Mushrooms and my Caucasian customer

By: Alex P. Vidal

“Addiction is a tough illness, and recovery from it is a hard but noble path. Men and women who walk that path deserve our support, encouragement, and admiration.” – Sheldon Whitehouse

I remember while serving in a restaurant for several weeks in Brgy. Manok-Manok in Boracay Island in the mid-80s, two regular Caucasian customers would always request to put mushrooms in their dishes.

One of them, a Danish musician, confessed to me that in Europe where he lived, he would always eat Lion’s mane mushrooms.

He was “addicted” to it, he admitted.

It is known as the bearded tooth, hedgehog or pom pom mushroom, the distinctive Hericium Erinaceus that can be found growing on hardwood trees in late summer and fall.

Its distinctive shape, which resembles the mane of a male lion or a pom pom, is unlike any other mushroom. Its taste is reportedly unique and often compared to seafood.

I remembered this Caucasian customer after reading the story written by Jennifer P. Rendon on November 19, 2019 about the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-6 regional office saying it has yet to receive reports of wild mushrooms being used by youngsters who want to get “high” sans risking arrest.




The Department of Education (DepEd), according to Ms. Rendon’s report, “recently raised alarm on reports that some high schools used wild mushrooms or psychedelic mushrooms because of its hallucinogenic properties.”

There were also reports claiming that some students were hospitalized after consuming wild mushrooms, the report said.

The report also added that PDEA-6 regional director Alex Tablate admitted their office has yet to release a confirmed scientific study on the narcotic effects of wild mushrooms.

Meanwhile, two of the deadliest mushrooms in the world are the “destroying angels” and “death caps”, according to the Mother Nature Network (MNN).

Mushrooms in the genera Amanita are among the deadliest in the world, added the MNN. Here are some ways to recognize two of these.

Death caps is a highly toxic mushroom (Amanita phalloides) blamed for the most mushroom poisonings in the world. While native to Europe, death caps reportedly occur on the U.S. East and West Coasts.

Death caps have a 6-inch-wide cap, often sticky to the touch, that can be yellowish, brownish, whitish or greenish in color. The cap has white gills and grows on a stalk about 5 inches tall with a white cup at its base.

It can be confused with: Young death caps can resemble puffballs, which encompass the genera Calvatia, Calbovista, and Lycoperdon.

It can be seen in the months of September to November and its habitat is under pines, oaks, dogwoods and other trees.

There are no immediate symptoms but the person will reportedly experience vomiting, diarrhea and cramps. After several days, these symptoms will go away and we think we are OK. However, we are not.

During this time, internal organs reportedly are being severely damaged, sometimes irreparably. Death can occur six to 18 days after ingestion.




Destroying angels, on the other hand, get their name from their pure white stalks and caps. Like the death caps, they belong to the genus Amanita, with several species occurring in different regions of the country. All, however, have a similar white fruiting body.

It’s an attractive white cap, stalk and gills and can be confused with: In their button stage, destroying angels can be confused with button mushrooms, meadow mushrooms, horse mushrooms and puffballs.

It is seen during the summer and fall and its habitat is: All Amanita species form relationships with roots of certain trees. Destroying angels can be found in or near woodlands or near shrubs and trees in suburban lawns or meadows.

Its symptoms are diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain that generally occur five to 12 hours after ingestion. As with death caps, the symptoms will typically go away and the victim might think they don’t need to see a doctor. However, a day or two later the symptoms will return and get worse.

By then, it will probably be too late because the person will likely suffer liver and kidney failure and enter a hepatic coma that ends in death. If they survive, treatment is severe: a liver transplant.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)