The science behind this debate

Is focused foraging for edible fungi justifiable?

Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:47 pm

Leif Goodwin wrote:Geoff

Firtly I should point out that I have no training in mycology and I have no familiarity with the research. So anything I say is to be taken with a bucket of salt.

Anyway, if there is definite proof that picking fungi does harm, I would like to see it. But neither is there proof that picking does no harm, as the studies are too simple.


That is what I suspected.

You say that spores are in the air, in which case why are many European species absent from North America, and vica versa?


They must have a limited range. That is why I was a bit skeptical that Asterophora parasitica (which I found again yesterday) can survive for a year in the air.

That suggests either that fungal spores do not travel far or that a certain number are needed for a species to establish itself. Hence picking large quantities of a fungus might reduce its ability to establish itself ELSEWHERE.


Yes, that would make sense. This would provide a case against picking uncommon species, but makes no difference if you are talking about B. edulis. In fact if you think about it, this might actually provide a positive case for picking common species, since this would presumably increase the chances for uncommon species to establish themselves elsewhere, because you are removing some of the stiffest competition.

The suggestion that picking helps spread spores is surely silly. Most pickers place fungi in plastic buckets or carrier bags, and walk around for an hour or two. Had they left the fungi, they would have had days or even weeks to spread spores. That I think is a myth spread by pickers.


I would tend to agree with this also.

Today I saw a family in a local SSSI carrying baskets and plastic buckets full to the brim with fungi. Just 3 people were cleaning out the wood. There is no way they could have eaten them in a day or a week, as they had enough for months. That to me is greed.


Well, we need to revisit this SSSI argument anyway. I see no harm in taking fungi from an SSSI set up to protect birds, rare plants and diverse invertebrate fauna. This is the case for the whole of the Ashdown Forest which is a large area, much of which is private property (including many houses and gardens). It would be insane to say that you can't pick common fungi there. I'm all for conservation, but this is surely going too far.

In my view Dawkins is just as narrow minded, bigoted and intolerant as the Pope.


I'd agree with that too. I am in the process of writing a book attacking Dawkins for having failed to understand the limits of science. I initially went to his forum when it first opened to attack this narrowmindedness. The person who set up that website (Josh Timonen) posted on it for the first few weeks and upon following the debates decided to ask me to be the forum administrator. I believe he did this because I was providing the most coherent argument against Dawkins' most fanatical supporters, whilst at the same time being able to deal with the religious lunatics and showing that I had a decent general knowledge of science. He then basically abandoned it with myself in charge. This is the start of a long story, which ended with me resigning as forum admin and Dawkins' having to shut the board down because of what was going on there after I left. His own supporters then viciously turned on him. This was all in the papers a few months back.

I am a reformed Dawkinsian who decided to go back to university in my mid-thirties to study philosophy after realising the error of my ways...
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby Leif Goodwin » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:48 pm

Geoff, I think this is about common sense. Many years ago commercial picking was rife in the New Forest. It is now banned. But picking for own use is allowed. The New Forest covers a large area, and pickers tend to stay fairly near to car parks and roads, so probably a lot avoids picking. But smaller woods in more urban areas can be cleaned out, as happens near where I live. But there is no enforcement of any ban even when applicable. I suspect mycology is a cinderella science, underfunded and understaffed so don't hold your breath while waiting for new research.

Regarding spore dispersal, Neil mentioned that the asexual spores of Asterophora tend to get deposited in the soil ready for next years growth. Normal spores go into the air and drift. Some cannot establish themselves on other continents due to climate variations, but some can and don't. The Death Cap was introduced to North America, on the East Coast and is spreading west. I assume there needs to be a certain density of spore deposition for a species to reproduce and survive. (For one thing you need two mycelium to meet for fruiting to occur. ) Possibly most get deposited not too far away from the source and either lie dormant, or grow. I think spores carry very few food reserves, and rely on landing on top of a food source. I have no idea how long they can survive in a dormant state.

Many years ago I read some academic text books in a quest to find answers to these questions, and I soon realised that although the books are full of knowledge, they did not answer my 'simple' questions. I recall one such question was "Why do most fungi appear in the autumn and not in spring" and one text book admitted that the answer was not known although possible reasons were mentioned.

I'm curious to know which wild mushrooms you think are better than shop bought ones. And have you tried open cap mushrooms? (They now come under a silly name, such as Portobello, which I guess is a marketing wheeze.)

GeoffDann wrote:I am in the process of writing a book attacking Dawkins for having failed to understand the limits of science.


That in my view is the issue. There are some things that science does not address, and which might remain unknowable. Many of the greatest scientists including Einstein were believers in a God, although probably not in a literal sense.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Mon Oct 11, 2010 9:19 am

Leif Goodwin wrote:
I'm curious to know which wild mushrooms you think are better than shop bought ones.


Russula cyanoxantha, Lactarius deliciosus/deterrimus, Leucopaxillus giganteus, the Macrolepiotas, Lepista nuda, B. edulis and badius, the Hydnums, Sulphur polypore, giant puffballs. Also Lyophyllum decastes is good and I'm quite fond of young Amanita rubescens and the miller. The young caps of armillaria species are delicious well-cooked in the roasting dish with meat.

Many are not what they are cracked up to be. Most suillus and leccinum aren't worth carrying home - I do not understand why people think brown birch boletes are a good edible. I guess it is just easy to find and hard to confuse with anything nasty. There's not much else to be said for it. Sparassis crispa takes forever to clean and I have trouble understanding why anyone at all likes eating beefsteak fungus (apparently it is very nutritious, but it tastes bizarre).

And have you tried open cap mushrooms? (They now come under a silly name, such as Portobello, which I guess is a marketing wheeze.)


No.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby Neil » Mon Oct 11, 2010 1:17 pm

In May this year I discovered Phellinus wahlbergii inside a hollow Oak. Dr Martyn Ainswoth suggests spores may have come over with Sahara winds and settled in Britain and I can't argue with that, although obviously it must be a rare occurrence.
Yet the Giant Puffball produces billions of spores, but you cannot call this a common species.

When I mentioned there being better tasting mushrooms available in the shops, I obviously meant the Agaricus bisporus derivative. But all this talk of being highly nutritious is complete rubbish, low in fat, yes, but 90% of fungi is water.
Apart from Hydnums, I have tried all Geoff has mentioned above and only B.edulis could I eat on a regular basis maybe, followed by Oyster fungi, but on a regular basis, I'm sure I'd get sick and tired of them as I do the others. Agaricus augustus is good, but the flavour is just too intense.

Save our wildlife - eat shop bought mushies !

Neil.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Mon Oct 11, 2010 3:03 pm

Neil wrote:In May this year I discovered Phellinus wahlbergii inside a hollow Oak. Dr Martyn Ainswoth suggests spores may have come over with Sahara winds and settled in Britain and I can't argue with that, although obviously it must be a rare occurrence.
Yet the Giant Puffball produces billions of spores, but you cannot call this a common species.


So what is this telling us that is relevant to this debate? It would seem that regardless of the truly vast quantity of spores produced by an unmolested mass-fruiting of giant puffball (and it does happen - I've seen a field absolutely covered in them, only accessible from a canal in shropshire) this species remains relatively uncommon. This suggests that it is rather fussy about where it grows, or it is not very good at competing with other fungi?

When I mentioned there being better tasting mushrooms available in the shops, I obviously meant the Agaricus bisporus derivative. But all this talk of being highly nutritious is complete rubbish, low in fat, yes, but 90% of fungi is water.


Beefsteak fungus really is highly nutritious.

Save our wildlife - eat shop bought mushies !


I'd still rather eat wild campestris if I find them...
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby Leif Goodwin » Tue Oct 12, 2010 8:53 pm

GeoffDann wrote:
Leif Goodwin wrote:
I'm curious to know which wild mushrooms you think are better than shop bought ones.


Russula cyanoxantha, Lactarius deliciosus/deterrimus, Leucopaxillus giganteus, the Macrolepiotas, Lepista nuda, B. edulis and badius, the Hydnums, Sulphur polypore, giant puffballs. Also Lyophyllum decastes is good and I'm quite fond of young Amanita rubescens and the miller. The young caps of armillaria species are delicious well-cooked in the roasting dish with meat.

Many are not what they are cracked up to be. Most suillus and leccinum aren't worth carrying home - I do not understand why people think brown birch boletes are a good edible.
And have you tried open cap mushrooms? (They now come under a silly name, such as Portobello, which I guess is a marketing wheeze.)


No.


May I suggest that you try open cap mushrooms, the 4" kind, though the 10cm ones are almost as tasty.

I agree with some of those in your list. I think you should try Black Trumpets. I have never considered Boletus edulis and B. badius anything special, though I am probably a lone voice. And I find shaggy parasols thoroughly disgusting. My late mother liked wood blewits, but I don't. Morels are rather good, but I rarely pick them as they are too rare down here. I do sometimes try rare species, but only when there are plenty, and I only take a small quantity once to try.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby Leif Goodwin » Tue Oct 12, 2010 9:30 pm

GeoffDann wrote:
Neil wrote:In May this year I discovered Phellinus wahlbergii inside a hollow Oak. Dr Martyn Ainswoth suggests spores may have come over with Sahara winds and settled in Britain and I can't argue with that, although obviously it must be a rare occurrence.
Yet the Giant Puffball produces billions of spores, but you cannot call this a common species.


So what is this telling us that is relevant to this debate? It would seem that regardless of the truly vast quantity of spores produced by an unmolested mass-fruiting of giant puffball (and it does happen - I've seen a field absolutely covered in them, only accessible from a canal in shropshire) this species remains relatively uncommon. This suggests that it is rather fussy about where it grows, or it is not very good at competing with other fungi?


It confirms that spores can travel a long way, and germinate and thrive. And I think you may be right, the giant puffball does seem to be selective, and the vast majority of spores will fall on unsuitable ground. If we ate all giant puffballs that we could find, I wonder what effect that would have?

I recall about 10 years ago that the Hayes Business Park near Slough had hundreds of them rolling around. They were growing in the areas of scrub hawthorn. I have never before or since seen so many in the same place. And a year or two later only a few appeared on that site.

Last year there was pollen dumped on cars in the UK which apparently had come from the Sahara. (The pollen, not the cars.) If pollen, why not spores?

Here is one scenario relating to the thread. We know that mycorrhizal fungi aid a tree to establish itself and grow in a location where otherwise it might struggle or die. Imagine that we harvest a significant number of such fungi each year. The number of spores in the air will drop, and the chance that a sapling in a poor soil will meet an associate will drop. It is possible that the effect would be a loss of tree cover in some areas where otherwise it would have established itself. Or perhaps the trees will be less vigorous. This is pure supposition and a mycologist might well give me a good slap in the face with a wet fish, and tell me not to talk nonsense. What I am trying to suggest is that the effect of massive harvesting of fungi might not be quite so obvious as a drop in the yield of fungi in that area. It might well be that picking fungi in area A will have no impact at all on the fungi harvested at area A for decades as the host trees are thriving and so are the fungal associates. But the spores produced are significantly reduced in number and somewhere down the line there might be an impact. Bear in mind that the UK has significantly less tree cover than countries such as France, and most is not in the south east where the population tends to be.

GeoffDann wrote:Beefsteak fungus really is highly nutritious.


Fungi really do contain very little nutrition, apart from a modest amount of protein, very little fat, some carbohydrates, a bit of fibre and some vitamins. Some fungi are reputed to contain biologically active compounds, some being potential cancer drugs, but there is much hype. What do you think is in beefsteak fungus? (I refrained from suggesting 'cow'.)
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:08 am

Study of the nutritional content of Fistulina hepatica:

http://bibliotecadigital.ipb.pt/bitstre ... 3/1/13.pdf

It contains anti-oxidants and other organic acids.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby Leif Goodwin » Wed Oct 13, 2010 7:03 pm

GeoffDann wrote:Study of the nutritional content of Fistulina hepatica:

http://bibliotecadigital.ipb.pt/bitstre ... 3/1/13.pdf

It contains anti-oxidants and other organic acids.


Do you know what that means compared to other foods? I understand the general gist of what they are doing, but not the details since I am not a biochemist. But I have no idea whether or not the quantities of the substances found are significant or not.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Thu Oct 14, 2010 12:59 pm

You can actually taste the vitamin C in beefsteak fungus, so there must be a significant amount.
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