"If you see a small orange mushroom that you suspect is toxic, report it to.... "


I've eaten a lot of foraged mushrooms, but never picked them myself. I never got sick. The only time I got sick was when I bought mushrooms at a farmers market. So, yeah, capitalism can kill you -- or at least make you sick. :)

Anyway, I dismiss the idea that local foraging lacks a cultural identity or cultural history. It is there, underneath the surface -- it is just that like most culture in America, it is relatively new. That is the nature of food. Italian food contains tomatoes; Ashkenazi Jews make latkes; Mexicans add cheese to their burritos. All of those things are relatively recent, occurring only since the asshole Columbus "discovered" America. Is it really different than the housewife in Wisconsin bragging about her heritage recipe containing Miracle Whip? Of course not. One generation, two generations -- shitloads of family, friends, neighbors, all digging the same sort of thing -- that is culture. That exists with foraging -- even Northwest foraging -- despite the fact that it is new.

That being said, I prefer blueberries, in late summer. Hard to fuck those up. They are blue, they are berries, they are tasty. If you have any doubts, ask someone nearby -- chances are they know. They been eatin' them since they were a kid. Tasty as a mother fuck.


You haven't lived until you've helped achieve ZPG via mushroom.


Charles, summarized: Capitalism and poisonous fungi share a hatred of overpopulation, and readership. .But those who specialize in one or the other will not go hungry.


Charles: please read Anna Tsingโ€™s
The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.


Charles have you seen Agnes Vardas' lauded documentary The Gleaners and I? It deep dives foraging at the edges of the capitalist food system, and seats the practice in a thousand year deep history. You might not be in full accord but would dig it.

Re mushrooms though, in a less convoluted way I'm with your sentiment. Some people who forage do so as a prideful pose (loogit me symbolically sticking it to the food-man, ignore my otherwise fully capitalist life). As with much that can be ego driven, it makes me uncomfortable trust the mushrooms because the person who was picking them was indulging a minor hero fantasy of at the same time. Which might have clouded their judgment regarding the safety of the fungi: "yep, these are okay, they'll all be so impressed!" I'd be irate I think if I died because some ego hippie type fucked up. I'd rather be hit by a bus.


Also if you or anyone else is interested, Langdon Cook is a transplanted UW alum who is the documentarian of the local foraging scene, write books and blogs about both local foraging and the characters who do it. He'd be an interesting interview


Lastly, foraged toxic mushroom illness and death happen disproportionately to economically marginal immigrants from rural cultures. Southeast Asia people mostly. Folds into your capitalist critique in obvious and meaningful ways


Charles, when you buy Chantarelles, Porcinis (King Boletes), Morels, Matsutakes, Lobster Mushrooms, Hedgehogs and many other varieties in your local supermarket, or in a restaurant, you are eating foraged mushrooms.

Button, Crimini, Portobello, Shitake, Enoki, and a dozen or so Oyster mushroom varieties are farmed. Pretty much anything else is foraged-- and most likely by a scruffy (but knowledgeable) white hippie type of person, not by someone with deep roots in native or historical foraging cultures.

We live in a society with a lot of division of labor, and division of knowledge. Not every member of a modern culture knows everything that modern culture has to offer, but this does not mean the modern culture lacks a comprehensive, working knowledge of a subject that was well understood in previous cultures.


@10 And you can also be reasonably sure the mushrooms your dinner party host collected won't poison you. Your dinner party host doesn't want to get sued, either (or kill their guests, in my experience, but perhaps your dinner parties are different, Ken?). Almost anyone who hunts mushrooms as a hobby around here owns and knows how to use a dichotomous key, and has taken at least the 8-hour identification course offered by PSMS*.

Granted, it's education, training, and methodology based in boring modern scientific method, instead of exciting ancient or sacred traditions, but it's still good enough to keep dinner party guests alive.

If you doubt this, feel free to search for examples of dinner-party mushroom poisoning, and let us know what you find. Mushroom poisoning is quite rare, and the victims are almost always either people trying to find psychedelics without training, or, as Clara T noted, immigrants who have strong foraging skills brought from another environment, and catastrophically assume those skills apply perfectly well to the new environment.

(*) PSMS are great, they offer classes, a free ID clinic on Monday nights, and generally provide access to all things mycological:


Anecdotal, to be sure, but i was poisoned at a dinner once. In fairness, the food was reheated leftovers, but i might have thought to be suspicious when my friends ("friends") didn't join me, saying they had eaten earlier.
Naturally, at the hospital, they asked if i had been "doing shrooms". No, i said, it was dinner, and they claimed they were chanterelles...

Yeah, this was 25 years ago, but it's store bought for me all the way.


@12 That sure sucks, but I note you're still with us.

Even fewer cases of mushroom poisoning are fatal, or cause lasting damage, though you (and by "you" I mean drug-thrill-seeking idiots) do need to watch out for dehydration from the typical repsonse-- drooling, puking, sweating, tears, and/or diarrhea, possibly all at once. And again, it's very rare. If you were eating leftovers, and nobody experienced any symptoms the first time the food was served, then it seems a lot more likely you had a case of plain old bacterial food poisoning-- which is plenty miserable, as I can personally attest.

Food poisoning from food obtained in supermarkets and restaurants afflicts something like 45 million Americans a year, hospitalizing ~125,000, and killing around 3,000. Compare that to ~1000 harmful mushroom exposures, ~40 causing major harm, and <3 deaths due to mushroom poisoning per year.

@13 Higher-quality rent boys are surprisingly cheap these days. You can probably get one with table manners and cultured conversations and everything, for not much more than your current cost of cleaning the ones you're foraging in your local parks and greenbelts.


Didn't Marx get his start after seeing people denied the ability to forage (not for mushrooms but rather firewood)? They were factory workers suffering a market downturn: an artificial famine created by the new economic system; but still subject to the last vestiges of feudalism's "Don't poach on the lord's holdings, even if they just sit going to waste." What Marx found objectionable was the inefficiency of selfishness inherent in both new and old systems.


Obviously, Mark would have preferred that labor be able to harvest shrooms instead of firewood, and control the means of self-destruction, but Engel would have a different angle on that.

Please wait...

Comments are closed.

Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

Add a comment

By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.