Eating locally. That’s a good thing to do, right? And there’s no food more local than the food that grows in our yard. When we bought our house in February, we started the garden before we’d even moved into the house. It’s small, but it’s been worth the work just for the entertainment value: my daughter will sit by the stevia plant for up to an hour, eating bits of leaves. The pecan tree, too–which was planted by the previous owner–has provided hours of enjoyment: every evening when Hippie Dad gets home from work, he and our daughter gather pecans in the yard. She loves cracking them–and she’s getting pretty handy with a nutcracker. My husband has also found lots of edible food in our neighborhood on their evening walks; they come back with pockets full of black walnuts and hickory nuts. I love the fact that my daughter is learning to identify edible plants, and on a more basic level, I love the fact that she knows food comes from gardens and trees and animals, not the grocery store.
And of course we try to encourage these eating habits in a safe manner. We’ve both told her hundreds of times: never eat anything you find unless Daddy tells you it’s safe. Always ask first. Never eat something if you don’t know what it is. But she’s three, and, well, do I need to say more? She’s three.
So yesterday she ate a bit of a mushroom that she found in the yard.
I was taking a pregnancy nap, so I don’t know exactly how this all went down. Hippie Dad says he told her several times, “Don’t eat that.” Personally, if I’d seen her eyeing mushrooms like she thought they looked tasty, I’d have jumped across the yard like wonder woman and grabbed the mushroom out of her hand so fast she’d never know what happened to it. But apparently H.D. thought that she would be able to resist the temptation to nibble on a moist, dirty, brown piece of fungus just because he said so. You’d think, right?
So I woke up from my nap to the sound of H.D. saying, with surprising calm, “You ate a mushroom. That could be very dangerous. I need to look up what kind of mushroom it was.”
I would have thought I was still asleep and dreaming, except why would I be dreaming about my daughter eating mushrooms? It’s not like I had eaten any mushrooms.
Two calls to poison control, one to urgent care, and three to the Children’s Hospital later, over an hour had passed and she hadn’t shown any symptoms, and I had mostly stopped having horrible visions of my child lying on the floor having spasms and vomiting. Poison control told me it was “highly unlikely” for a mushroom in a cultivated yard to be toxic, and H.D. was pretty sure he had narrowed down the general type of mushroom. I’m still skeptical of his internet identification, seeing as the guy from poison control told me that they had called mycologists in to identify mushrooms and had never succeeded. But my husband sent a picture of the mushroom to poison control, and they were at least almost certain that it’s not a “death cap.” Hippie Dad is pretty sure it’s actually a “shroom”–the hallucinogenic kind. Which might explain the hallucinations it gave me. But even a three year old would probably have to eat more than a piece the size of a pea to have an effect.
So now it’s been 18 hours, and so far, so good. I’ll feel a lot better if she’s still fine by 4:30 this afternoon; poison control said symptoms would certainly show up within 24 hours. But part of me worries that she’ll think those mushrooms are edible now. I made her promise she would never again eat a wild mushroom, no matter how tasty it looks. But she’s three. And dirty fungus is just so darn tempting to a foraging child.
Is there a lesson in all this? I know we’re not going to stop foraging edible food, and we’re not going to prevent our daughter from eating straight from the garden. But hopefully next time, if our daughter starts eyeing berries or roots or fungus, my husband will draw on his inner wonder woman and fly across the yard to stop her. Because much as we love the foraging habit, we don’t want to start a shroom habit. It may be local, but it’s really not food.