Do you feel confused by chanterelles, mystified by morels, and bewildered by button mushrooms? Despite the huge number of species and ubiquitousness of mushrooms in fields, forests and supermarkets, the fungal kingdom is poorly understood by mycologists and laypeople alike, a problem Miami University Botany professor Nicholas Money aims to rectify in his new book Mushroom.
Written for a popular audience, Mushroom delves into both scientific and cultural aspects of fungi, from the unbelievable science behind spore dispersion (I’m not kidding! It’s amazing!) to the bizarre story of a Civil War veteran who made it his mission to personally sample hundreds of species of poisonous and unpalatable mushrooms (not recommended for people who wish to keep their original pair of kidneys). As an amateur mycologist myself, I found Mushroom to be more scientific than other mycological texts intended for non-scientists, a pleasant surprise. In addition, the chapters are short and can stand on their own as mini-essays, making the book extremely readable.
Mushroom is available at Chatham Community Library.
Other books I like on the fungal kingdom (some available at Chatham Community Library):
The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms and famed amateur mycologist David Arora’s All That the Rain Promises and More represent the opposite extremes of mushroom identification guides – the Audobon Guide’s tone is staid and serious, while Arora includes numerous pictures of his wacky friends grinning and holding giant shelf fungi. That’s not to say it’s any less authoritative or useful as a guidebook!
In his guide 100 Edible Mushrooms, Michael Kuo begins by recommending that his readers not eat any wild mushrooms, given the deadly consequences of misidentification. If you’re the kind of person who feels compelled to eat wild mushrooms, though, this guide has great pictures and is extremely well-researched.
Paul Stamets covers many aspects of identification, biology, and cultivation in his book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Save the World (available at Chatham Community Library). He isn’t kidding in the subtitle – Stamets describes numerous environmental and health benefits of various species of fungi. Chapters on mycoremediation, a technique of growing mushrooms on damaged and contaminated soil to help remove toxic heavy metals and break down petroleum were of particular interest to me.