HEART / OLD MEAT
Latticed Stinkhorn / Clathrus Ruber
This fungus often looks and smells like old torn meat during the latter stages of its development. Clathrus ruber is most often found in Europe but has spread to most other continents. It is not considered suitable for eating and is often mistaken for offal by humans and insects. As the lattice framework collapses it strongly resembles the remnants of a human heart. In France this unusual fungus is even referred to as the ‘Coeur de Sorcière’, which literally translated means ‘Heart of the Sorcerer’.
Wood Ear Fungus / Auricularia auricula judae
Wood Ear fungi are often found growing on the bark of elder trees and are generally considered to be edible. It was originally known as the ‘Judas Ear’ fungus after Judas Iscariot who is said to have betrayed Jesus of Nazareth to the Romans for thirty pieces of silver. Judas had used his ears to listen to the seductive promises offered by the High Priest Caiaphas but after the crucifixion of Jesus he committed suicide by hanging himself from an elder tree which forever grows his ear as a reminder that people should be careful about what they listen to. Today, the fungus is used in both Chinese medicine and food. In Ghana it is used as a blood tonic and modern scientific research does indicate that it has anticoagulant and blood cholesterol-lowering properties.
BREAST & NIPPLE
Parasol Mushroom / Macrolepiota procera
Blushing scientists claim to have never noticed the similarity between this mushroom and a woman’s breast and nipple regardless of the fact that these are roughly the same size. In fact, they decided that after the Phallus impudicus embarrassment they would name it after another object often associated with ladies – they called it the Parasol Mushroom. However, Macrolepiota procera literally translates as big scaled and tall. When fully grown, the cap is more or less flat, with a medium-brown papillate umbo (nipple) in the middle that is leathery to touch. The surrounding flakes or scales can be easily removed leaving a smooth pale skin. The parasol mushroom is slightly toxic when raw.
False Morel / Gyromitra esculenta
Human intestines are not pleasant and neither is the False Morel fungus. It is generally agreed to be highly toxic and if eaten raw will cause vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and head pain. If enough is ingested it will result in a coma followed by death with seven days. In Finland it is parboiled to make it safe to eat but research indicates that it may still contain toxins (monomethyl hydrazine) harmful to the kidneys and liver. It is sometimes confused with the (true) Morel mushroom which is edible and highly prized among culinary experts. Please note – even though the classification name – esculenta – means edible in English, this was a mistake. False Morel fungi should not be eaten.
Jelly Drops Fungus / Ascocoryne sarcoides
Looking like an eviscerated small intestine this fungus generally takes the form of a pile of gelatinous pinkish-coloured tubes or discs. It’s often referred to as woodland jelly drops or jellydisc. Ironically, given that the human intestine is loaded with bacteria, laboratory studies have revealed that Ascocoryne sarcoides contains the antibiotic compound ascocorynin which is effective against aggressive stomach and intestinal flora known as Gram-positive bacteria including the common food spoilage organism Bacillus stearothermophilus. The term ‘sarcoides’ means flesh-like. It is generally considered to be inedible.