Friday, 17 April 2015

Back to Bweyeye

This morning we repeated our trip of yesterday to Bweyeye.  Two hours of bone shaking driving by jeep in the forest of Nyungwe, until we meet up again with our local guide of yesterday evening, Damascene.  We had given him the task to find for us a nice group of Amanites, so that we could carry out a toxicological investigation.  Considering that we already found 4 examples yesterday we were confident that our search of today would be successful.

Damascene returned to the village after his fungal foray with a trog full of mushrooms.  A quick look by one of our mycologists (mushroom expert) confirmed that they were indeed Amanitas and enough of them for us to investigate.

A satisfied Jérôme decided to continue the search for other species by criss-crossing the hills surrounding the village.  Whether the Amanitas are edible or not we leave in the capable hands of Assoumpta who will carry out a survey amongst the local population.  He is essential to analyse the various claims made.

A young girl, Louise says she will let us see how she prepares these mushrooms.  We return to the village followed by a group of laughing children who quickly take their place in the limited space in her home.

Louise confirms our first witness: the cuticle of the mushroom cap is removed.  Once all of the fibres of the mushroom cap have been peeled, the flesh of the cap is cut into pieces and mixed with other vegetables (tomato, onion…) and cooked in water.
Assoumpta asked Louise why she peeled the mushroom.  Was it to avoid the poisonous chemicals that could be present in the cuticle or for another reason.  Louise answered that it was because the cuticle was sticky and not because it was poisonous.  Other witnesses were not in agreement with Louise and confirmed that it was poisonous, a family of 4 were presumably killed after the consumption of unpeeled mushrooms.  But there is no evidence that mushrooms were the cause of these fatalities.  The only thing for sure is that they remove the cuticle before cooking the mushrooms.

At this stage there are three possible hypotheses about non-toxic Amanitas which belong to the group of ‘phalloides/marmorata’ which are known or suspected of containing fatal fungal toxins.
  • Theory 1 – the local inhabitants are immune to the fungal toxins and their bodies can break down the toxins of the mushrooms
  • Theory 2 The fungal toxins are only present in the cuticle and the rest of the mushroom is edible
  • Theory 3 – all parts of the Amanite are edible

The mystery of the Amanita is still not solved, but witnesses have already given an indication to the possible answer to our investigation.  The Amanitas are separted into 2 parts: those which are completely intact with a complete cap, the other a cap without cuticle.  There will be two samples cut, separately dried for a toxicological analysis which is planned for our return.  The Amanitas of Bweyeye has not yet given up all of its secrets... to be continued !

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