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Have you ever heard of Amanita caesarea? It is a fairly common mushroom, which some people also use for culinary purposes, and which comes from very ancient times. Its name - Caesar's mushroom - on the other hand, betrays the origins of this mushroom!
But what are its characteristics? And what do you absolutely need to know about this mushroom?
What is Amanita caesarea
This mushroom, together with its "cousins" Amanita jacksonii and Amanita arkansana (and others), is part of a small group of Edible Amanita, widespread in much of the world.
Of course, the fact that these mushrooms are edible does not mean that you could safely consume them! In fact, remember that some potentially very poisonous mushrooms are also part of the same large family and that for this reason eating them is highly not recommended for beginners. In short, like other mushrooms, these too should be considered off-limits for all beginner mushroom hunters!
Having clarified that, this doesn't mean you shouldn't get to know the Caesar's mushroom and, in that sense, this short guide could be for you.
How to identify the Caesarean Amanita
There characteristic more obvious than Amanita caesarea it's its gorgeous color, which can be dull to quite vivid. Other identification features are as follows:
- hood: convex or flat, the color ranges from orange to bright red - orange. The hats are quite large, from a few centimeters in diameter up to about 15 cm. Although the surface is mostly smooth, the edges are slightly streaked. It is worth noting that, unlike other Amanita species, this one usually does not have warts or spots. This mushroom also shows light yellow gills: they are "free", ie the gills on the underside of the cap are not attached to the stem;
- stem: there is a long cylindrical stem (or stem) usually about 8 - 15 cm high and about 2 - 4 cm wide. Solid and pale yellow to orange in color on the outside, with pale yellow to white flesh on the inside, the stem often has a ring (or annulus), a "skirt" of flesh under the hat that is attached to the stem . This ring is the residue of the veil, a layer of fabric that protects the fungus during its development; at the base of the stem there is often a cup-shaped structure called volva, a residue of the veil, another layer of tissue that encloses the entire mushroom in a small "egg" at an early age. The volva is often found under dirt, so dig around the fungus carefully to make sure it is present or not.
Read also: Boletus mushrooms, what they are and how to recognize them
Habitat of the Amanita caesarea mushroom
The mushroom in question is found in much of the world, ranging from North Africa to southern Europe, especially in our country. This mushroom does not exist (as far as can be verified) in other parts of the world such as the United States, but there are similar species. L'Amanita caesarea it is mycorrhizal, which means that it forms a beneficial symbiotic relationship with the roots of some trees. So you will find them rising under the pine and oak. This fungus grows directly on the ground, not on trees or dead wood.
The period of the year in which it can be found varies from early summer to mid-autumn.
Amanita caesarea or Amanita muscaria
It can be easy to confuse the Caesar mushroom with another species of Amanita, and in particular with theAmanita muscaria (the fly agaric mushroom). Although some people collect the Amarita muscaria mushroom for recreational purposes, it is good to quickly remember that it is considered poisonous and therefore should be avoided!
Unfortunately, many identification characteristics can change in the short life span of a mushroom, making it even more difficult to try to figure out whether we have a mushroom in front of us that is fully edible, or one that is poisonous. For example, the warts present on a hood can detach and fall off, while a residue of the veil could disintegrate, or no traces of the volva could be found that actually existed in the past.
Precisely for this reason it is good to avoid any kind of do-it-yourself approach when it comes to mushrooms. Knowing how to correctly distinguish an edible mushroom from a poisonous one can be difficult even for the most experienced ... let alone for occasional mushroom hunters, who could be put in difficulty by some rather "uncertain" mushroom, which perhaps has some common characteristics, and others that constitute question marks.
Even in light of this, our suggestion can only be to avoid any type of fungus if you are not completely sure of what you are doing. If in doubt, ask an expert for a qualified opinion, who will certainly be able to help you identify edible ones… avoiding those that could pose a danger to your health!
In summary, remember that in order to correctly identify a Caesarean Amanita you must carefully look at both the hood (it is mainly red - orange, smooth without warts, although slightly streaked at the edges) and lo stem (it tends to be pale yellow, it can also be orange, with light yellow to orange gills, but always slightly colored). This fungus is also usually found around oak and pine.
For more information consult an expert: he will certainly be able to show you some specific characteristics on this mushroom, protecting you from gross errors that could cost you very dearly!