When Sam Sebastiani, a member of one of the most famous dynasties of California winemakers, died in 1997, poisoned by mushrooms collected near his own home, thanks to the media, mushrooms were in the center of public attention. A man who owes his fortune and fame to grapes was killed by one of the poisonous plants! It’s as if Henry Ford died during a walk under the wheels of the Buick. The Irony of Fate!
Eating poisonous plants and mushrooms, dishes from poisonous plants and mushrooms. Extreme cuisine.
At the same time, newspaper and television reporters, one at a time and whole film crews, rushed into the woods to take mushrooms. Mushrooms, plants without chlorophyll and flowers, often enjoy a reputation that most of them do not deserve. Almost all mushrooms are not only edible, but also have greater nutritional value than greens and vegetables.
. On the other hand, some of them are really deadly poisonous, and, in particular, in the plates of Sebastiani and his friends were the most dangerous of them – representatives of the fly agaric family. Among the fly agaric, there are several species (including pale grebe) that are particularly toxic. There are edible fly agarics, but to determine them, you need to be very careful. Eating an incorrectly identified fungus may result in cholera diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, abdominal pain, impaired consciousness, cramps and, as in the case of a young winemaker, acute renal failure and liver failure.
It is curious that many of those who were poisoned by fly agaric did not at all confuse these mushrooms with their edible relatives. They knew that this was exactly the mushroom that Lewis Carroll had made his “Alice in Wonderland” famous, and they ate it intentionally. After all, Carroll’s wonderful country itself is the result of the absorption of recognizable pretty red hats with large white spots, isn’t it? And if you don’t eat too many of them … then you yourself will go on an amazing journey. Alas and oh, for centuries, people have eaten many plants, only to temporarily disconnect from reality, while their excessive consumption ended in death.
Representatives of the fly agaric family, along with a considerable number of other poisonous plants, are just one of the many poisonous plants that are harmful to human health, which are used by humans for food, sometimes quite familiar. The difference is that some mushrooms can kill even after cooking, while others, when cooked properly, become safe. And here a number of questions arise. How did a person manage to determine that such dangerous products are not only edible, but also taste good, and many are very nutritious? How long has mankind developed the technique of turning certain toxic products into safe ones??
How many pioneers of cooking, from ignorance or because of their own indefatigable curiosity, have sacrificed their health and even life to discover ways to neutralize the dangerous properties of poisonous plants? In other words, how many cooks were “spoiled by porridge” at one time, and not vice versa, as is often the case today? History gives mean answers to these questions. Most likely, dishes from dangerous poisonous plants were not created overnight, but were the result of bold experiments. One way or another, but thanks to perseverance or a happy occasion, one day someone prepared a dish from a dangerous plant that turned into an exotic and welcome delicacy or the basis for many dishes.
One example has already been cited. This is the “taming” of cassava, a product that has become one of the world’s main sources of starch (we will return to mushrooms). The cassava, also known as cassava, and in Latin America referred to as yuka and mandioka, has a white starchy tuber. From his native Brazil, the plant spread to the north by the time Columbus arrived. Up to the West Indies, and subsequently quickly conquered Africa and Asia, where its tubers are today one of the staple foods. Cassava is the most popular food poisonous plant..
It feels great in a hot and humid climate, but it is resistant to drought, it is not afraid of pests, does not require special care and is very nutritious, so much so that it is one of the main sources of carbohydrates for peoples experiencing difficulties in cultivating other crops. In the West, tapioca, starch groats used to make puddings and thickeners, is made from cassava tubers. In childhood – it took place in my country in the United States – my brother and I sometimes got a tapioca cup for dessert and called the little starch clumps we found were fish eyes.
Although there are many types of cassava, edible (healthy) cassava is usually distinguished from sweet cassava. It is the first one that is life-threatening, since in its raw form it contains a lethal concentration of linamarine, which breaks down to form hydrocyanic acid. Under industrial conditions, cassava is usually processed within 24 hours after collection to prevent the loss of starch. First wash the tubers, then peel and grind – it turns out a mushy mass of pulp, juice and starch. Further, to prevent discoloration and slow the development of bacteria, this mass is treated with sulfur dioxide or a solution of sodium hydrosulfide.
Then juice is extracted from it – they do it in much the same way as soap is removed from the laundry, that is, by repeatedly washing with clean water. Finally, the starch is dried with hot air and sieved. The result is flour (tapioca, or cassava sago), which is used in baking bread and confectionery, and is also included in the recipe for soups and stews. Sometimes pastries are made dry and crispy, and sometimes they are only slightly browned, leaving soft and lush inside. In the latter case, the buns are often cut, spread with fish paste and offered in the form of sandwiches. The juice obtained in the production of flour can be boiled and then used as a thickener for soups.
With additional boiling and evaporation in the sun, they get the so-called kazarip, which is used as a flavoring and is especially popular in British Guiana, where it is added to almost all dishes, and on the islands of the West Indies, where it is the basis of the famous spicy peper pot dish – from meat or fish and vegetables. Cassava tubers can, like potatoes, bake on a fire – high temperature neutralizes the poison. In addition, tubers can be peeled, cut into circles half a centimeter thick, dried for two to three days in the sun, and then stored for later use.
Such cassava cassettes, laid out for drying, can often be seen on rural roads in Vietnam and on city sidewalks in China. If necessary, the above operations of washing, grinding and obtaining juice are performed. Finally, cassava can be made to roam for an alcoholic drink. And is there a plant in the world that cannot be turned into alcohol? The manufacturing technology of home brew – the industry has not yet mastered its production – has remained unchanged for many centuries. Sliced and grated tubs of cassava are soaked in water, a little crushed root is added there to speed up the process. The finished drink is stored in pumpkin vessels.
Another poisonous plant is aki, a bright red tropical fruit that is considered inedible in most of the places where it grows, namely in parts of Central America, on the islands of Antigua, Trinidad, Grenada and Barbados. Moreover, its import into the United States is prohibited. At the same time, aki is a “national dish” in Jamaica; to visit this island nation and not try aki here is about the same as visiting Japan and not eating kobe sushi or beef. But if you do not neutralize the poison aki with skill, the fruit will kill you. Why do people eat it? Because why eat and much more.
It’s delicious, and as for tourists coming to Jamaica, it’s also because of the desire to join the exotic and tickle the nerves of yourself and your more timid companions. To deprive the fruit of its destructive power is simple. All that is needed is to wait until it ripens, and then cook. To be seduced by an immature or unprepared fruit is to play Jamaican roulette. Most often, aki eat breakfast with salted dried fish, usually with cod, although another one, for example, a mackerel, will do..
Just boil it in water for about 10 minutes. Then add fish or bacon, chopped onions, peppers, tomatoes and seasonings, and after short cooking over low heat serve with fritters or baked breadfruit (tropical fruit with a high starch content that is fried or baked like potatoes). I also advise you to turn on Bob Marley’s record and pour yourself a cup of Blue Mountain coffee. Arched with a thimble of Jamaican rum. It is believed that aki got to the islands of the Caribbean in the XVIII century with one of the ships transporting slaves from West Africa.
Its scientific name, Blighia sapida, is due to the notorious captain William Bligh, who in 1793 brought its fruits to England, which, incidentally, was only part of his noticeable contribution to botany. However, Bly is better known as the captain of the rebellious Bounty, a ship from the Cook expedition. Another pretentious “poison” originally from Southeast Asia and in kind is really deadly. Its very name, buah keluak, translates as “fruit that causes vomiting.” Actually, it’s neither a fruit nor a nut, as many fans of this dangerous treat claim, but a solid seed the size of a small egg, which is located inside the fruit of a giant kepayanga tree.
The raw flesh of this poisonous plant seed dwellers of the Indonesian jungle cover the tips of hunting spears and arrows. With skillful and quite original processing, the flesh turns into a real delicacy, which many call the Asian truffle. Typically, the flesh is included in the thick curry and fry, called ayam buah keluak, or chicken dishes. This is a particularly valuable element of the cuisine of peranakans living in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Peranakans are children from mixed marriages of ethnic Chinese with local women. The danger lies in hydrocyanic acid, which is found in the flesh of keluac. And you can remove it only in the following ingenious way.
Bury the seeds in the ground mixed with ash for at least 30 days. And it’s better for twice as long. After this, soak the seeds for one to two weeks in fresh water. At the same time, often changing the water. Finally, cook them for 10 minutes, and then open with a knife to make sure that the flesh is not moldy. Even one bad seed will ruin the whole dish. Well, tell me, could such an outlandish technology of turning poisonous seeds into a delicacy come to mind? Connoisseurs argue about how to cook any non-trivial dish. This fate also did not pass.
Some eat bitter flesh directly from the shell of the seed of poisonous plants, naturally subjected to the above procedure of instillation and soaking. Others prefer to extract the flesh of poisonous plants and mix it with finely chopped pork, fish, shrimp, salt and pepper, and then return the mixture to the shell for later cooking. This “stuffing” is often added to chicken curry. The composition of which includes finely chopped onions, ginger, lemon sorghum, chili, peel and tamarind juice and paste from the crushed candle fruit, which gives the mixture the necessary stickiness. I also want to note that the flesh of the buah keluac is black, and this color prevails in dishes. So if black food bothers you – well, Singapore is famous for its fried rice.
Now back to Mr. Sebastiani and his last mushroom hunt. It is believed that he ate a mushroom of the species Amanita phalloides. Better known as pale grebe. It is he who causes 95% of cases of mushroom poisoning (worldwide data) with a fatal outcome in every third case. Pale toad toxins infect the victim’s liver and kidneys, destroying the cells of these organs. Sebastiani was one of three patients at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco who had also been poisoned by mushrooms from the Amanita family and were awaiting the appearance of a donor liver. Some of his relatives expressed their willingness to provide a partial transplant, however, in this case, a partial transplant was excluded, since the damage to the tissues was too severe.
Based on the book Extreme Cuisine.