Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

amanita is a genus of fungi which has to be treated with special attention, since it includes several edible species but also the notorious death cap and destroying angel, besides several species which are poisonous to a lesser extent. McIlvaine (1902) gives an eloquent description of the Amanita species.

They are the aristocrats of fungi. Their noble bearing, their beauty, their power for good and evil, and above all their perfect structure, have placed them first in their realm; and they proudly bear the three badges of their clan and rank—the volva or sheath from which they spring, the kid-like apron encircling their waists, and patch marks of their high birth upon their caps. In their youth, when in or just appearing above the ground, they are completely invested with a membrane or universal veil, which is distinct and free from the skin of the cap. As the plant grows the membrane stretches and finally bursts. It sometimes ruptures in one place only and remains about the base of the stem as the volva. When such a rupture occurs the caps are smooth. In most species portions of the volva remain upon the cap as scruff or warts—or as feathery adornment; any or all of which may in part or whole vanish with age or be washed away by rain. Extending from the stem to the margin of the cap, and covering the gills, is the partial veil—a membranaceous, white texture of varying thickness. As the cap expands this veil tears from it. Portions frequently remain pendant from the edges, the rest contracts to the stem as a ring, or droops from it as a surrounding ruffle, or, if of slight consistency, may be fugacious and disappear, but marks remain, or the veil itself will always be traceable upon the stem.