My students think of Russula species as cheerful mushrooms that are quite benign. They are often pleasingly colored, make good partners for trees, and have an interesting, brittle texture. Other than being practically impossible to identify, what’s not to like? But in eastern Asia, one Russula species kills half of the people who eat it.
This is a point our trained mycologists make to me all the time: Even mushroom experts aren’t always sure about mushroom identification. This great blog post from the mycology department at Cornell highlights why it can be so dangerous to pursue mushroom hunting as an amateur hobby. But, it can also be fun and delicious. Just go into it with as much knowledge as you can, take a class if you can. And if you’re really not sure about whether or not a mushroom is okay to eat, err on the side of caution. You’re worth it! ~AR