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Mushrooms: A Natural and Cultural History

Feared, revered and eaten; loved despised and hated; really it is not at all right that such a humble and beautiful fungi should be so described, but that is the truth of it all, when the subject of Mushrooms is under discussion. In the modern lifestyle and cuisine of the day, mushrooms in many forms are considered high delicacies, having moved from the seasonal, or wild treats to be found in paddocks and at the bases of trees, after the rain and free for the taking, to cultivated varieties beloved of the modern chef.

Considered as poisonous, which many are, indeed deadly, having the shape of a phallic symbol, aphrodisiac and hallucinogenic in extreme, mushrooms have in many instances earned their reputation , and indeed have made it into the classics, having found a place in literature as possibly having provided the inspiration for Lewis Carrols, Alice in Wonderland, a theory based on the book written by Mordecai Cubit Cooke titled The Seven Sisters Of Sleep: Popular History of the Seven Prevailing Narcotics of the World, published in 1860 which presented a detailed look at the various properties to be found in the hallucinatory world of fungi.

Beloved of small children the lovely fairy ring, formed by fruit bodies of Clitocybe nebularis is the perfect place to find magic; the beloved red toadstool with of course lovely creamy white spots is another well-known species , famed in the pages of so very many storybooks. Naturally you should be able to find an elf or two somewhere nearby. There is wealth of folkloric surrounding  fairy rings, toadstools and mushrooms spread far and wide across Britain and Europe, some fanciful and some downright scary, all without possibly a skerrick of truth, some may well say!

Tiny delicate puffballs are often overlooked in favour of their more flamboyant relatives but regardless of what or which species it is that may catch your eye, one thing to be sure about is they are all different, complex, fascinating and have their own specific place in the ecology of the country in which they are found.

Modern technology is developing a myriad of uses for this fascinating fungi, researching ‘second generation’ biofuel production involving oyster mushrooms and other white rot fungi; other mushroom mycelia have been researched for their properties to aide water purification, and yet another possible use for the lingzhi or reishi mushroom Ganoderma lucidum, cultivated on crop residues, could be used as heat resistant building blocks.

The further you delve into this incredibly fascinating look at the humble, or rather not so humble Mushroom the more respectful and intrigued you will become. The wording is comfortable and when coupled with glorious photography the subject matter is taken from the dreary to the delightful.

Mushrooms have always had a certain mystique surrounding them, have and always will need to be treated with a good deal of respect, as Nicholas Money will concur, and it would not appear have far more beneficial properties than ever considered possible.

Nicholas P Money tells a riveting tale, based in fact, fiction, folkloric and science to present a delightful introduction to a species so very little understood aspect of Mother Nature.

AuthorNicholas P. Money
PublisherREAKTION BOOKS
ISBN9781780237435
Websitehttps://www.newsouthbooks.com.au
DistributorNew South Books
ReleasedSeptember 2017