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Unreasonable fear of Shitakes I bought

I bought a $7 bag of Shitakes at the farmer's market. The lady said they were grown "right here in Polk county" and I worried for a moment that they were foraged. Asked her if she grew them and she said yes, on a log.

But now, I have this creepy feeling. They don't look like the shitakes I buy in the store. They DO have the curled foot, but the cap is perfectly smooth and round like a button mushroom, it doesn't have that wavy effect that ends in a slender edge.

The lady I bought them from seemed kinda "out there" and so I've just about convinced myself to close my eyes and pitch these. My husband had emergency surgery for a common bile duct blockage last week, and was in the early stages of liver failure for a while....so I have a particular desire not to poison him right now.

What would you do? $7 is no big deal to pitch for peace of mind. But they do look extremely pretty and fresh...assuming they aren't poisonous ;-)

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  1. Is there anyone you can take them to for inspection? Local botanist? University science department? If you can't know 100% they're safe, then yes, I'd pitch them. Even if they don't kill you, they could send you a trip somewhere you don't want to go. And with a family member recovering from surgery, you want all his food to be as risk-free as possible. Even though I'm sure there are people here who are experts on this subject, I would not rely on people who cannot physically examine your mushrooms to tell you whether they're safe to eat.

    Another option is to save one until you can get it inspected by an expert, and then if they're safe, buy more. If not, report the seller to protect others. She may not have bad intentions, but ignorance can be just as dangerous.

    1. You could read the Wiki article
      and look at the Google images.

      Not all have the 'flower like' cracking on the cap. I am puzzled about your 'slender edge'.

      Your mushrooms might be younger than the ones you typically buy.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        thanks. scroll down to the second pic on the page (if you don't mind). See how the sliced mushrooms in the bowl have that shape that's different from a mushroom w/ more of a rounded cap? That's what confuses me....mine aren't that shape.

        However, they do look like the 1st pic. I imagine there are different varieties, but a cursory googling didn't give me anything specific.

      2. They sound like they were picked as they began to expand, before flattening out. I've grown my own shiitakes, and many came out that way. However, for your peace of mind, go by the motto "when in doubt, throw it out".

        1. Shitakes are not a wild mushroom, so they can't have been foraged. Unless the vendor was "out there" in a seriously maniacal way, I think your mushrooms are fine. Even within one species of mushroom there's always a lot of variation, depending on what staged they were picked and how long ago. Relax - they're not poisonous.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Nyleve

            I believe the worry was that they're not Shitakes. Shitakes are a wild mushroom, but not here.

          2. Well, they sound normal to me, but if you don't want to throw them out unnecessarily and don't want to poison your husband, why not make a small portion for yourself and wait to see if there are any ill effects?

            Also, if she had poisoned people you might have heard about it by now. (That's not meant to be snarkā€”I'm sorry, I had a lot of trouble constructing that sentence.)

            But yes, if you're truly nervous, throw them away and use store-bought mushrooms.

            1. Can you post a pic for us? :)

              1. Do you have a local Mycology Society in your area? They're pretty good helping people id mushrooms.

                Also, it doesn't make sense for a vendor to sell iffy mushrooms, they'll lose/kill customers. That's not a good business model.

                However, if you're fearful, losing sleep worried and don't want to spend the time to check out a $7 package of mushrooms, just toss them for peace of mind.

                1 Reply
                1. re: dave_c

                  "kill customers: That's not a good business model." Very Dilbert, thank you ;-)

                  Yeah, I think the recent ER incident has me a little crazier than usual. We ate foraged Chanterelles a couple of weeks ago without thinking twice. Thanks all...I might post a pic when I get home .

                2. I just bought some Shiitakes at Winco that looked very similar to what you describe. They usually have a pretty flattened cap, but these were much more rounded and smooth. They were all fairly small, but obviously extremely fresh. But they were definitely Shiitakes, and really cheap - just under $6/lb.
                  See my pics - #1 is what they usually look like, the Winco ones looked more like #2.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: gmm

                    FWIW, the fresh shiitakes I buy look a lot more like the ones on the right.

                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                      The ones I get in an Asian grocery have a broken pattern in cap

                      1. re: paulj

                        Yes, Paul. We know you buy high quality mushroom. :)

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          LOL! I found some wild growing ones in new tree bark mulch at a hotel once. I wasn't going to forage them, not so much as I was worried about poisonous but more so about psilly ones.

                    2. re: gmm

                      wow...I think you've nailed it! The left pic is what I expect them to look like and the right pic is what they DO look like. I can't believe I've been reduced to whining about my vegetables being TOO FRESH! Thanks so much for taking the time.

                      That said, i"m still going to eat them myself when the husb can't see me, just in case ;-)

                      1. re: gmm

                        FWIW, the fresh shiitake I buy look like the picture on the left. The picture on the right looks like the fresh shimeiji that I also buy.

                        1. re: jmnewel

                          I'm more used to the patterned cap of these shiitakes. shimeiji that I buy are much smaller, sold in a rectangular cluster.


                          The finest quality Chinese dried shiitake usually have the patterned caps.

                      2. In a time of stress with your husband's illness and surgery, you ca n "buy" peace of mind for $7, I say Oh heck yeah toss them!

                        Yes, I love mushrooms, I even attended a Mushroom weekend seminar given by Paul Stamets (Google him, fascinating person),and I have grown my own mushrooms. Heck I have cultures of them in my frig.

                        Toss, peace of mind still trumps all.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Quine

                          So true...mushroom toxins frequently affect the liver and gall bladder, so $7 is pretty insignificant aside of the potential problems.

                          If it weren't for that, I'd say hey, eat 'em....but that's too big of a mitigating factor to ignore.

                        2. I fully concur $7 is nothing for peace of mind. That said, do you remember the vendor's name? A little googling could go a long way toward quelling your fears.

                          1. If you are not sure, then toss them away. Even if you are 10% not sure, still toss them away. Like you said, peace of mind worth a lot more than $7.

                            1. I'll take them! You do grow shiitakes on a log. Cook one and if it smells like a shiitake, it's a shiitake.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: visciole

                                That reminds me of the saying "All mushrooms are edible, some only once."
                                Yes, Shitakes are fruited on wood (log or shavings), but how they smell cooked is not a valid test of toxicity or psilliness.

                                1. re: Quine

                                  I had grand ideas of foraging for mushrooms in the forests of France with my woven basket on my arm (insert choruses of tra-la-la here)

                                  Bought a book and started reading up on the subject, and I've concluded that I'm pretty happy to just buy them at the market from somebody who knows what the hell they're doing.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    Very true. Fungi are amazing life forms, from the largest living thing on the planet, to being able to grow despite the damaging biological effects of nuclear radiation. They were found growing in Chernobyl contaminated areas. With mushrooms, having only a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

                                  2. re: Quine

                                    OK, but these were not foraged mushrooms, they were bought at a farmer's market. I find it hard to believe that someone selling mushrooms -- even someone a little loopy-seeming -- would be proffering poisonous mushrooms. Therefore it seems reasonable to me to eat them if they smell the way they're supposed to. I'm not advocating picking mushrooms from the woods and doing the same.

                                    But hey, I like to live life real close to the edge, and trust folks who sell me stuff at a farmer's market ;) -- YMMV.

                                    1. re: visciole

                                      Ordinarily, most of us would agree with you wholeheartedly.

                                      But the OPs mention of her husband just having gotten out of hospital after suffering a life-threatening liver/gall bladder condition rather significantly changes the situation, especially since many mushroom toxins specifically and severely affect liver and gall bladder function.