The Mushroom Gods Hate Me, and Other Mushroom News

Since I posted a dupe, I might as well bigfoot myself.

First a report on this year’s morel season:


End of report.

Okay, here’s some more detail:

my morels

Foraged by…someone.

I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors hunting the elusive morel. Last year I searched for a few weeks and got two runty ones. This year I found two good-sized ones, only they were false morels, which are poisonous. (The magic ingredient is monomethylhydrazine, which is also found in jet fuel.) I even attended The National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City, MI (near the top of the mitten), and met many interesting fungiphiles, but alas no morels. (But did get sleeted on – in mid-May! WTF Michigan.)

Driving back from the Fest, I passed a Grizzly Adams-looking dude parked by the side of the road, selling morels from a cooler. So I finally got my morels. (See pic.)

Unfortunately, however, the Mushroom Gods weren’t done with me. Right after we completed our transaction, Mr. Adams commented in a tone of enormous satisfaction, “Great! Now I can get my hunting and fishing licenses!” (For those who don’t know, I’m vegan.)


In more uplifting mushroom news, Imperial College London recently reported strong positive results in what Nature is calling the first human trials of using psilocybin to alleviate depression:

Researchers from Imperial College London gave 12 people psilocybin, the active component in magic mushrooms. All had been clinically depressed for a significant amount of time — on average 17.8 years. None of the patients had responded to standard medications, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or had electroconvulsive therapy.

One week after receiving an oral dose of psilocybin, all patients experienced a marked improvement in their symptoms. Three months on, five patients were in complete remission.

The New Yorker reported on research at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere on shrooms as a treatment for depression, addiction, and anxiety. (Here’s a great narrative by a guy who used them to cure his smoking habit.) They apparently work by increasing your sense of wholeness and connectedness not just with yourself but the rest of humanity and nature, thus solving this problem:

In Carhart-Harris’s view, a steep price is paid for the achievement of order and ego in the adult mind. “We give up our emotional lability,” he told me, “our ability to be open to surprises, our ability to think flexibly, and our ability to value nature.” The sovereign ego can become a despot. This is perhaps most evident in depression, when the self turns on itself and uncontrollable introspection gradually shades out reality.

Finally, related to the recent wonderful posts by Prescott Cactus on his hospice work: Johns Hopkins and NYU have also done research showing that shrooms help those with terminal cancer meet their end with less anxiety.

Can’t wait for this stuff to be legalized—and for those who are interested, JHU may do a new cancer study in 2016.

43 replies
  1. 1
    rikyrah says:

    Interesting information.
    Thank you.

  2. 2
    John Revolta says:

    Used to take some mushrooms down to the East River every fourth of July to watch the fireworks close up. Was never depressed afterward.

  3. 3
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @John Revolta: You are an inspiration to us all, and your dancing, too!

  4. 4
    greennotGreen says:

    I’ve never done psilocybin, but I’ve done my share of LSD, and I can see why a hallucinogen would alleviate end-of-life stress. Once you’ve had an out-of-body experience, your identification with the physical body is lessened. I suppose some would interpret that experience as the consciousness doesn’t reside in the body while others may interpret it as we are all part of the universe and in death I return to the universe, even if my own consciousness ends. Either way may give people comfort.

  5. 5
    Gravenstone says:

    The magic ingredient is monomethylhydrazine, which is also found in jet fuel.

    Rocket fuel, actually.

  6. 6
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @Gravenstone: elucidation requested!

  7. 7
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @greennotGreen: beautiful insight, thanks

  8. 8
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Gravenstone: Dimethylhydrazine is the usual fuel constituent along with nitrogen tetroxide as an oxidiser.

  9. 9
    Phoenix Woman says:

    Always remember that True Morels are hollow inside (think of them as really heavily textured condoms) and False Morels aren’t.

  10. 10
    Where's my hammer says:

    From the John Hopkins report, it sounds like those shrooms might be a cure for Republicanism. Well, maybe not a cure, but a start.

  11. 11
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @Phoenix Woman:

    >(think of them as really heavily textured condoms

    whoa, Nellie!

  12. 12
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Hillary Rettig:
    I think Gravenstone is pointing out that rockets =/= jets. (Jets inhale air to burn fuel. Rockets do not inhale; they carry oxidant to burn their fuel as well as the fuel itself.) So rocket engines don’t use the same fuel as jet engines. Monomethylhydrazine is rocket fuel, not jet fuel.

  13. 13
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @Where’s my hammer: I don’t know if you’re joking or not, but I do think mind expansion in general, and shrooms in particular, could serve that role.

  14. 14

    Interesting drug, if I do say so myself.

  15. 15
    HinTN says:

    @Hillary Rettig: MMH reacts hypergolicly (combusts without requiring a separate ignition source) with many oxidizers. The most commonly used is N2O4, nitrogen tetroxide. These are highly stable, though poisonous, substances. They were the propellants for the small steering rockets on the space shuttle and are used on most satellites.

    Edited for spelling

  16. 16
    HinTN says:

    @HinTN: Morels are much friendlier but you don’t have good communications without the other…

  17. 17
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @Amir Khalid: thank you! that’s exactly what I needed.

  18. 18

    @Amir Khalid:

    Jets inhale air to burn fuel. Rockets do not inhale; they carry oxidant to burn their fuel as well as the fuel itself.

    To be extremely nitpicky, rockets do not necessarily need oxidant. You can have rockets that are powered by non-oxidizing decomposition reactions or by some other kind of non-chemical expansion. For example, you can make rockets that are powered by boiling liquid nitrogen.

  19. 19
    HinTN says:

    @Roger Moore: Yes, and hydrazine can be made to combust by passing it through a silver screen, not the IMAX kind.

  20. 20
    HinTN says:

    @Roger Moore: Also too, ion propulsion. Slow but steady acceleration.

  21. 21
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Yes, that’s right. The Mk1 gunpowder rockets of the 12th or 13th century didn’t carry a separate oxidant. But I was thinking of hydrazine-powered rocket engines, which do.

  22. 22
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Hillary, if you really want to find mushrooms, I suggest hooking up with a seasoned mushroom hunter. The North American Mycological Association would be a good place to start. You’ll get there.

  23. 23
    benw says:

    @Amir Khalid: @HinTN: @Roger Moore: what the hell? Is Balloon Juice full of literal rocket scientists?

  24. 24

    I’m not sure if ion engines count as rockets or if they’re in some other category of their own.

  25. 25


    Is Balloon Juice full of literal rocket scientists?

    No, just a lot of know-it-all polymaths.

  26. 26
    bystander says:


    Is Balloon Juice full of literal rocket scientists?

    And some shroom lovers!

  27. 27
    benw says:


    It ain’t brain surgery!

    *Ben Carson nods approvingly*

  28. 28
    benw says:


    And some shroom lovers!

    Somehow that seems more likely than rocket scientists!

  29. 29
    Betty Cracker says:

    Magic mushrooms were a thing when I was in high school and college — probably still are. We’d just go hunting in a cow pasture after a rain or morning dew, and they were really easy to find.

  30. 30
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    My younger son got hooked up with pros last year and has has wildly successful mushroom hunts. Hen of the woods, Lions mane, morels and a couple others I have forgotten. Maybe its a gift, he was the kid who always found money wherever he went. The boys went out this spring & brought back a little over a pound of the hollow beauties. They posted photos on FB & the daughter in CO was very jealous. A couple days later they were walking the dog in the mountains & came across a whole field of the things.

  31. 31
    magurakurin says:

    Libery caps are plentiful in tge PNW in the fall. There was a dairy farm in Astoria…50 bucks to pick all day…dry them on screens…freeze them…make tea dont eat them. Tiny little buggers but 50 gets you high and 200 the walls melt and Jesus comes to chat. Not for the faint hearted.

  32. 32
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: There’s a great group up in Grand Rapids. Unfortunately that’s an hour away plus another hour once we arrive to get to the foraging spots. So it doesn’t work. I was at the Telluride Mushroom Festival last year and got to do forages with people like Gary Lincoff and Lawrence Millman – super pro’s. Down here in Kalamazoo I just do the best I can. (And am very conservative in what I eat.)

    Next year’s NAMA meeting is in Wisconsin AND I AM GOING. (Hope to return to Telluride, too.)

  33. 33
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @efgoldman: Yes, any good quantum mechanic ought to be able to figure it out. ;-)

  34. 34
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @Betty Cracker: alas, one of those experiences you miss, growing up in the Bronx

  35. 35
    Hillary Rettig says:

    @Schlemazel Khan: now I’M jealous. This reminds me of the thread a few days ago on the nature of luck – and in particular Wiseman’s research showing that people who feel lucky often have better outcomes – in part because they persevere.

  36. 36
    Schlemazel Khan says:

    @Hillary Rettig:
    I also think in a case like this some people see the world differently than others. We were walking in the woods with him when he found the lions mane & spotted it from a distance when I saw nothing of the sort. His mom has this ability to see things differently too, she often spots deer in the woods well before I do. She is an artist and I think there is a connection between the ability to see the world with details I don’t see and translating that to drawings.

  37. 37
    StringOnASick says:

    I have personal experience with mushrooms and their ability to aleve depression. They aren’t for everyone but they have their uses. Just another one of those things that shouldn’t be illegal.

  38. 38
    J R in WV says:

    Some years ago we were at a pretty big party at a friend’s farm in Athens county, Ohio. There were lots of kids there, mostly kids growing up on farms and in the woods. It was spring, early May.

    A very little girl found a very big morel, something like 18 inches long. She had trouble handling it, and many pictures were taken of the little girl with the big, big morel. We had one somewhere, but I can’t put my hands on it now. Of course!

  39. 39
  40. 40
    EBT says:

    Science is learning what psychonaughts have known for centuries. Ego death is good.

  41. 41
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    My former sister-in-law, who retired a year or two ago after an entire career with NASA, has one of those “AS A MATTER OF FACT, I AM A ROCKET SCIENTIST” bumper stickers on her car.

  42. 42
    Ol'Froth says:

    Make sure you cook them, raw morels will make you sick. Also, like porcini’s, morels are even better dried, and then reconstituted. String them up on thread or fishing line in a sunny spot in the house, then store in an air-tight container until you’re ready to use them. (Chicken breasts in a morel cream sauce are especially good.)

  43. 43
    low-tech cyclist says:

    Hillary – so you’re admitting you’re amorel?

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