One of the loveliest aspects to the arrival of the rainy season is the blooming of wild mushrooms, as the winter varietals start to sprout and show their colors. But eating — or even handling wild mushrooms can result in serious illness, a coma, or even death.
“It is difficult to distinguish between wild mushrooms that are poisonous and those which are safe to eat,” California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Karen Smith said in a release. “Wild mushrooms should not be eaten unless they have been carefully examined and determined to be edible by a mushroom expert.”
Indeed, hundreds of Californians are hospitalized each year from ingesting the tempting fungi that turn out to be quite toxic. The California Poison Control System notes that in the last year, 679 cases of wild mushroom poisoning occurred in the state. The most extreme poisonings resulted in liver failure, kidney failure, and even a coma.
Nearly half of those hospitalized were children under six years of age who ingested mushrooms found in yards or parks. Anyone who’s consumed wild mushrooms and develops symptoms like nausea, cramping, or diarrhea should immediately contact a Poison Control Center by calling 1-800-222-1222.
We should also remind you that mushroom hunting is prohibited in most California state parks. If you’re really interested in collecting wild mushrooms, consider a class or guided tour with the Bay Area Mycological Society in San Leandro, the Mycological Society of San Francisco, or the Sonoma County Mycological Association.