Wild mushrooms bite back

    Heavy rains have produced a bumper crop of wild mushrooms and a lot of calls to New Jersey’s Poison Help hotline.

    Even if that beautiful white fungus growing in your backyard looks like the supermaket variety, don’t eat the mushrooms, say the experts.

    Steven Marcus, medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information Education System, says you really need to be an expert to tell the difference between safe and toxic mushrooms.

    Old wives tales can’t be trusted, he said.

    “If an animal will eat it, it’s not toxic. If it turns a silver spoon tarnished, it’s not toxic. None of these hold up. So the only safe thing is not to never eat a wild mushroom, unless you know what you are doing,” Marcus said.

    Since Sunday, New Jersey’s hotline has gotten 12 calls from people worried about eating wild mushrooms. Four people ended up in the hospital with severe vomiting.

    “With the rain expected again this weekend, I’m worried that we are going to have another outbreak,” Marcus said.

    If you’re concerned for yourself or a pet, call the Poison Help hotline, 1-800-222-1222.

    But if possible, call from a landline, instead of a cell phone, so you can be routed to the poison control center nearest you.

    The four patients are recovering now, but one New Jerseyan died last year after eating wild mushrooms.

    Marcus says the inviting fungi are everywhere.

    “One person got it walking along a trail. Somebody else got it in their backyard. I saw them bloom like crazy in fields right by my house. We’ve had such a dry summer that mushrooms were kind of laying in wait so to speak,” he said.

    Mushrooms grow from spores in the ground and thrive when the rains are heavy.

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