Fly mushroom (Amanita muscaria) are the most eye-catching mushroom with its large caps of scarlet or deep red, mottled with conspicuous white warts.
First off, fly agaric is one of the easiest mushrooms in the world to identify. Even though it has some color variation, like the yellow-orange one, if you stick to the red and orange color phases Amanita muscaria is unmistakable.
White and light-yellow phase muscaria do exist, but I do not recommend messing with those. White amanitas are almost always deadly; the destroying angel chief among them.
Mistaking a destroying angel for a white muscaria will be the last mistake you ever make. With the yellow ones also, you can mistake muscaria for the more-toxic Panther Amanita, Amanita pantherina, which does not have a history of culinary use.
How to Safely Eat Fly Mushrooms
As food, fly mushroom does need special handling. Apparently most people eat only the caps or the very young buttons. They must be boiled in a large volume of water for a period of time, and then you need to toss out that water. After that, most cultures will either fry them like normal mushrooms, or pickle them, or preserve them in oil
Caution: If you choose to play around with Amanita muscaria, do so at your own risk.
For some reason, field guides do not accurately report the scientific fact of the edibility of the mushroom with a red cap and white dots (A. muscaria) even when properly prepared.
However, some have argued that it is edible if parboiled for sufficient time in plentiful boiling water.
The key to boiling seems to be time and water volume. You need enough water to leach out all the toxins of the mushroom, so it follows that the more muscaria you boil, the more water you’ll need. As for time, it seems 15 minutes is a pretty good interval, according to my sources.
A few Steps That can help Detoxify Fly Agaric Mushrooms
- First remove all the caps and clean them with a brush and the side of a knife. Then cut the caps into 1/4 inch slices.
- Fill a 12-quart stockpot up to the top, leaving about 3 inches of room to spare. Add enough salt to make the water taste salty and 1 cup of cider vinegar. Several sources say that adding salt and vinegar helps extract the toxins.
- Bring to a boil and added the mushroom caps, then let it roll for 15 minutes.
- Drain the mushrooms and fill the stockpot half full with fresh water and bring that to a boil. Add the mushrooms for another 5 minutes.
When the slices are done with this treatment, almost all the color will be gone from the previously pretty red caps. But you’ll still have a vague ivory-yellow, while the mushrooms themselves will be pale and slippery.
After that the mushrooms can be processed in some way either by drying them out, frying in butter, made into a tea/broth/soup, smoked or even made into ointments.
The fact however still remains that the effects of these mushrooms are extremely variable with individuals reacting quite differently to the same dose.
Fly Mushroom Facts
- Years ago, fly agaric was used as an insecticide in some parts of Europe such as England and Germany.
- It used to be sprinkled in milk to kill flies, thereby earning the name Fly Agaric. This fly killer is now known as Ibotenic Acid.
- The red Fly agaric with its white dots, has been a much used image for the Midwinter and Christmas festivities in central Europe for a long time and is to be found on Christmas cards and as replica decorations for trees and wreaths.
- The fly agaric may have been the earliest hallucinogenic substance used for religious or spiritual medicine purposes.
- The medicinal preparation and use of the mushroom are meant to induce higher levels of consciousness, vivid visions, spiritual growth, elation and hyperactivity. They also alter the perception of sight, sounds etc (the senses) and change/enhance the feelings and thoughts of the user.
- Fly mushroom is still popular in some parts of the world since they are the only genus of magic mushrooms allowed to be sold in a dried form.
- In other parts of the world like the U.S and U.K, these mushrooms are classified as illegal but generally, the sale of Amanita muscaria for human ingestion is regulated by the FDA.