Amanita caesarea: The Ultimate Mushroom Guide
About The Amanita caesarea Mushroom
Amanita caesarea is an edible mushroom. Interesting that this mushroom has the same genus as some of the most toxic mushrooms in the world. However, not all amanitas are dangerous, and some are safe to eat.
Amanita caesarea is native to Europe and Africa. It does not grow in North America, although two American look-alikes are also often called Caesar’s mushroom. They are also considered edible, with the major caveat that they, too, resemble toxic species—and there are many amanitas whose toxicity or edibility are not known.
It is one of the few fungi species which may be consumed raw, as there is no knowledge of cases of intoxication due to the ingestion of this mushroom, either raw or cooked. Only young specimens and in the perfect status of conservation must be selected. On the other hand, the old and badly conserved specimens emit an unpleasant smell starting from the volva.
Because of the possibility of poisoning combined with the difficulty of identifying the species correctly, you should be very careful about eating any Amanita caesarea. This mushroom is not recommended for mycological beginners. Every year many people are poisoned, thinking they are eating an edible species when they are eating a deadly Amanita.
Amanita caesarea Identification
Like most other mushrooms from the genus, A. caesarea ‘hatches’ from an egg-like structure known as a universal veil. This veil surrounds the entire developing fruiting body, protecting it from the elements and mycophagous insects.
The caps of Amanita caesarea are orange, occasionally with irregular veil fragments but more often without; initially convex, flattening; 6 to 18cm across are with a striate margin.
Finding a fully-expanded cap without at least one marginal split is unusual, as these warm-climate mushrooms tend to lose moisture content quite rapidly unless in deep shade.
It is at the 'egg' stage that Caesar's Mushroom is most prized as an edible mushroom. The beautiful young cap shown on the left is closed by the stem ring, making an almost perfectly spherical sealed delicacy - but if you intend to eat wild mushrooms do be aware that nearly all species must be well cooked before they are safe to eat. Some authorities report that Amanita caesarea is edible even in its uncooked state, but others counsel against eating them until they have been cooked thoroughly.
The gills of Caesar's Mushroom are yellow-orange, free and crowded.
The stems of Amanita caesarea are pale to mid orange; often rough with attached veil fragments; large, pale orange ring; 5 to 12cm long, 1.5 to 2.5cm diameter; stem base is covered with a white bag-like volva.
Amanita caesarea Habitat
Ranges from North Africa to southern Europe, mainly in Italy. This mushroom does not exist (as far as we know right now), in the United States but there are similar US species (more on that below).
Amanita caesarea is mycorrhizal, meaning it forms a symbiotic beneficial relationship with the roots of certain trees. You'll find them fruiting under pine and oak.
This mushroom grows directly on the ground, not on trees or dead wood.
Amanita caesarea Toxicity & Side Effects
This mushroom is not toxic, though it can accumulate heavy metals if any are in the soil. In most cases, it is safe to eat. However, the species has toxic look-alikes, including some that can kill. Other look-alikes are hallucinogenic. Still, others have not been studied at all.
Finally, like any other food, this mushroom can cause allergic reaction or other problems for sensitive individuals, the standard advice (go to a doctor if symptoms persist) is no good in cases of mistaken identity.
Toxic amanitas often taste excellent and have few, if any, symptoms until after permanent or possibly fatal damage has occurred. Anyone who suspects they may have eaten the wrong amanita species should not wait for discomfort to set in but should seek treatment immediately.
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