The blue whale may seem as though it would be big enough to provide enough sushi to feed the entire nation of Japan. However, despite its immense size, these creatures of the deep are hardly the largest living creatures on the planet. In fact, that distinction actually belongs to an ancient form of root rot fungus found in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, where it reportedly covers enough ground to engulf approximately “ 1,665 football fields (2,384 acres). Meanwhile, scientists estimate that the fungus has been growing there anywhere from 2,400-8,650 years based on its present rate of growth, making it one of the “oldest living organisms on earth today.”
And while root rot fungus may not sound very appetizing, many people living in Poland, Russia, Germany and the Ukraine (among other European nations), value this particular form of parasitic plant better known as Honey Fungus (aka Armillaria ) as one of the best wild mushrooms for dining. In fact, honey Fungus is often rated second only to the cup porcini mushrooms by cooks, who value it even above chanterelles and morels for use in preparing soups, stuffing, pasta, and risotto. However, honey fungus must be cooked thoroughly due to the fact that raw ones are mildly poisonous.
In addition, one of the 4 species found in the United Kingdom is known to cause illness when eaten with alcohol. In fact, health experts highly recommend abstaining from drinking alcohol for 12 hours before and 24hours after eating this particular mushroom to avoid any chance of becoming nauseous and vomiting. In the meantime, Norway, which once considered Honey Fungus edible, is moving away from parboiling (to remove any bitterness and remove stomach irritating properties) after its health department labeled the mushrooms “ poisonous.”
It should be noted that the term honey fungus actually refers to 10 species of parasitic fungi that live on trees and woody shrubs formerly lumped together as A. smelled. Armillarias, which causes “white rot” root disease. All grow on wood, and spread from living trees, dead and live roots and stumps via root-like structures known as rhizomorphs.
Honey fungus is generally found in small dense clumps or tufts, and have caps that are typically yellow-brown, somewhat sticky when damp. These may also range from conical to convex as well as have a depressed center. While Armillaria species have a white spore print, some may or may not have a ring on their stalks, while none have a cup at the base (volva). All Honey Fungus mushrooms, however, have gills that glow in the dark, although the human eye is generally unable to detect their rather weak greenish light emissions under normal conditions. Still, Honey fungi are often difficult to identify due to their similarities to other mushroom species, and should only be picked by experts to prevent accidental poisoning. Again, this is not a mushroom for novices and just because you find fungi fitting written descriptions it does not mean that they are safe to eat.