…Good Enough to Eat

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Did you realize how poisonous some mushrooms can be?  (Let me issue a disclaimer here: I don’t know if the picture today is a mushroom, some kind of toad stool, some other kind of fungi or an alien spaceship!)  I recall as a child that my mother told us numerous times that we should NEVER pick something that looked like a mushroom and eat it because it could be poisonous.

There are many false folk tales about mushrooms.  Here are some examples listed in Wikipedia:

“Poisonous mushrooms are brightly colored.”  “Insects/animals will avoid toxic mushrooms.”  “Poisonous mushrooms blacken silver.”  “Poisonous mushrooms taste bad.”  “All mushrooms are safe if cooked/parboiled/dried/pickled/etc.”  “Poisonous mushrooms will turn rice red when boiled”.   “Poisonous mushrooms have a pointed cap. Edible ones have a flat, rounded cap.” (These are all WRONG!)

The deadliest mushroom is appropriately called “the death cap mushroom”.  When someone eats it, they typically won’t experience symptoms for at least six and sometimes as many as 24 hours. Eventually abdominal cramps, vomiting, and severely dehydrating diarrhea occurs. This delay means the symptoms might not be associated with mushrooms, and the symptoms may be diagnosed with a more benign illness like stomach flu. To make matters worse, if the patient is somewhat hydrated, symptoms may lessen and they will enter the so-called honeymoon phase.

Meanwhile, the poison stealthily destroys her liver. It binds to and disables an enzyme responsible for making new proteins. Without this enzyme, cells can’t function, and liver failure results. Without proper, prompt treatment, the victim can experience rapid organ failure, coma, and death.  A few mouthfuls of death cap mushroom can kill.

I’m glad my mom instilled fear of picking mushrooms and eating them.  I’m content to leave it to the pro’s.  But this I do know: whatever it is that I photographed, it was NOT a death cap mushroom!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1942, the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, as well as the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, escape from the French port of Brest and make a mad dash up the English Channel to safety in German waters.

The Gneisenau and Scharnhorst had been anchored at Brest since March 1941. The Prinz Eugen had been tied to the French port since the Bismarck sortie in May 1941, when it and the battleship Bismarck made their own mad dash through the Atlantic and the Denmark Strait to elude Royal Navy gunfire. All three were subject to periodic bombing raids–and damage–by the British, as the Brits attempted to ensure that the German warships never left the French coast. But despite the careful watch of British subs and aircraft, German Vice Admiral Otto Ciliax launched Operation Cerberus to lead the ships out of the French port.

The Germans, who had controlled and occupied France since June 1940, drew British fire deliberately, and the Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, and Prinz Eugen used the resulting skirmish as a defensive smoke screen. Six German destroyers and 21 torpedo boats accompanied the ships for protection as they moved north late on the night of February 11.

In the morning, German planes provided air cover as well; ace pilot Adolf Galland led 250 other fighters in an unusually well coordinated joint effort of the German navy and Luftwaffe. The British Royal Air Force also coordinated its attack with the Royal Navy Swordfish squadron, but a late start–the RAF did not realize until the afternoon of February 12 that the German squadron had pushed out to sea–and bad weather hindered their effort. All three German warships made it to a German port on February 13, although the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst had been damaged by British mines along the way.

The British lost 40 aircraft and six Navy Swordfish in the confrontation, while the Germans lost a torpedo boat and 17 aircraft. The “Channel Dash,” as it came to be called, was extremely embarrassing to the British, as it happened right under their noses. They would get revenge of a sort, though: British warships sunk the Scharnhorst in December 1944 as the German ship attempted to attack a Russian convoy. The Gneisenau was destroyed in a bombing raid while still in port undergoing repairs, and the Prinz Eugen survived the war, but was taken over by the U.S. Navy at war’s end.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  A common symbol of Valentine’s Day is Cupid (“desire”), the Roman god of love. The son of Venus and Mars, he was originally depicted as a young man who would sharpen his arrows on a grindstone whetted with blood from an infant, though now he is commonly presented as a pudgy baby. This transformation occurred during the Victorian era when business owners wanted to promote Valentine’s Day as more suitable for women and children.

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