Putting the fun in fungi

An example of a giant puffball mushroom found by Dave Paton.


Putting the fun in fungi

SALISBURY — Dave Paton, a dedicated hunter of wild mushrooms, went through a list of some of his favorite fungi at the Scoville Memorial Library Saturday, April 20.

Paton’s talk was sponsored by the Salisbury Association Land Trust.

“All wild mushrooms are deadly. Don’t touch them,” he began, tongue firmly in cheek.

“But if you find any, my email is…”

Paton said most wild mushrooms are inedible, but not necessarily poisonous.

He first got interested in mushrooms as a youth, prowling around the grounds at the Sharon Audubon Center.

Someone pointed out a Destroying Angel mushroom, adding an admonition: “One bite could kill you.”

Young David’s reaction to this stern warning?


He mentioned Amanita muscaria as a mushroom with hallucinogenic effects.

Some people go to considerable lengths to tap into this.

“They feed it to reindeer, and then drink the reindeer urine” he announced, adding hastily, “I’ve never tried it because I don’t have a reindeer.”

Some of Paton’s more conventional favorites are King Bolete, or “porcini” in Italian. “Delicious.”

Chicken of the Woods, which Paton said is one of the “Foolproof Five.”

He amended that description.

“More like fool-resistant.”

Chicken of the Woods should be cooked, he continued, and specimens growing on hemlock trees should be avoided altogether. But samples growing on other hardwoods can be eaten if cooked.

He listed Fried Chicken of the Woods and Pulled Chicken of the Woods sandwiches as particular favorites.

Paton urged caution at several points during the talk. He said he consults multiple sources and other experts on a regular basis before ingesting any wild mushrooms.

Paton said he is always looking for the yellow morel. “It’s elusive, so hard to find.”

One to avoid is the Jack-O-Lantern. “It’s extremely toxic. Probably won’t kill you but for two or three days you’ll wish you were dead.”

The first wild mushroom he ever ate was a giant puffball. The photo showed a bulbous white object that was bigger than the woven collection basket next to it.

“I’m gonna need a bigger basket.”

He said he makes “puffball parmigiana” with them.

Paton’s remarks were accompanied by excellent color photographs on the library’s big screen television.

“My iPhone is filled up with pictures of grandchildren and mushrooms.”

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