“I’m almost sure these are not poisonous…”

That’s the word from Dan, a novice mushroom forager, who’s been out learning from an experienced gatherer the ways of the fungus among us.

He contacts me from the road, asking if I want to cook up what he found, saying he’s bringing “a variety of wild mushrooms.” I’m pumped–Dan is fast becoming THE Mushroom Man as he’s the most avid mushroom connoisseur I’ve met. Every spring, I can look forward to a call from him about morels being in season–usually sautéed with Copper River sockeye, my favorite. I bring wine to pair. During the late summer and fall, he surveys where the best quality/least expensive golden chanterelles are, and I’ve been the recipient numerous times. Recently, he says he’s learning how to forage. I’m ready for whatever he has in the bag.

But when he says “This type of mushroom killed people in Japan, in 2004.” I recoil in shock. At first, I think he’s joking.

“I took these to the Puget Sound Mycological Society, and they said they’ve not heard of anyone in the U.S. dying from eating them.” He’s referring to the angel wing mushroom. Its name is rather deceptive. Wait. What? Are you nuts? Do you really want to risk our lives because you’re “almost sure these are not poisonous?”

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Angel wing mushroom

He details how the poison can actually take weeks to kill us. We won’t even know until it’s too late to remedy. Not very reassuring. Rabid online research immediately commences while mushroom cleaning and risotto prep take place.

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Golden chanterelles and angel wings after initial cleaning.

He’s accurate: no one has died in years or there are no reports of deaths attributed–mycological societies tend to share stats like that. In addition, I find a post from The Bald Gourmet about angel wings from 2011, regaling their delicate flavor when carefully cooked.


After deliberation and considerable doubt, I sautée his angel wings, golden chanterelles, and two additional matsutake in a combo of bacon fat and butter, incorporating them to a wild mushroom risotto.

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They could kill us, but damn, they smelled good! Butter and bacon fat couldn’t be bad.
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Turned crispy, like mushroom chips.
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Minced jowl bacon and sautéed mushrooms stand ready for risotto.

Normally, I use homemade brown stock for wild mushroom risotto; not this time. Instead I mull the idea of using homemade chicken stock as a lighter alternative that allows the mushrooms’ delicate flavors to shine. Yes.

Each mushroom has its own unique variety of earthy flavor when cooked separately: angel wings are nutty and mild, with a crispy texture; golden chanterelles are rich and meaty; matsutake are herbaceous–almost sappy–and heavily perfumed. Impressive.

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Dinner: Sautéed angel wing, chanterelle and matsutake mushrooms over wild mushroom risotto.

The experience sparks a desire to forage for my own treasure. But that’s another story.

UPDATE: I noted the date of our meal and of when the toxins, might kick in, if they did. That date came and went without incident. Perhaps they were toxic and we merely ate too few? Doubtful. We pigged out. Only once, though.
All images and content copyright ©2017 Eric Schadel. All rights reserved.

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