A mother who boasted about feeding her children free mushrooms harvested from a graveyard has faced furious protests on social media.
Mushrooms are not plants and do not have roots, but they do have a network of mycelium fibres, which can stretch for miles. This is often referred to as the mushroom’s root system because it behaves similarly. Like plant roots, mycelium’s role is to collect nutrients and water and keep the mushroom anchored to the earth.
The hungry Yelena Tenegina, 49, from Tyumen, Russia, filmed herself standing in a cemetery carrying a haul of freshly-picked porcini mushrooms in the skirt of her dress.
She told her followers that she’d noticed huge amounts of the funghi growing nearby after visiting a grave and decided to collect them.
Local media reports that Yelena gave some of the harvest away but kept the rest for herself and her children.
She said: “We went to the cemetery to visit a friend’s grandmother.
“We gathered, so to speak, two aprons. We brought the driver’s mother some mushrooms because I don’t know anything about them!
“She was not at all bothered by the news that the mushrooms were collected from the cemetery.
“I left myself four porcini mushrooms. Nobody has died so far; let’s wait!”
But her post was met with astonishment by social media users who claimed picking food from a graveyard was a “bad omen”.
Others said the mushrooms are used in “dark rituals” and black magic.
Doctor and virologist Tatiana Sinitsina claimed there is no guarantee that mushrooms from a cemetery could be safe to eat.
She told local media: “No one knows what the buried individuals were suffering from, right?
“In addition, the soil in such places is contaminated with products of inorganic decomposition: embalming agents, paint materials, synthetic products, and many others.
“After all, a person with an infectious, viral disease, or radiation sickness could be buried here.
“No one guarantees that all of this won’t end up in the mushrooms.”
The expert stressed that the porous structure of the soil means that anything inside it can migrate in any direction.
Sinitsina said: “Weather conditions also play a significant role. Heavy rain washes away decomposition products to drier areas.
“And during drought, plant roots draw moisture from the deeper soil layers along with toxic substances.”
The doctor explained that mushrooms from a cemetery often contain substances from decomposing human bodies and could pose a threat to a healthy person.
She added: “The woman says she picked mushrooms 300 metres away from the graves, but harmful substances can migrate!
“She took a risky step, of course! Let’s hope that everything will be fine.”
Biologist Irina Varaksina backed up her colleague.
She said mushrooms are complicated organisms and every year a large number of people are poisoned by them.
She said: “Even with edible mushrooms, you can get poisoned. After all, they extract everything from the soil.
“If the land around is contaminated, the amount of harmful substances in the mushroom exceeds the norm.
“They can even accumulate mercury, selenium, copper, and zinc.”
But Yelena, who has a nursing degree, rejected the critics saying people are too superstitious.
She said: “I don’t believe in the transfer of corpse bacteria over long distances.
“I probably wouldn’t take sand from the cemetery. Even for a cat.
“Although, again, it depends on how you look at it. At the graves of well-known personalities, for example, people take stones or sand.
“And nothing, everything is fine for everyone.”