The Elfin Saddle

We’ve taken a trip to Alviano to see the birds in the forest and on the lake. We had a fabulous time when we were here last. We got up an hour before dawn for my birthday to see Red Squirrels:

It’s an early morning start from the hotel, but not that early, when I spot this lovely fungus. I recognise it straight away: it’s Helvella crispa, commonly known as the Elfin Saddle:

Helvella crispa - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

I’ve read about it being edible so I’m tempted to pick a couple and take them home tonight for a wild mushroom pasta dish. I’m worried about it being rare though. No mouthful is worth extinction.

Helvella crispa was originally named Phallus crispus by the fabulous Italian physician and naturalist Giovanni Antonio Scopoli in 1772. Scopoli was described by his biographer as the first anational European. Phallus means penis and crispus means wrinkly. I’m not sure I want wrinkly penis on my pasta.

I double check its edibility. I remember my book, Mushrooms by Roger Philips, says it’s edible. I check: It’s now known to contain monomethylhydrazine, which was the rocket propellant used in the Space Shuttle, which is a suspected carcinogen.

I’ll just leave it there. I’m not sure I want rocket-fuel-containing wrinkly penis on my pasta. Maybe we’ll have gnocchi instead.

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