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Looking for a good mushroom book?

Here is a brief list of some of the more popular field guides and cookbooks with a few comments regarding each of them. Most of the books are available from or your local book retailer. Unless otherwise noted, the comments made regarding these books come from our own Phil Tedeschi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club or its members. If you are looking for books written for children see our "For the Kids" page by clicking on the link below or in our menu at the left.

Field Guides Guidebooks General Interest Cookbooks For the Kids

Field Guides (carry these with you in the field)

Audubon bookNational Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms written by Gary Lincoff, Knopf Press

There is a fair introduction to mushroom characteristics and hunting. There is a pictorial guide organized by shape and size of mushroom, followed by color pictures of the mushrooms of that type. The pictures are generally very good though I have had some problems with the color of a few of them. The pictures only have a common name (often invented for this book) and the page of the description of the mushroom which contains the scientific name. The descriptions are excellent containing look-alike and comment together with the descriptions.

This book has been the Eastern North American amateur mycologists field guide and bible for quite a few years. The scientific names are somewhat dated. Though descriptions contain names of look-alikes you have to find the description of the look-alike to get the common name and the picture number of the mushroom to see a photo of it. Though this book has the most pages of all those described here it can function as a field guide.

I prefer to have the photos or illustrations together with the description of the mushroom but otherwise find this book quite useful.

field guide mcnightA Field Guide to Mushrooms written by Kent H. McNight and Vera B. McNight, A Peterson Filed Guide, Houghton Mifflin

There are good descriptions of mushroom characteristics and hunting (an immediate front section and a final rear section have pictorial illustrations of the characteristics). There is a pictorial key to general groups of mushrooms. Within the general groups the descriptions are organized by families then genera. The descriptions which are quite good refer to the central color plate on which the mushroom is illustrated. The drawings are excellent and have the advantage of depicting a perfect specimen (not always possible with photos). The descriptions include look-alikes and other remarks.

This Field Guide also contains a final chapter, written by Anne Dow, that includes 21 recipes featuring wild mushrooms. There is a particularly useful sub-recipe for a quiche shell made from a crusty French bread, grated, and melted butter as a substitute for the more time consuming pastry shell. Some of the more intriguing recipes are Chicken Breast Quiche with Morels, Golden Duck with Apricots and Chanterelles, and Coquilles St. Jacques Margaret Lewis with oyster mushrooms enhancing the scallops.

North American MushroomsNorth American Mushrooms; A Guide to Edible and Inedible Fungi written by Orson K. Miller and Hope H. Miller, Falcon Guides

The Introduction to this books reads like an introduction to Mushrooms 101 for biology majors rather than a description of mushroom characteristics and hunting for amateur mycologists. There is a basic binomial key together with a following pictorial key to basic groups of mushrooms. Within those groups there are a good binomial keys to the mushrooms.

The keys, the descriptions and even the introduction use Latinate terms almost exclusively. There are no common names for mushrooms in this guide. It is an excellent guide if you are familiar with the terminology but unfortunately typographical errors abound. There are good pictures of the mushrooms in context and on the same page as the descriptions. Some photos are rather small due to the large number of mushrooms pictured and described. Though the book is called a field guide it is a bit heavy for the field.

Russell field guideField Guide to the Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic written by Bill Russel, Penn State Press

The Introduction provides a fairly good introduction to mushroom characteristics necessary for identification and to mushroom hunting. There is no binomial key, rather the mushrooms are organized by season , general type (gilled, polypores, etc.) and spore print color. The pictures follow the descriptors for each season. The organization is basically pictorial. The descriptions are clear and in basic English rather than Latinate English where possible. This is a field guide (light and small enough to carry into the field).

We recommend this guide for beginners as it is fairly easy to follow (and we almost all start out hunting pictures rather than keying). The beginner need not flip back and forth to a glossary to follow a key or to follow a description.

Mushrooms of North East North America written by George Barron, Lone Pine Press

After a somewhat short introduction to the fungi, which does not include a description of mushroom characteristics like gill, stalk and cap shape and type, Barron’s book uses a pictorial key to some of the major phyla of fungi and within the order Basidomycota and the class Hymenomyces pictorial guides to the families of mushrooms. A binomial key which predominantly uses basic English terms leads to the genus; unlike most binomial keys the end result can be more than one genera. The pictures and descriptions are used to identify species. Barron’s photos are wonderful shots of mushrooms in context with some distinguishing features shown (e.g., the gills). The strongest feature of Barron’s book is the species illustrated; there are many species here that do not appear in most other guides. This is a field guide. I find Barron’s species descriptions to be a bit too terse; I would like a more regular list of items in the descriptions. Pictures and descriptions are on the same pages.

Fascinating FungiFascinating Fungi of the North Woods by Cora Mollen (Author), Larry Weber (Author), Rick Kollath (Illustrator), Bonnie Wenborg (Illustrator)

Part of the popular North Woods Naturalist Series, this field guide contains detailed information with an innovative format that makes field identification a snap! The guide will help you know what to look for and when, and it was developed exclusively for the regions surrounding the North Woods of the United States and Canada.

Guidebooks (more extensive information on the mushrooms that what is contained in the field guides)

Book cover for 100 edible mushrooms100 Edible Mushrooms With tested recipes by Michael Kuo, University of Michigan press

This very well written book is primarily a mushroom identification guide with the intent of introducing its audience to edible mushrooms. There is a short section of recipes at the end of the book but the primary emphasis is on identification of edible mushrooms.

The book has a somewhat unique organization with an introductory chapter, a chapter on store bought mushrooms, a chapter on poisonous mushrooms, a chapter consisting of species or groups of species recommended for beginners, a chapter of mushrooms requiring more experience, a chapter covering mushrooms that are somewhat difficult to identify or that have very close poisonous look-alikes and finally a chapter of recipes. Throughout the book the author uses a series of side notes called “focus points”, to describe features of the mushrooms used for identification or for general knowledge about mushrooms (e.g., a focus point on mycorrhizal relationships).

The introductory chapter describes the use of the book, identification of, collection of, cooking of, and preserving of mushrooms. The second chapter concentrates on mushrooms readily available in grocery and/or gourmet grocery stores illustrating mushroom identification features with the commercial mushrooms as samples..Many of the “focus points” describing mushroom features are concentrated in this chapter.

The third chapter is dedicated to poisonous species or groups of species that might be confused with edible species described in this book. The fourth chapter contains mushrooms recommended for beginners: old man of the woods, chicken of the woods, black morels, yellow morels, giant puffballs, the devil’s urn, Boletus parasiticus, black trumpets, Hericium species, Lactarius indigo, and the cauliflower mushroom. I’m somewhat surprised at the inclusion of the barely edible devil’s urn and the rare Boletus parasiticus in mushrooms recommended for beginners though they are easy to identify.

The fifth chapter contains mushrooms recommended for experienced hunters. The majority of species or groups of species described in this book are in this chapter (57 species).The sixth chapter describes mushrooms that are somewhat difficult to identify or that have close poisonous look-alikes. The last chapter has 24 recipes, a few of which I’m anxious to try.

Overall this is a very interesting book. It contains quite a bit of information on the species or groups of species described. I particularly like the chapter using commercial mushrooms to teach beginners the features of mushrooms used for identification. I would not carry this book as a guidebook in the field or even in my car as a guidebook for the identification session following a successful foray because of its organization. It is a good book to read for learning about mushrooms but the lack of a key or of some other organizing principle precludes my use of this one for field identification.

The Book of FungiThe Book of Fungi: A Life-size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World by Peter Roberts and Shelley Evans, University of Chicago Press 2011

Weighing in at 5+ pounds, this 11 by 7 ½ inch book is another antithesis of a field guide. This well-made book features excellent descriptions, beautiful photographs (not in context), and maps illustrating the global dispersion of the mushroom. It is an excellent supplement to general field guides. Although the majority of the mushrooms can be found in other guidebooks, there are new mushrooms to learn. The descriptions rival those of the best guides. Seeing the global distribution of the mushrooms is exciting. The common names, not always familiar to American readers, used are those published by English Nature and the British Mycological Society; the same names used in Mushrooms by Roger Phillips (Macmillan 2006).

The front matter is split into several sections: a Forward in which the authors note that this is not a field guide but a celebration of the world of fungi; an Introduction which describes Ascomycota and Basidiomycota, the two phylla that produce mushrooms and which describes how to use the book; a section on What Are Fungi in which the roles of fungi in the environment are discussed; a section on Plant and Animal partners; a section on Natural Recyclers; a section: Pests and Parasites; a section on Food, Folklore, and Medicine; a section on Distribution and Conservation; a Section on Collecting and Identifying Fungi with the usual disclaimers on not to use this book to determine edibility but to rely on experienced mushroom hunters; and finally a pictorial guide to the Fungi.

The main section of the book, the 600 pages describing the 600 mushrooms follow. The main section is divided into the Agarics; the Boletes; the Brackets, Crusts, and Jelly Fungi; the Tooth Fungi, Chanterelles, Clubs, and Corals; the Puffballs, Earthstars, Bird’s Nests, and stinkhorns; and the Cup Fungi, Morels, Truffles, Flask Fungi, and Lichens.

Each page of the main section has a global mup illustrating the world-wide distribution of the Fungi (ranging from minute habitats like the Northern Part of Sicily for Pleurotus nebrodensis to Amanita rubescens which occurs on all continents except Antactica). At the top of the page with the map is a group of characteristics: Family, Distribution, Habitat, Association (with plants), Growth form (singly, clustered, etc.), Abundance, Spore Color, and Edibility. The title, scientific name, common name, and attribution follow together with the dimensions of the mushroom accompanied by a black and white drawing.. A general paragraph follows then a paragraph listing look-alikes. In small type a more technical description of the features of the mushroom occurs near the bottom of the page. Each page has at least one picture of the mushroom Some of the pictures are cut off by the placement on the page but if that hides a feature necessary for identification, another picture illustrates the necessary feature.

Book cover of The Complete Mushroom HunterThe Complete Mushroom Hunter: An Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting, and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms written by Gary Lincoff Quarry Books 2010

Gary Lincoff, the author of the Eastern amateur mushroom hunters’ bible: The National Audubon Society Guide to North American Mushrooms, has written a new mushroom book primarily aimed at beginning mushroom hunters. Experienced mushroom hunters will also derive some beneficial information from this book.

Chapter 1 touches on mushroom poisoning and characterizes countries and societies as mushroom loving (mycophilic) or mushroom fearing and hating (mycophobic). Of course, our British heritage places the U.S. strongly in the mycophobic ranks despite our many mycophilic European continent immigrants. Many of the mycophobic countries are former members of the British Empire or former colonies of Spain. World markets for commercially grown or wild picked mushrooms are described here also. A chart is presented that describes the major mushroom hunting areas of the world.

Chapter 2 describes mushroom hunting, equipment for the hunt and the thrill of the woods. The mushroom feast that can follow is described with some caveats in re overindulgence and preserving the surplus.

Chapter 3 is concerned with mushroom identification and the basic features of fungi and mushrooms. A chart illustrates mushroom seasons throughout the world for the 13 edible, non-gilled species or groups of species that are described in the first part of this chapter. The descriptions of these species or groups of species are well written and generally comprehensive with good descriptions of look-alikes. The pictures are excellent representations of the relevant mushrooms. I did find the section on Boletes to be a bit thin. Four groups of the Boletes are referenced whereas there are hundreds of species of Boletes. The next part of this chapter addresses the edible gilled mushrooms. Ten species are charted as to season and described. Again the descriptions are excellent and comprehensive and the pictures are gorgeous. The final two sections describe 18 poisonous species or groups of species of mushrooms and 3 groups of species that are psychoactive.

Chapter 4 addresses 12 species or groups of medicinal mushrooms including field characteristics, habitat, world-wide distribution, season and look-alikes. The uses of these mushrooms and their commercial availability are described.

Chapter 5 discusses mycophagy (eating mushrooms). There is a comprehensive chart of rules to follow to eat wild mushrooms safely. Next there are 26 recipes for mushrooms ranging from pickles to desserts. Although there are few recipes some are quite tempting.

Appendix I is a guide to mushroom arts and crafts and Appendix II describes mushroom poisoning, symptoms and treatment.

Mushrooming without fearMushrooming without Fear: The Beginner's Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms by Alexander Schwab

and its companion

Mushrooming with confidenceMushrooming with Confidence: A Guide to Collecting Edible and Tasty Mushrooms by Alexander Schwab

Alexander Schwab has written two books intended for beginning mushroom hunters.

In his first book the first rule for beginners is never eat a gilled mushroom!! For many of us mushroom hunters this rule is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater even though all of the deadly poisonous mushrooms in the U.S. are gilled. He covers mushrooms with tubes (never mentioning that a number of reddish to orange pored boletes are poisonous though not deadly), Boletes and one polypore (hen of the woods); mushrooms with ridges (chanterelles); mushrooms with spines (hedgehog); and mavericks which include puffballs, horns of plenty and the cauliflower mushroom. This book features some good photography and good rules to follow. The macroscopic features used to describe the mushrooms are well written.

In his second book, Schwab immediately ignores rule one of his first book and moves on to including gilled mushrooms and more. One of my problems with this book is his emphasis on making sure that all positive macroscopic features given in his summary descriptions of a mushroom match with no consideration of the features by which look-alikes can be distinguished. He does not mention or describe look-alikes for any of the mushrooms described. Following his positive features for one mushroom, the shaggy parasol, one could easily misidentify a Chlorophyllum molybdites growing at the edge of woods and suffer a bad bout of gastroenteritis. Though he emphasizes the red-bruising of gills, flesh and stem of the shaggy parasol, many specimens of this mushroom do not change color with bruising. There are look-alikes for oyster mushrooms that would match his criteria as well.

One feature of macroscopic mushroom identification is completely missing from both of these books. Schwab never discusses spore prints, a feature that would immediately separate the shaggy parasol from its look-alike.

Mushrooms demystifiedMushrooms Demystified written by David Arora, 10 Speed Press

There is a good to excellent description of mushroom characteristics necessary for identification and mushroom hunting. This book starts with a pictorial key for broad distinctions followed by binomial keys for groups described by the pictorial key. The binomial keys and the descriptors use many Latinate English terms to describe the mushrooms

This is the first book to which I turn to key out an unidentified mushroom. I find the keys to be very well organized and easy enough to follow (with the help of occasional glossaries).

This is the antithesis of a field guide; it is definitely too large and heavy for the field. Although the book is somewhat dated there is an online update of scientific names. The entire volume is available on line as well. David can be somewhat flip which can turn some readers off. Another publication of his, All the Rain Promises and More, is much more flip.

Mushrooms of the MidwestMushrooms of the Midwest written by Michael Kuo and Andrew S. Methven

This is an excellent, non-portable guidebook for experienced mushroom hunters covering 557 species of Midwestern mushrooms. The introductory section notes how amateur mycologists can assist professional scientists, indicates that this is a guidebook with minimal emphasis on the edibility of species, gives information on local mushroom clubs emphasizing the value of belonging to a club, and details locations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan,Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The states covered in this book. The next section describes collecting, documenting and preserving mushrooms. The final introductory section describes using a microscope to study mushrooms.

I did find the lack of descriptions of key macroscopic features used for identifying a bit troublesome. Almost all other guidebooks have sections describing these features.

There are 55 pages of dichotomous keys using macroscopic features to follow for identifying mushrooms. The keys are fairly easy to read and use being written primarily using plain English rather than excessive latinate terms. The mushroom pictures and descriptions follow the keys and are arranged alphabetically. The descriptions are quite clear and well written. Latinate terms are used sparsely when necessary. After the macroscopic descriptions, chemical reactions for some mushrooms and microscopic features are described.

Mushrooms of the Upper MidwestMushrooms of the Upper Midwest: A Simple Guide to Common Mushrooms written by Teresa Marrone and Kathy Yerich

This is a very nice, portable (4 ½” by 6” by ½”) guide book for beginners covering nearly 400 species of mushrooms. There is a good introduction to mushrooms and the features of mushrooms used in macroscopic identification. The bulk of the book is organized in three sections: Top Edibles, Top Toxics and Mushrooms Grouped by Type. The types used for grouping are mushrooms having cap and stem with gills, mushrooms having cap and stem with pores, atypical caps (like morels), Shelf mushrooms with pores, shelf mushrooms with gills, shelf mushrooms other (Daedalea quercina with maze like gills), spherical mushrooms, cup-shaped mushrooms, coral and club fungi and miscellaneous mushrooms.

The index illustrating the type gives the starting page of the section as well as the name of members of that section that are in the top edibles or top toxics sections. Within sections the mushrooms are arranged by color going from the lightest to the darkest.

Although it is nice to have the top edibles and toxics in a separate section, I found it a bit clumsy to have to check two sections for finding a mushroom. The table of contents does list the types used and is more available for finding a section than the pages describing the types and their page references. The descriptions are well written and easily understood by amateurs using plain English more than Latinate terms.

Mushrooms of North Eastern North America written by Alan Bessette, Arleen Bessette, and David Fischer, Syracuse University Press 584 pp.

This volume has a good introduction to fungi, mushroom characteristics and mushroom hunting. The initial key is a pictorial key to large groups of the fungi; unlike most pictorial keys this one is accompanied by text describing the major feature of the group. Once a large group is identified, a binomial key separates the mushroom to species. The binomial key predominantly uses basic English to distinguish features. The descriptions are well organized. Here the Latinate terms are more common. Basically this is a very good guide to the mushrooms, it is somewhat technical but after a point that becomes necessary. The color photos of the mushroom follow the descriptions of the species in a large group. My one criticism has to do with color naming. I have had a hard time agreeing with the color names used here but, of course, color perception is idiosyncratic. The size and weight make this guide the antithesis of a field guide. It is somewhat pricey (the Amazon price as of March 2009 is $74).

BoletesNorth American Boletes written by Alan Bessette, William Roody, and Arleen Bessette, Syracuse University Press

This is a good albeit somewhat technical introduction to the characteristics of the Boletes (Family Boletaceae). Latinate terms abound as the task is to distinguish between the 300 known species of Boletes that grow in North America. A pictorial and written key separate the Boletes in atypical and typical and then separate the typical by stalk type (stalks with rings, stalks with nets, stalks that ooze resin, and stalks with scabers (rough, dark projections on the stalk). Binomial keys then separate the Boletes into species. The descriptions are excellent but do use many Latinate terms. I have some problems with the color naming here. This is a somewhat pricey book (Amazon price as of March 2009 is $70) but is the most comprehensive to the Boletes available.

Mushrooms and other fungi of the midcontinental USMushrooms and Other Fungi of the Midcontinental United States Second Edition written by D.M. Huffman, L.H. Tiffany, G. Knaphus, and R.A. Healy University of Iowa Press

This is the second edition of a guide book originally published in 1989. There are more than 100 new images for a total of 300 color photos and descriptions of 248 species.

There is a fairly comprehensive introduction describing fungi and fungi hunting. A binomial key takes the reader to eight large groups of fungi: the mushrooms (order Agaricales), the boletes, the Aphyllophorales (Chanterelles, corals, polypores, toothed fungi), the Gasteromycetes (stink horns, bird’s nest fungi, earth stars, puffballs, etc.), jelly fungi, the Ascomycetes (cup fungi, morels, lorchels, etc.), plant parasitic fungi (rusts, smuts, black knot), and Myxomycetes (the slime molds).

One strange feature of this guide shared with its first edition is the fact that only the fungi with gilled fruit bodies are called mushrooms. The boletes, polypores, chanterelles, puffballs, morels, etc. are just fruit bodies of other fungi but not mushrooms. This is also the only guide book to use the term toadstools (without a definition) in a serious way.

The book has very nice illustrations, the keys and descriptions tend to be fairly technical involving many Latinate terms but this is a good guide book.

MorelMorels written by Michael Kuo, University of Michigan Press

This is a good introduction to morels, morel hunting and the science of morels. Morels are identified to species by standard macroscopic feature identification and then are broken into more species by DNA analysis.

Chapters include: What Are Morels; False morels, Verpas and Other Spring Mushrooms; Where and When to Find Morels; Hunting Morels; Eating Morels; Morel Hunters; Theorizing Morels; The Science of Morels; Taxonomy

A Morel Hunters Companion written by Nancy Smith Weber, Thunder Bay Press

An older introduction to morels, morel hunting, and morel eating. Michigan morels are the specific topic of this book.

Chapters include: A Beginning; Michigan’s Morels and Lorchels; Planning a Hunt; When and Where; Safe Mycophagy; The Darker Side of Mycophagy; In the Kitchen: Cooking Morels; In the Kitchen: Preserving Morels; The Dynamic Morel; Describing the genera and species; On the Cultivation of Morels and Lorchels; and Morel Madness: What It Means to Michigan

Mushrooms and other fungiMushrooms and Other Fungi of North America written by Roger Phillips, Firefly Books

There is only a minimal introduction to mushroom characteristics and mushroom hunting. This book has a pictorial beginner’s guide to some genera together with a binomial key to genus. The book is organized alphabetically within genus. This guide is mostly a pictorial book, It has very good photos on a neutral background usually illustrating the features of the mushroom. For some species the only available photo was poor so not all of the species have good pictures. The descriptions are very good mixing basic English with Latinate terms. The photos are on the same page as the descriptions. This is the picture guide I turn to first when trying to identify an unknown mushroom. It is too large to be a field guide.

Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians written by William C. Roody, The University Press of Kentucky

There is some information about mushroom characteristics but not as detailed as the previous two volumes. There are basic binomial keys to some basic groups which then are organized pictorially.

The binomial keys use a mix of basic English together with some Latinate English. The descriptions are very good again using a mix of basic English and Latinate terms. He does include comments to describe look-alike species etc. The photos are on the same page as the descriptions.

William is an excellent photographer. This book contains some of the best mushroom pictures in the context where they grow. One purpose of this book is to display his photographs. It is a good pictorial book for identifying mushrooms. This is a bit large and heavy for a field guide but could be so used.

General Interest

Book cover of Chanterelle DreamsChanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms written by Greg A. Marley, Chelsea Green Publishing Company2010

This book attempts to make the fungal realm more accessible and less frightening to our (U.S.) mycophobic public. The author hopes to familiarize people with the fascinating, extremely variable nature of fungi and to make them realize to what extent they already interact with fungi daily (bread, alcohol, medicines, etc/).

In the Introduction and in Part I the author notes the fascination our European ancestors had with the mushroom. He describes the passion of Europeans and Eastern Europeans, in particular, for mushrooms and mushroom hunting. The author notes that on many of the hunts he leads, he is approached by novices who fondly remember hunting mushroom as a child with a beloved relative, an experience to which I can certainly relate. In the second part of Chapter II the book addresses the distrust Americans have towards the kingdom fungi. The author uses his own beginnings as an amateur mycologist to illustrate the problems a beginner has with this field of study. He describes the rarity of mushroom poisoning and of poisonous mushrooms (5 to 10% of worldwide mushrooms are toxic most only causing gastrointestinal distress).He further notes that the vast majority of the mushrooms are non-toxic, inedible due to taste or texture and that about 10 to 20% of the mushrooms are edible (ranging from barely palatable to exquisite).

In Part II, the use of mushrooms as food is addressed. The author notes that the two most common questions from novices on mushroom forays are: “What mushroom is this?” followed by “Can I eat it?”. The author states that most amateur mycologists hunt mushrooms for the unique flavors available and the ability of mushrooms to enhance many dishes. The author presents a nice chart detailing guidelines for a new mycophagist. The chart discusses learning about the mushrooms, collecting mushrooms for the table, and finally preparing and consuming the mushrooms. In the third part of this chapter the author presents a new “foolproof four” (morels, puffballs, chickens of the woods, and shaggy manes).The four groups of mushrooms are well described with information about taxonomy, descriptive features, look-alikes, caveats about consumption, ecology, habitat, and occurrence followed by a few recipes. In the fourth part of Part II, chanterelles are described; in the fifth part King Boletes, and in the final the pink bottoms (edible Agaricus species).

Part III is devoted to the dangerously toxic mushrooms. A chart of toxic Northeastern mushrooms is given naming 44 toxic species or groups of species, eight of which can be deadly poisonous. A general discussion of mushroom toxins, symptoms, and causes (mistaken identification, grazers, foreigners, etc.) is followed by sections detailing the dangerously toxic mushrooms.

In Part IV the author discusses the psychoactive mushrooms, their use in religions and their recreational use.

Part V is devoted to mushrooms within living ecosystems. Subsections discuss honey mushrooms and the humungous fungus, fairy rings, bioluminescence, truffles, wood decay fungi and fo0rest health.

Finally Part VI discusses growing mushrooms in the garden.

Overall, I find this a delightful general description of mushrooms and their place in the world of amateur mycologists. It can be a refreshing change when added to your collection of guidebooks and cookbooks.

Book cover of Mushrooms for HealthMushrooms for Health: Medicinal Secrets of Northeastern Fungi written by Greg A. Marley Down East Press 2009

In the words of the author: “Mushrooms for Health is an invitation:an invitation to bring mushrooms into your life as functional, health-promoting food. … Mushrooms for Health contains species-specific and general information about the collection, preservation, preparation, and use of medicinal mushrooms. ”

Chapter 3 is devoted to general information about mushrooms and fungi, Chapter 4 describes the historic medicinal uses of mushrooms, Chapter 5 provides a brief introduction to the human immune system and how it works, Chapter 6 addresses the medicinal components of mushrooms detailing the chemicals produced by fungi and their interaction with various parts of the immune system, and Chapter 7 is the core part of this book.

In Chapter 7, ten mushroom species or groups of species are described and pictured. The mushrooms described are Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae and lucidum), Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus and P. populinus), Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), Lion’s Mane and Comb Tooth (Hericium erinaceus, H. americanum and H. coralloides), Birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus), Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum), Red-belted Polypore (Fomitopsis pinicola) and Tinder Conk (Fomes fomentarius).

In Chapter 7 for each species, the author gives an introduction and a detailed, very readable description of the mushroom’s features. He describes the habitat and season in which the mushroom grows. He gives some ecological information about the type of mushroom, e.g., whether it is a saprobe (a decayer), a parasite, or is in a mycorrhizal relationship with some plant. The edibility of the mushroom and its nutritional components are described together with some caveats when necessary. A description of look-alikes and their edibility is provided. The author provides a description of folk or traditional medicinal uses of the mushroom together with a description of current medicinal uses. For Maitake, the following subheadings will give an indication of how detailed the description of current medical uses is: Antitumor, Cancer Preventative, Immunostimulating, Chemotherapy Side Effect Reduction, Antiviral, Blood Pressure Regulation, Cholesterol Lowering, and Hypoglycemic Antidiabetic Effects. Next the author details the current areas of research and the medicinally active components of the mushroom. The author then describes how to collect and preserve the mushroom for future use and finally details how to prepare and use the mushroom both as food, if applicable, and medicine.

In an appendix the author details the methods for making a double extraction mushroom tincture (a double extraction refers to extracting alcohol-soluble compounds and separately extracting the water-soluble compounds then combing the two into a tincture).

Overall, I find this book to be an excellent introduction to the medicinal uses of mushrooms and particularly like how the author notes that we are obtaining benefits just from consuming the edible species. I would have liked to see the same information provided for the Umbrella Polypore (Polyporus umbellatus), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), and Split Gill (Schizophyllum commune) but even without these this is a valuable reference book.

Benjamin bookMushrooms: Poisons and Panaceas: A Handbook for Naturalists, Mycologists and Physicians written by Denis R. Benjamin; W.H. Freeman and Co., NY, 1995

(Reviewed by Sandy Sheine) This highly recommended book should be in the library of every serious mushroom hunter. It is the latest and most comprehensive reference on Mushroom Poisoning, as treated in Part Two, and Mushroom Poisoning Syndromes, as treated in Part Three. A small selection of color photos of poisonous mushrooms appears in Part Three and surprisingly includes Armillaria mellea (honey mushroom) and Laetiporus sulphureus (chicken mushroom), which have adversely affected some people under certain conditions. Although not illustrated, there are references to morels, verpas and gyromitras as sometimes toxic. A useful chart is included on edible mushrooms, their poisonous look-alikes and their poisoning symptoms. Detailed descriptions of the chemical composition of each toxin found in mushrooms, and the clinical treatment for each kind of poisoning are also included.

Not to be overlooked is Part One, which I find is the most interesting Part of all. The variation in the cultural aspects of consuming mushrooms, as practiced in eastern and western societies, the North and South American Indian uses, and the variety of mushrooms consumed in South America, Latin America, Africa, and Australasia are all discussed. British people have traditionally had the greatest fear of eating wild mushrooms. The early colonists in America brought that fear with them and only when immigrants arrived here from all over the world did gathering and eating wild mushrooms become popular. The biology of mushrooms is explained, and both the nutritional and culinary aspects of edible mushrooms are covered The medicinal uses of mushrooms are described, as they vary around the world, with the greatest use and anecdotal evidence of effects, coming from China and Japan.

Musings of a Mushroom Hunter: A Natural History of ForagingMusings of a Mushroom Hunter: A Natural History of Foraging by Denis R. Benjamin Tembe publishing 2010

This book details episodes in the life of a long-time mushroom hunter. It is a small book, 130 pages divided into 28 short chapters. It is a delight to read. The experienced mushroom hunter will find many experiences and personality types and behaviors to relate to. The novice will find some reasons why we older hunters often obsess over this pastime.

The author, who wrote a well-known book on the health effects of mushrooms (Mushrooms: Poisons and Panaceas), has produced a very amusing book detailing his observations, anecdotes and stories from more than 30 years of foraging. This book will enthrall experienced mushroom hunters as they will be able to identify and to relate with many of the events and emotions that the author describes.

The chapters with a few exceptions are not arranged chronologically so one can skip around and read individual chapters. Some of the chapters are: “Verpas”, “the Society”, “Getting Found”, “Skunked”, “The Art of Finding Mushrooms”, The Chanterelle Quiche”, “Hot Springs”, and “Competition and Territory”.

This book should best be read on cold, winter nights when no mushrooms can be found. It will help relieve the cabin fever that mushroom hunters experience on such nights.

Mycelium running book cover Mycelium Running; How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets, Ten Speed Press

This is a very interesting and exciting book that describes the nature of fungi and some current and some possible future applications of fungi. This book introduces its audience to potential and actual uses of the decomposing powers of the fungi to help clean up our environment, to control insect pests, and to generally enhance the productivity of our forests, farms, and gardens.

In Part I, Chapter 1, The Mycelial Mind, the author describes the nature of mycelia (the web of cells which form the main body of the fungi), the history of the development of fungi including the alliance of fungi with plants that allowed plants to move from the sea to the land and which allows plants (90 to 95% of all flora) to thrive, and the evolution of animals from one branch of the fungi. The author goes a bit too far for me when he attributes higher intelligence to the fungal network.

Chapter 2 describes the life cycle of mushrooms with fantastic microscopic photos illustrating mushroom features.

Chapter 3 describes mushrooms in their natural habitat noting the four categories into which mushrooms can be placed, i.e., saprophytic (basic decayers of dead organic matter), parasitic (damaging or destroying their living host), mycorrhizal (in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of plants), and endophytic (in a benevolent non-mycorrhizal partnership with plants).

Chapter 4 primarily describes medicinal mushrooms and their uses but also addresses the importance of the fungi to the health of the forest itself.

Part II, Mycorestoration, describes uses and potential uses of mushroom to repair or restore weakened immune systems of habitats. Mycorestoration can be implemented in 4 ways, mycofiltration (using mushrooms to filter silt form streams, pathogens including protozoa, bacteria, and viruses and chemical toxins from agriculture), mycoforestry (using mushrooms to sustain forest communities by helping to preserve native forests, recycle woodland debris, enhance growth of planted trees, and using edible mushrooms to enhance economic diversity),mycoremediation (using fungi to degrade or remove toxins from the environment) and mycopesticides (developing and using fungi to fight destructive insect species).

Part III describes growing mycelia and mushrooms. The author excels here as he is extraordinarily experienced with mushroom cultivation. The chapter describes various techniques for cultivation mushrooms including building outdoor mushroom gardens. One chapter describes the nutritional properties of edible mushrooms. The final chapter describes the primary mushrooms, edible, medicinal, and otherwise that can be cultivated.

Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of MushroomsMycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone Rodale press

This is a difficult book to describe. The author has written a number of cookbooks, writes a food blog for the Denver Press and is a frequent contributor to food magazines. This is not a cookbook, however. It is a a tale of a search for edible, wild mushrooms that expanded into a search for knowledge about the mushrooms and fungi in general.

The author sums up her journey into the world of fungi by saying “This book chronicles my learning curve. It touches on all aspects of mycology in the United States today; the festivals, the forays, and camps; the biology of fungi; commercial wild crafters; the cultivation of exotic mushrooms, including truffles; the history of the ubiquitous white button mushrooms,; mushroom nutrition (they are considered a superfood now); the traditional and new science in medical and medicinal mushrooms and nutraceuticals; psychedelic mushrooms and ethnomycology (the study of psychedelic mushrooms in culture); and fungi’s role in the symbiotic planet.”

Throughout the book the author intersperses personal experiences (on forays, attending festivals, attending conferences with scientific information learned in the field or at events.

The author includes many stories about the stars of the mushroom world. Many stories of her encounters with famous mycologists are included, including a nude hot-tubbing event .

Overall, this is an interesting book to read; it will have some features of interest to beginners in the field but will also be appreciated by old-timers.