hard. The Ohio Library Company. Columbus, Ohio.