Friday, April 27, 2012

It's mushroom season!

One of my favorite things about hiking in the woods is looking for mushrooms. You don’t need to go far, as mushrooms can often be spotted around the sidewalks and trees in Urbana (last spring I actually tripped over a morel on an evening walk in my neighborhood). There is something mysterious and almost magical about how they can pop up over night, and how most of the organism is underground. There are such a wide variety of types and colors and shapes out there and it can be fun to see how many you can spot.  Morels usually surface around mid-April to mid-May here in the Urbana-Champaign area, and many other types will be appearing as well due to the warmth and the rain. It's the perfect time to get outside and see what you can find! Oddly, I don't particularly like to eat mushrooms, but I love finding, identifying, and photographing them. Two new books that shed light on mushrooms and their strange appeal area Mushroom by Nicolas Money and Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone.

Mushroom talks about the basics of mushroom biology and introduces several eccentric mushroom-lovers from history. Beatrix Potter studied mushrooms, as did Civil War Veteran Captain Charles McIlvaine, who set out to document the edibility of all the mushroom varieties of America.

Mycophilia gives a fascinating overview of the field of mycology, which is the general study of fungi, and explores many new facts and theories about this strange life-form. She also delves into the subculture of obsessed mushroom hunters and fans. Did you know there are mushroom hunting competitions and mushroom festivals?

Both of these books give a fascinating introduction to the science of mushrooms as well as the many facets of the mushrooms appeal and uses.  If you are interesting in learning more about mushrooms, check out these other resources that can teach you all the ways to identify, cook, and enjoy mushrooms:

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