Featuring a wealth of illustrations, a fungi-filled tour of the importance of mushrooms, from the enchanted forests of folklore to their role in sustaining life on earth.
Mushrooms hold a peculiar place in our culture: we love them and despise them, fear them and misunderstand them. They can be downright delicious or deadly poisonous, cute as buttons, or utterly grotesque. These strange organisms hold great symbolism in our myths and legends. In this book, Nicholas P. Money tells the utterly fascinating story of mushrooms and the ways we have interacted with these fungi throughout history. Whether they have populated the landscapes of fairytales, lent splendid umami to our dishes, or steered us into deep hallucinations, mushrooms have affected humanity from the earliest beginnings of our species.
As Money explains, mushrooms are not self-contained organisms like animals and plants. Rather, they are the fruiting bodies of large—sometimes extremely large—colonies of mycelial threads that spread underground and permeate rotting vegetation. Because these colonies decompose organic matter, they are of extraordinary ecological value and have a huge effect on the health of the environment. From sustaining plant growth and spinning the carbon cycle to causing hay fever and affecting the weather, mushrooms affect just about everything we do. Money tells the stories of the eccentric pioneers of mycology, delights in culinary powerhouses like porcini and morels, and considers the value of medicinal mushrooms. This book takes us on a tour of the cultural and scientific importance of mushrooms, from the enchanted forests of folklore to the role of these fungi in sustaining life on earth.
About the Author
Nicholas P. Money is professor of botany and the Western Program Director at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of many books on science, including Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard, The Amoeba in the Room, and The Rise of Yeast: How the Sugar Fungus Shaped Civilization.
“An excellent introductory textbook for a budding mycologist, or an attractive gift for a mushroom enthusiast. The book is superbly and colorfully illustrated, with many useful diagrams spread over sixteen chapters including mushroom superstition, evolution, ecology, poisons, and conservation.” — Oxveg News
“With his characteristically smart and sassy wit, Money guides us through the science of fungi but also tackles cultural themes less often explored by mycologists, including the contentious terrains of psychedelic fungi, their simmering histories of superstition, and the dubious undercurrents of the medicinal mushroom industry. Money delights in debunking fungal myths and misunderstandings. . . . Informative, entertaining, and at times provocative, Mushrooms combines science, cultural histories, and personal anecdotes in an inviting introduction for the novice venturing into fungal realms.” — Alison Pouliot
“This book is simply amazing! It’s a great read, and absolutely bursting—like an over-ripe puff-ball—with a marvelous mix of mushroom information.” — Nigel Chaffey, Bath Spa University
“Queer things, these mushrooms. The people who study them—mycologists—can be pretty interesting too. One used to walk to work wearing horse blinkers to preserve his eyes for his experiments on bioluminescent mushrooms. Another tested the edibility of every mushroom in his book, One Thousand American Fungi. ‘As paragons of eccentricity, these individuals are peerless,’ writes Money, a US professor of botany, who has produced a fascinating read.” — Organic Gardener (Australia)
“I found it an easy read and devoured it in a single day. This will make a great present for the general naturalist as well as a diverting read for a long flight for the mycologist—especially at such a reasonable price for a hardback book today!” — IMA Fungus (Journal of the International Mycological Association)
"Money tells a riveting tale, based in fact, fiction, folkloric, and science to present a delightful introduction to a . . . very little understood aspect of Mother Nature." — Blue Wolf Reviews
“Addressed to nature enthusiasts, Mushrooms is a perfect introduction to the kingdom of fungi. Each of the sixteen chapters is dedicated to a theme, ranging from Mushroom Science to Mushroom Superstition. Did you know that there is an Einstein of mycology? His name is A.H. Reginald Buller and his Researches on Fungi is considered the bible of mycology. Or that the largest organism in the world is a tangled web of hyphae that radiates for over 10 square km through a conifer forest in Oregon? Mushrooms addresses these questions and many more. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this little gem and recommend it to anyone interested in the world of mushrooms.” — Economic Botany
"In Mushrooms, one gets an introduction into this fascinating world of fungi and a few highlights of the personalities of those who study them. The text is well organized for readers with little or no biology background, and it is also well written. . . . Overall, it is a how-to guide for the beginner studying mushrooms, and presents basic information on the biology and construction of fungi. This is enhanced by good illustrations using both modern photographs and also those derived from classic works. . . . Recommended." — Choice
“Money has done it again! Mushrooms is a masterful overview of mycology, written with clarity, wit, and affection. There simply is no better review of the subject out there. Mycophiles and gardeners—really, anyone who seeks to understand nature in a deeper way—will appreciate this excellent book. I know I do.” — Eugenia Bone, author of "Mycophilia: Revelations From the Weird World of Mushrooms"
“A well written, authoritative, and beautifully illustrated account of mushroom life and lore, leavened with humor. An ideal introduction to the most beautiful members of nature’s least understood kingdom.” — Richard Fortey FRS, author of "Life: An Unauthorised Biography"
“A fascinating tour around the weird world of mushrooms and of the people who study them. As a botanist I learned a lot about the natural world from the different perspective of these familiar yet obscure organisms.” — Roland Ennos, University of Hull