Southern California Garden Club
Southern California Garden Club's
2013 - 2014 Signature Plant
Excerpts taken from The Green Thumb,
Our Signature Plant program started in September 2000 at the encouragement of then Pacific Region Director Lisa Stephens of Arizona. Each Pacific Region Director selects a Director’s Special Project in which all the states in the region may participate for the two years of their term.
Our club enjoyed studying one specific plant so much
we continued the program beyond the first two years.
Since 2000 we have studied geraniums, roses, irises,
tulips, orchids, ferns, azaleas, African violets, and hydrangea last year. We greatly look forward to a year of Fungi discovery.
WARNING: Collecting and ingesting wild
mushrooms without the presence of an expert
to correctly identify specimens can be very
dangerous and should be discouraged since
there are several deadly mushrooms that look
like edible wild ones.
The consumption of wild mushrooms has a lengthy history, dating back well over two millennia and extending throughout the world. For over two hundred years, mushrooms have been a cultivated crop as well. Despite somewhat negative images of mushrooms in the popular imagination and despite the possibility of real danger in their consumption, they have long been valued for their culinary and psychedelic properties. In 300 BC Theophrastus recorded that mushrooms were valued as food and for trade. Pliny, Juvenal, Martial, and Cicero all considered mushrooms to be great delicacies, and the Roman emperor Claudius was allegedly poisoned by a plate of mushrooms. Mushrooms are also mentioned in the Hindu Rig Veda and were eaten on the Indian subcontinent. Mushrooms were probably consumed for food and for their psychedelic properties in Mesoamerica, Siberia, and Scandinavia. Some suggest that the biblical "manna from heaven" was a fungus. By the eighteenth-century reign of Louis XIV, mushrooms were cultivated in caves near Paris. During the nineteenth century mushrooming became a popular leisure pursuit in Europe and America, and by the end of the century mushroom societies were formed.
One estimate placed the number of mushroomers in the United States at thirty million in the early 1980s. A survey conducted at the same time found that 22 percent of Americans collect wild mushrooms, and 15 percent consume mushrooms they find. In the nations of eastern, central, and southern Europe with stronger mushroom cultures, these figures would likely be higher. Mushroom societies are found in every region of the United States, as well as Canada and Europe. In the United States, mushroom societies were founded in Boston and Minneapolis in the late nineteenth century. The North American Mycological Association, covering the United States and Canada, has approximately 2,000 members. These clubs organize talks, dinners, sharing of advice, and forays to mushroom collecting sites.
Novices worry about the toxic qualities of wild mushrooms. Despite this, the number of mushroom fatalities, at least in the United States, is very low. In some years, there are no fatalities although illnesses or hospitalizations might occur as a result of the misidentification of mushrooms, the contamination of otherwise edible specimens, or allergic reactions. Among the edible wild mushrooms that are most widely collected in the United States and Europe are morels, chanterelles, puffballs, boletes, and coral mushrooms. While the collection of wild mushrooms has increased in the past decades, the hobby is limited, and the greatest growth in "wild mushrooms" is likely to occur when these foods become cultivated and therefore perceived as safe to consume.
Fungi vs. Mushrooms
What is a mushroom? Mushrooms are the fruiting
bodies produced by some fungi. Not all fruit bodies
Puffballs are relatives of mushrooms. Despite producing large mushroom-like fruiting bodies, morels and false morels are not closely related to mushrooms. Their spores are produced inside a special cell and are explosively discharged into the air as a fine white cloud.
In many developing countries, the collection and sale of wild edible mushrooms has become an important source of income for many people in remote forested regions. Despite a relatively short growing season, wild mushrooms provide many families with 50 to 100 percent of their income. World trade in wild, edible mushrooms is estimated at more than $7 billion annually. The global trade in matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake), the most expensive wild mushrooms after truffles, is estimated at $3 to $5 billion. Matsutake may sell for as much as $200 apiece in Tokyo markets.
The King Bolete
(Boletus edulis; also
known as porcini, cepe, borovik, etc.) is
the most popular wild
Mycotoxins are chemical compounds produced by fungi growing on organic substances such as corn, cottonseed, or peanuts that, when ingested, have some undesirable effect on humans or on an animal consuming them. Adverse effects can range from vomiting to weight loss, various types of tumors, and in some cases, death. Over one hundred toxic compounds produced by fungi have been identified, and about forty-five of these occur in grain crops. Some mycotoxins are rare in occurrence while others such as aflatoxin are common in some years. The seriousness of the mycotoxin problem varies with the year, the crop being grown, and the intended use of the crop product. Most mycotoxins affect the blood, kidneys, skin, or central nervous system, and some may cause cancer.
The genera of fungi of greatest importance to humans with respect to natural poisoning outbreaks are Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium. The Aspergillus flavus group produces aflatoxins (at least eighteen types known) that are considered the most important from the viewpoint of a direct hazard to human health. Aspergillus flavus is a common fungus that is found in soil, air, and decaying plant residues. Infection by A. flavus and subsequent aflatoxin production can occur in the field, in transit, or in storage. Most reports indicate that infection occurs in the field, while aflatoxin production can occur whenever the product is exposed to favorable conditions, either in the field or in storage.
Control of aflatoxin includes prevention of fungal growth, removal of toxins, and inactivation of toxin. Most control efforts have been directed toward control of aflatoxins in peanuts and corn. Hand picking, electronic sorting, and air classification accomplish control of aflatoxin in processed peanut products. Removal of shriveled, rancid, or discolored kernels has proven the most practical way of limiting aflatoxin contamination in peanuts.
Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms