Punch,  59 (1870), 61.

Mushrooms Made Easy



Letter, Spoof


Natural History, Botany, Collecting, Medical Practitioners, Nutrition, Disease, Natural History, Observation, Reading

    The writer begins by introducing himself as somebody who practised mycophagy or fungus-eating as a hobby, believing that pursuing 'objects, or subjects, belonging to the vegetable kingdom' is mentally elevating. Presents an extract from the Medical Press and Circular describing a case of a couple who showed symptoms of cryptogamic poisoning after eating some mushrooms with their tea—the mushrooms apparently being mixed with poisonous fungi. Insists that the poisoning was caused by toxic substances in the tea and prints an extract from the same report showing how 'true' and 'false' mushrooms can be distinguished. Disputes the reliability of this distinction, highlighting instances where genuine mushrooms have some of the outward features of false ones, and appealing to the authority of Badham 1847, and to the coloured diagrams of fungi by Worthington G Smith displayed in the window of 'Mr. Hardwicke's Shop in Piccadilly'. Wishes readers to consider Smith's distinction between wholesome and poisonous mushrooms and his account of the symptoms which he experienced early in his fungus-eating researches. Observes: 'Wise men like you, Sir, do not eat mushrooms unless they know the bad from the good as well as they know parsley from hemlock. They read the rights books about them first, or study them in Nature, or, before they venture on dishes of them, they consult plates'.

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

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