U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen is a fan of mushrooms, just not the ones that take you on magical trips. During her recent visit to China, she was spotted eating at a restaurant in Yunnan that specializes in foraged fungi and wild flowers.
The particular mushroom dish her table ordered at Yi Zuo Yi Wang in Kunming is called jian shou qing in Chinese and lanmaoa in English. They look like porcini mushrooms with thick caps.
“Lanmaoa mushrooms are considered poisonous as they can be hallucinogenic,” says Kunming Institute of Botany's Dr. Peter Mortimer. “However, scientists have not, as of yet, identified the compounds responsible for causing the hallucinations. It remains a bit of a mystery, and most evidence is anecdotal. I have a friend who mistakenly ate them and hallucinated for three days.”
The key to not producing psychedelic effects is to cook the 'shrooms well.
"If they're fully cooked, the heat destroys the psilocybin and makes them no more dangerous than any common, edible mushroom," Matt Miller wrote at Food Ergo Love in 2013.
In 2020, the webiste Chinosity explained:
The name translates into “turns green when exposed to touch,” which is pretty self-explanatory. The mushroom starts out a yellowish shade but immediately turns green when touched or exposed to the air. It sounds quite magical, but the color change is actually a sign of its poisonous nature. Jian shou qing is considered one of the most dangerous types of junzi (homestyle Chinese cooking) people eat. Not to worry, high heat is the key to removing its poison.
Mortimer says there are 2,800 edible mushrooms in the world and 800 of them can be found in the forests around Yunnan, which is a province in Southwest China bordering the Himalayas. He adds:
“Yunnan is absolutely mushroom mad. There are towns where all the streets are named after mushrooms, buildings designed to look like mushrooms, and all the restaurants are serving mushroom dishes. The Yunnan people are extremely knowledgeable regarding mushrooms, from the kids through to the old folks.”
Food blogger Pan Pan Mao broke the story, posting:
It was true that she came (to the restaurant) right after landing in China. Our staff said she loved mushrooms very much. She ordered four portions of jian shou qing. It was an extremely magical day.
Did Pres. Biden's cabinet member Janet Yellen feel the effects of the mushroom high while she was in China?
According to Wikipedia:
Yunnan is one of the regions in the world with the most abundant resources of wild edible mushrooms. In China, there are 938 kinds of edible mushrooms, and over 800 varieties can be found in Yunnan. In 2004, around 7,744 tons of wild edible mushrooms were exported, making up for 70% of the total export of this product in China. The so-called "pine mushroom" is the main product in Yunnan and is exported to Japan in large quantities.
In a 2018 post at Go Kunming, Patrick Scally didn't mention jian shou qing, but did point out:
Many of the species growing in the province's forests and meadows are so similar in appearance that accounts of entire families sent to the hospital in excruciating pain appear routinely in newspaper reports. And although no official statistics are usually released, people do die from the mushrooms they consume South of the Clouds. The most shocking example occurred in the mountains around Dali Old Town where, over the course of three decades, hundreds of people died from consuming what many believe to be an extremely toxic mushroom.
A report published by the National Library of Medicine in 2021 estimated "that more than 40% of the world’s and 90% of the Chinese edible mushrooms (about 900 species) grow in Yunnan."
The report went on to explain:
It is estimated that China has about 480 poisonous species of mushrooms; many of these are also found in Yunnan. With increasing consumer demands but a lack of sufficient knowledge to distinguish many mushrooms, many locals frequently face the risk of eating poisonous mushrooms that are morphologically similar to edible ones. As reported from China Centre of Disease Control and Prevention and China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, there were 7331 mushroom poisoning cases, causing 708 death during 2010–2019 in China. Yunnan was ranked first in both the number of people poisoned by wild mushrooms and in the number of deaths from mushroom poisoning from January to August in 2019.
The report further stated:
We recognize that completely banning this industry is neither desirable nor even feasible; instead, having broader education and more stringent regulations at multiple levels could help reduce/eliminate mushroom poisoning. The education and regulations will need to be implemented for the pickers, traders, salespeople and consumers. Our study identified a number of poisonous mushrooms in the markets. In the education campaign, these mushrooms should be highlighted, and all stakeholders should be taught to avoid picking/selling/consuming those mushrooms and their close relatives. In the future, handhold devices may be developed that can directly allow mushroom pickers/traders/salespeople/consumers to identify suspicious mushrooms based on DNA sequences. Our study provides a large number of DNA barcode sequences from which such a system can be developed.
Secretary Yellen apparently didn't notice the effects of the mushroom high. But perhaps she had a "very distinct feeling of calmness," like Miller experienced after sautéing and consuming the 'shrooms in question, "openness, happiness and colors and sounds definitely seemed more detailed and emphatic than they had before. I actually think that I really did experience some very light effects of the mushroom. My feelings and perceptions were definitely real and not imagined. They were not strong at all, but they did add a very nice ending to a wonderful culinary experience."
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