Q: My neighbor is talking about mushrooms this spring. How do I know which is safe, and how do I fix them?

A: Ahh…springtime with morels. Love it. Mushroom poisoning occurs after the ingestion of mushrooms that contain poisons, usually in the context of foraging for edible mushrooms. No simple rules exist for distinguishing edible mushrooms from poisonous mushrooms. In more than 95% of cases, it occurs as a result of misidentification by amateur mushroom hunters. The other occurs after certain mushrooms are consumed for their mind-altering properties. Processing the mushroom may not alter the toxicity. Children and older adults are at the greatest risk of toxicity, with symptoms of cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, confusion and possible seizures or coma. Death is very rare. It is probably best when hunting mushrooms to stick to morels, unless you know for sure what you are gathering. My mom (who you might remember from the old “Honey Bee Restaurant” or “Floral Occasions”) used to soak them overnight in salt water, then dip them in milk, roll them in flour and fry them in hot Crisco. That is hard to beat. But, if you’ve got a better way, let me know. And, if you want to tell me where you get them, that would be even better.

Rick Casey, DO