Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mushrooms anyone?

We've had a week or so of wet rains and I've seen quite a few mushrooms popping up around the yard.  And If you're like me you probably grew up somewhat fearful of mushrooms and being told by grownups to wash your hands after you'd touched one. I was even apprehensive of the little brown ones that came on pizzas. But occasionally I'd find a different mushroom than the usual ones in the lawn on a dead log or in a neglected corner of the yard, and there was always something oddly interesting about them. If you've felt that way too, Greg Marley understands and has taken it upon himself to educate others and share his passion for fungi in his book Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms.

Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of MushroomsMarley explains that mushrooms are as embraced by Eastern cultures as they are feared by Western ones, but with some knowledge and understanding (and a few good recipes) hitherto hidden culinary experiences await. I got this book from Amazon Vine expecting something of a fungi field guide but other than a few pages of color photos this book isn't meant to precisely identify which mushrooms are safe or not. Instead it seems part mycorrhizal memoir by Marley, and part attempt to break down the negative misconceptions and encourage people to look beyond the usual (and usually bland) varieties available in the grocery store. Marley covers the more commonly found edible varieties (and yes, with recipes), as well as those famous (or perhaps INfamous) poisonous varieties ("All mushrooms are edible, but some only once"). He even discusses their use in transcending the limits of the ordinary mind and religion - also known as "getting high" - from the so-called hallucinogenic `shrooms, but I preferred the section on their ecology. And his final chapter on cultivating mushrooms was interesting; enough that after reading his recipes and discussions on how tasty some of the less common varieties can be I thought it might even be fun to try growing them sometime.

But I've probably got more than enough to do with just trying to maintain a regular vegetable garden (which - between the heavy rains and the slugs - isn't looking so good right now). Still, it's kind of an interesting book to pull out and read a bit here and there on lazy Sunday afternoons when I like to reach for a gardening book. And who knows? Maybe if I get up enough courage I'll even try one of those mushrooms I find in the yard.

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