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MUSHROOMS.*

MUSHROOMS have been considered a delicacy from all times. People of all countries have persevered in their consumption in the face of all kinds of accidents, and this, as M. Boudier tells us, “ because man has from all times sought for food in that which flatters his taste and his sensuality.” Vegetarians are especially partial to mushrooms: they eat them in pastry, stewed, broiled, and after fifty different fashions. This is no doubt from a natural craving for the animal food which they have denied themselves.

Fungi ominous name, yet the one by which the whole order are known to naturalists, given to them by the Romans, as being expressive of their least agreeable properties, -funus, “a funeral,” ago, "I lead to”) are indeed closely allied to Polypi, or animal life. Plautus anticipated the Darwinian theory when he exclaimed, “Adeòn me fuisse fungum, ut qui illi crederem !” Polypi occupy the last rank among animals, fungi the first among vegetables. They are like animals composed of a soft, spongy, cellular tissue, without any trace of vessels for circulating sap; they grow by absorption and development of substance, and they give to analysis the same elements that enter into the constitution of animal matter. What is more remarkable is, that they have the flavour of game or fish, and, according to their age—which, with them, is of a few hours—of game more or less high, verging, in fact, on putridity. “Tanti est, quanti est fungus putidus,” became a proverb among the Romans, equivalent to " he hath not a grain of sense.” to the aphrodisiac properties of fungi, more especially of subterranean species, as (truffles and morels, they are perhaps best illustrated by the venomous group, more especially the Galarhei, which are said to be the favourite food of the goat during the rutting season.

Truffle, or truffe of the French, is probably a corruption of its Roman name, tuber; Morel, Morille of the French, is derived from the German Morchel (Morchella of botanists), and it is not a little curious to find a Monsieur Morel writing a treatise on “ Champignons.” It is not, however, so easy to determine what is a mushroom or a champignon, as what is a truffle or a morel. Mushroom is supposed to be derived from the French Mouceron, or mousseron, which Lightfoot identifies with the Clitocybe pratensis. Woodward says that this species has a much higher flavour than the common mushroom, but he suggests, that from its leathery nature it is indigestible, except in the form of powder, “in which it is admirable.” Withering, however, declares it to be sufficiently digestive, and Martyn informs us that he partook of these mushrooms for forty years without injury, and without perceiving any toughness,

* Des Champignons au Point de vue de leurs Caractères usuels, Chimiques et Toxicologiques. Par M. Emile Boudier.

Pharmacien Mémoire Couronné par l'Académie Impériale de Paris. Paris. J. B. Ballière et Fils.

Traité des Champignons au Point de Vue Botanique, Alimentaire et Toxicologique. Par L. F. Morel, Curé-Doyen. Paris. Germer Baillière.

except in dry weather, or when gathered old. The true mouceron seems, however, to be the Mouceron prunulus, common in woods among grass, and which Loudon declares to be “one of the very best of mushrooms." The mushroom most commonly cultivated is the common meadow agaric (Agaricus, or Psalliota Campestris), and this is what is sold under that Dame in Covent Garden, whilst quite different species are exhibited under the name of “champignons;" as also for making ketchup. It has been recently ascertained that the most repulsive and abominable falsifications have been practised in the manufacture of the latter delicious sauce, founded upon its peculiar flavour. Laws of a more penal character are very much wanted to punish such delinquencies in an adequate manner.

There is no deciding in matters of taste in regard to mushrooms more than anything else. The Polyporus tuberaster is most sought for in Roman and Neapolitan cookery; one authority declares Clavaria flava to be the most delicious ; another tells us that one of the Telamonia, or gigantic agarics, so called because they are among agarics what Ajax Telamonius was among men, and which is found in woods in the west of England, “is as delicious as an oyster,” which intimates an ancient fishy flavour. Others, again, like the powder which is to be found in some fungi, and which resemble Spanish snuff. The odour of truffles is peculiar, and can be detected by pigs and dogs, and even by some men, though covered by a stratum of earth ten or twelve inches thick. Truffles vary much in colour, being found of almost every shade, from a deep brown to white. The dark sorts are the most esteemed. The rootbeard (Rhizopogon) has been commended as a kind of truffle. It somewhat resembles a middling-sized potato lying on the ground. By most persons, Burnett says, they would scarcely be considered esculent, were it not believed that they possess aphrodisiacal properties. It is probably, he adds, a like unmerited fame which has contributed so long to keep the truffle a favourite, for its flavour is very trifling. We are not so sure, however, as to the said fame being unmerited. The untutored Arabs eat truffles for this property, a knowledge of which could only have been gained by experience. Johnson says the white part of the etalk of the Phalli, or stink-horns, is rather agreeable than otherwise, and Burnett says persons who are bold enough may eat them without fear. We had rather be excused. The Tremellaceae, or wood-destroying fungi, are variously named by our foresters, according to their forms and consistencies, witch-guts, witch-meat, and witches-butter.

Clavaria rugosa is commended by Sowerby for its agreeable taste. C. flava is, as we have seen, said to be delicious ; and C. pyxidata tolerably good. C. cinerea is, however, the species most commonly eaten on the Continent, probably on account of its abundance. In Italy these fungi are called Ditola rosea, bianca, and so on according to their colour; and in France, Barbe de bouc, espignelles, and diables. Persoon says these fungi are stewed for an hour with butter, pepper, and salt, and then put into a gravy sauce, or a fricasee of fowls.

Many Helvella—a word derived from helluo, “a glutton,” or from the verb helluor, "to gormandise,” because they stimulate the appetite-are much prized by epicures. Helvella esculenta is frequently substituted for the true morel. H. crispa is also said to be excellent. The Helvellæ are

popularly confounded with morels in Sweden, Germany, and other places. In Sweden both are called, indifferently, Stenmurckla; and in Germany, Gemeine morchel, and Stockmorchel. Among the true morels, Morchella esculenta, patula, and deliciosa, are most esteemed. Persoon commends them when stewed for an hour with butter, pepper, salt, parsley, and ham, in a good gravy; when nearly done, the yolks of a few eggs should be added, and a little cream: they are then served either by themselves, or on a buttered toast. Some of the morels are vapid and watery, and become so soon fætid as to be unfit for food ; but good morels, when dried, may be preserved for years. Paulet gives directions for stuffing morels with savoury viands, such as pickled pilchards, craw-fish, and flesh of fowls, and says, after they are broiled, they are to be served up

with champagne, lemon-juice, and bread-crumbs. The German peasants, who found it a profitable employment to collect morels, having observed that they grew most freely and abundantly in those places where wood had been burned, absolutely set fire to the forests to favour their propagation; and to such an extent did this injurious practice proceed, that it became necessary to enact severe laws for its suppression.

As the Rha or Volga gave its name to rhubarb, Rha-barbarum, so the Agarus, a river in Sarmatia, gave its name to the Agarics, with the Boleti, the most highly-developed fungi. Among these the Hydni

, known as spine-stools and prickle-stools, furnish many edible species

. Hydnum erinaceum, which is found growing upon old oaks, forms a common article of food in the Vosges. H. coralloides is eaten in Piedmont and Tuscany, and H. caput-medusæ in other parts of Italy, under the name of Fungo istriæ. One of our old herbalists, Gerard, said of these " prickle-stools," "I give my advice to those that love such strange and new-fangled meats, to beware of licking honey among thorns, lest the sweetness of the one do not countervail the sharpness and pricking of the other."

The liver Fistuline, or pipe-stool (Fistulina hepatica), which is parasitic upon the trunks of old oaks and other trees, is, like the Hydnum auriscalpium, which grows on the cones of fir-trees in this country, generally esteemed on the Continent. In France it is called Foie de Bæuf, Langue de Boeuf, and Glue de chêne ; and in Tuscany, Lingua di castagno-all names indicative of its flesh-like appearance ; and it has, when cooked, a decided animal flavour. De Candolle observes, as a general rule, that the stalks and flesh of the pilei are edible in the whole family of the Boletidæ. He, however, excepts such as are coriaceous, corky, and woody; such as have the stipes furnished with a collar or annulus; such as have a peppery flavour ; and such as become of a blue or greenish colour when cut. Burnett

says

the last character is an important one in all the fungi, for it invariably denotes a suspicious quality. Boletus esculentus, subtomentosus, and granulatus, are all eatable, but not so much esteemed as Boletus edulis, which is very common in France, and considered to be excellent. In Hungary a soup is made from this Boletus, which is esteemed a great delicacy. "Boletus scaber is a favourite food among the Russians and Poles, who have many ways of cooking it and pickling it. One species, B. chrysenteron, wholesome when young, becomes noxious when mature. Boletus luridus, the most splendid species in the whole genus, is at the same time the most deleterious; it is one of "most poisonous fungi. The Polypores have a bad reputation, but

Polyporus quamosus, called in France Oreille d'orme, and Langou, is eaten ; and P. tuberaster is, as we have seen, largely consumed in the Neapolitan and Roman States. Amadou is made from P. igniarius by steeping the softer parts in a solution of nitre, after they have been beaten into a spongy state. Various other species retain fire when dry, and are also collected and used as amadou. Several species are styptics, and are also used for medicinal purposes. Polyporus suavolens is one of the few luxuries of Lapland. Linnæus says

the odour is so much admired that the fungus is used to scent the person. The Polypores are among the largest fungi, and are, probably, the extraordinary mushrooms to which reference is made by some of the older writers, as one of them having constituted a cart-load by itself. The Merulidæ constitute the most formidable dry-rots, a corrective for which has been discovered in modern times by Mr. Kyan, in steeping the timber in a solution of corrosive sublimate.

The ancient Boletus, “ Fungorum princeps et dominus,” is the present Agaricus, or Amanita Cæsarcus; and the Dædalea quercina is still called the agaric of the oak. The Cantharellus cibarius is called, in some parts of France, Escraville, from Escar villæ, “ village food,” the people deriving a large part of their subsistence from it. The Chantarelles, yellow fungi, or “ Pixy-stools,” are so called from their resemblance to the head and open beak of a cock crowing. They are usually strung in rows and dried, and some exhale an odour like that of ripe apricots. Two species of Coprinus (Dung-stool) growing in the Spice Islands-one in the pith of the sago-palm, the other on nutmeg-trees—are said to be delicious.

The Galarhei, which have been so named from the lactescence of many species, are some of them deleterious, and others esculent. G. deliciosus is, indeed, considered a delicacy everywhere. When well dressed it is very luscious eating, full of rich gravy, with a little favour of mussels. When Sir James E. Smith visited Marseilles, he was astonished at the prodigious quantity of this delicious agaric offered for sale in the market. Some of the Russulæ, or Mushrussets, so called from their russet hue, are also eatable. An agaric which grows on olive-trees in the south of Europe is remarkable for being phosphorescent, and exhibiting a luminous appearance at night. Some agarics, as A. ostreatus and ulmarius, attain a prodigious size even in this country, sometimes to two or three feet in circumference, and as they are eatable, they might be recommended to the poor, previously prepared in vinegar and salt; for half a dozen men might, as Burnett remarks, make a hearty and a wholesome meal from a single mushroom. Clitocybe pratensis is commonly called "champignon" in this country, and C. orcades are known as Scotch-bonnets in the north. The fairy rings so common in old pastures, where

Of old the merry elves were seen,

Pacing with printless feet the dewy green, are generally composed of this sub-genus of agarics.

Two or three species of Lepiotæ, or scaly mushrooms, are eaten even in this country, where fewer fungi are admitted to the table than in almost any other. They are ordinary articles of diet throughout the whole of France and Italy, where they are known as Mort de froid, Nez de chat, and Mazza di tambura.

The Amanitæ afford examples of some of the most splendid fungi

known. To use the language of our neighbours, A. imperialis is magnificent, but A. Cæsarea is superb.* It appears from Pliny that, after the murder of Claudius by the latter agaric, mushrooms fell into unmerited disrepute, and it was long before they recovered their reputation. So also

Britain, the fungi being condemned in the gross as deleterious plants, very few have been able to withstand the prejudice raised. Thus at least thirty of our indigenous species are esculent, but not more than two or three are eaten; and our paupers starve with food around them which, in some continental states, is esteemed a luxury, and in others forms a staple article of diet. Much confusion still exists, however, not only in the popular names by which these edible species are known, but also even in their so-called scientific names. We have consulted several English authorities in writing this little article, and find frequent discrepancies, still more manifest when compared with the French. Loudon, for example, in his “Ency. of Plants," describes the Lepiotus xerampelinus as the mushroom fatal to Claudius ; Burnett, in his “Out. of Botany,” says it was the Agaricus or Amanita Cæsarea. Some call the common mushroom Agaricus campestris, others Psalliota campestris, a sub-genus of Pratelli. The French call it Agaricus edulis.

We confess ourselves to a predilection to the mushroom tribe. We have eaten agarics in England ; oronges (Amanita aurantiacus), which Morel declares to be the best of mushrooms,” in the south of France; Galarhei in the Danubian Provinces ; and enormous epiphytes torn from the trunks of pine-trees in Paphlagonia, cut in pieces and stewed with onions ; but we must admit that when we read a paragraph said to have been taken from a Belgian newspaper, to the effect that two officers had been seized with such violent colic, after partaking of mushrooms, as to have broken their backs in the contortions of agony, although we did not believe it, still it singularly shook our confidence in fungi of all descriptions.

The symptoms of poisoning by mushrooms are, however, painful enough, as described in a report of the Medical Society of Bordeauxa country where, as in Hungary, Poland, and Russia, fungi of different kinds are largely consumed. Among the results are contractions of the stomach and bowels, sometimes so violent as to turn them one into another-a proceeding which is naturally followed by mortification. The lungs and brain are also affected. Orfila relates in his “ Toxicologie" (t. ii. p. 671) a curious case of a Baroness Boyer and her daughter, who were both poisoned by the bulbous agaric, and who, although deeply attached to one another, manifested during their fatal illness an utter indifference to each other's sufferings. The mind had evidently lost all its powers of sympathy.t Some people, however, take advantage of the peculiar effects produced upon the human economy by mushrooms. Thus, the Kamtchatdales and Koriars use their moucho-mores for intoxication. They sometimes eat them dry, and sometimes immerse them in a liquor made with the epilobium; and, when they drink this, they are seized

* The Amanita aurantiacus is the “oronge” of the French. “L'un des plus beaux, tout à la fois, et l'un des meilleurs de nos champignons,” says Père Morel. Its poisonous compeer, Amanita bulbosus, called “oronge cique,” and is distinguished by its white laminæ beneath and sickening smell.

+ The ioduret of potassium, tannin, and gall-nuts have been recommended in cases of poisoning by mushrooms, as all precipitating the alkaloids, as also the mycetide or gelatinous matters.

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