The Gentleman’s Guide to Mushrooms, Toadstools and Other Fungi, Page 97: The Judas Rod

The Judas Rod mushroom is a rare species, called Clooties Bowf in Scotland, that can be good to eat, with some exceptions based on time of day. The Rod in the name is a corruption of the Old English “Rode” or “tree” which describes the branching stems often seen on medium and large-sized examples of this stately mushroom. There are two closely related species which are both edible; the Judas Rod and the Lamman Rod. The Lamman Rod grows mainly in woods to coincide with Easter and is a broader, far fleshier specimen.

The Judas Rod is mainly found in Europe and North America, though it is becoming more rare, despite its introduction in parts of Africa and Asia. It is a saprotrophic species, growing alone on dead and decaying leaf litter. It can occasionally be found growing from the wounds of dead animals. In the UK, Judas Rod can often be found among ruins, especially of churches, though they can survive anywhere where the soil is rich. Wild Judas Rod has long been seen as a country “cure-all”, though research in any true value to this tradition has been under developed, to say the least.

The mature mushroom can range from purple to black and can grow up to 4 cm. Buttons of the mushroom are vermilion. This immature redness can still be seen in the gills and the flesh of the mushroom. The cap is between two and four cm wide. The stem can grow up to seven cm long and appears streaked crimson, with a mass of the colour at the base of the branching stem.

The flesh of the Judas Rod is thick and chewy. The taste is distinctive, a plush nutty bitterness, though it has little to no smell.

The Judas Rod is a useful fungi as it appears at times when there is little or no other mushroom activity. However, there is a difficulty in preparation, as the Judas Rod can only be eaten after sunset. Popular opinion puts this down to the fact that it is a “Fruit of the Devil”, although this is base superstition. Science has concluded that the unusual ailments are caused by a reaction between the fruiting body and some facet of solar rays, though the precise details of this remain elusive. The illness and violent hallucinations caused by eating the mushroom during the daylight hours are by no means desirable, even for the most jaded of mushroom fanciers.

It is important to cook them well as they are known to cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals even after night has fallen. It is a very strong flavoured mushroom that can be dried, although the night-time curfew remains in effect, and it goes particularly well with game meats, and of course snake. A further word of warning: eaten in too great a quantity Judas Rod can stimulate the growth of a third set of teeth in adults, as well as cause urinary difficulties.

Caution is required when identifying the Judas Rod for eating as they can be confused with certain other dark purple species, many of which may be poisonous.

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Douglas Noble was born in Scotland and grew up all wrong. Don't blame his parents though, they tried their best.

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