Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/153

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141
TOADSTOOLS AND THEIR KINDRED.

mushrooms in this country, we quote from a communication of the late Dr. Curtis, of South Carolina, in reply to inquiries of Rev. C. Berkeley:

"My experience with eatable mushrooms runs back only ten or twelve years. As I had grown up with the common prejudices against them, and had no lack of wholesome food, I had passed middle life before having once tasted a mushroom." Under the guidance of Mr. Berkeley he became interested in them, and overcame his timidity, and, at the time of writing, he adds: "I can safely say that I have eaten a greater variety of mushrooms than any one on the American Continent." After describing his mode of experimenting, and the various species he had proved, he continues: "I have collected and eaten forty species found within two miles of my house. There are some others within this limit which I have not yet eaten. In the catalogue of the plants of North Carolina you will notice that I have indicated 111 species of edible fungi known to inhabit this State. I have no doubt there are forty or fifty more, as the Alpine portion of the State, which is very extensive and varied, has been very little explored in search of fungi.
"In 1866, while on the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee, a plateau less than 1,000 feet above the valleys below, although having very little leisure for examination during the two days spent there, I counted eighteen edible fungi. Of the four or five species which I collected there for the table, all who partook of them, none of whom had before eaten mushrooms, most emphatically declared them delicious. On my return homeward, while stopping for a few hours at a station in Virginia, I gathered eight good species within a few hundred yards of the depot. And so it seems to be throughout the country. Hill and plain, mountain and valley, woods, fields, and pastures, swarm with a profusion of good, nutritious fungi, which are allowed to decay where they spring up, because people do not know how, or are afraid, to use them.
"I have known no instance of mushroom-poisoning in this country, except where the victims rashly ventured upon the experiment without knowing one species from another. There are families in America who have brought with them from Europe the habit of eating mushrooms, but I have not met with any whose knowledge of them extended beyond the common species, called pink-gills, in this country. Several such families live near me, but not one of them was aware, until I informed them, that there are other edible kinds. "When I first sent my son with a fine basket of imperials to an intelligent physician, who was extravagantly fond of the common mushroom, the lad was greeted with the indignant exclamation: 'Boy, I wouldn't eat one of those things to save your father's head!' When told that they were eaten at my table, he accepted them, ate them, and has eaten many a one since with all safety, and with no little relish."

Among our best and standard mushrooms, Dr. Curtis mentions the meadow, the horse, and umbrella mushrooms, but adds:

"Tastes differ on these things as on fruits and vegetables; some putting one, some another, at the head of the list, though fond of all, and ever ready to use any of them, as one who prefers a peach may yet relish an apple. There are some among us who regard the umbrella-mushroom as fully equal to the meadow-mushroom, and I am of the same opinion. When boiled or fried, it truly makes a luscious morsel, I mention, in this connection, that this species here bears the name of nut-mushroom, from a quality that I do not find mentioned in the books