Poisonous Mushroom in Iceland Skip to content

Poisonous Mushroom in Iceland

It has recently been confirmed that a poisonous mushroom, by the name of Steinkrympill has found its way to Iceland, RÚV reports. The mushroom has been used for culinary purposes in Sweden and Finland, but requires special handling. Bjarni Diðrik Sigurðsson, professor at the Agricultural University of Iceland, warns Icelanders not to eat it.

Helgi Garðarsson, a master carpenter from Selfoss, recalls the mushroom from Bjarni Diðrik’s Mushroom Handbook (Sveppahandbókin), published last year. It is one of three dangerous mushroom species which he expected would take root in Iceland. Helgi thought he had seen the mushroom before, went out searching for it, found it, and notified Bjarni Diðrik. The mushroom’s name, Steinkrympill, comes from its cap which resembles a wrinkled brain. Bjarni Diðrik says that it is a well-known delicacy in Sweden, Finland and the Baltics, going back centuries.

“There is however the disadvantage that it is extremey poisonous and in the worst case scenario can cause irreparable and ultimately fatal liver damage,” Bjarni Diðrik stated. There is a custom of drying it, because most of the poison is removed that way. Then it was boiled and the broth thrown away. “But people must be warned not to eat it; it’s very dangerous if eaten without the proper treatment,” he added.

Bjarni Diðrik explained that the mushroom has taken root in Iceland because there are now old forests, those which were planted during and around the second world war. The species feeds on dead wood and pine needles and as such it would be expected to find it in Iceland, especially in areas where tree-felling has taken place and dead, rotting branches may be found.

After having written about the find on his Facebook page, others have contacted Bjarni Diðrik to report sightings of the species. It has been found in a moss-grown spruce forest in Þjórsárdalur, South Iceland, as well as in a garden in Laugarvatn, also in South Iceland.

Lastly, Bjarni Diðrik emphasises that he does not recommend people start using this species for culinary purposes in Iceland, despite a tradition of doing so elsewhere. “New research shows that despite the proper handling, substances remain in the mushroom which may have a negative effect on fertility and even be carcinogenic,” he added.

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