Did you know? (fungus edition)

The biggest living thing in the world is the Honey mushroom?

You can’t see it because it lives mostly underground, but it measures 24.6 miles from side to side, and is at least 2400 years old!

I found this information on page 7 in the book The Fungus Kingdom by Rebecca Stefoff. Scientists call it an Armillaria ostoyae and it was discovered in the year 2000 in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. There are others in the United States as well. This book is filled with information and pictures concerning the six different types of fungi.

Since there are so many toxic varieties of mushrooms that look very similar to edible ones, you should NEVER eat mushrooms you find unless you are 100% sure of what you have. Even with an identification guide like Field Guide to Mushrooms of Western North America by R. Michael Davis, you must be very careful. I like mushrooms, but I must admit I am afraid of eating ones that don’t come from a grocery store! The book 100 Edible Mushrooms by Michael Kuo gives excellent tips on identification and tells whether a certain mushroom may have poisonous look-alikes. There is also a small section of recipes.

To make it easier to know exactly what type of mushroom you have, you can grow your own mushrooms. The Mushroom Cultivator by Paul Stamets can help you get started growing your own mushrooms at home. It can be as easy as starting with pre-inoculated mediums or as technical as designing a sterile room and cultivating your own agar culture. I was surprised how many details are involved in growing mushrooms, but this book is extremely informational.

Then, once you have bought, found or grown your mushrooms, Northwest Essentials by Greg Atkinson has a section of recipes with some yummy looking choices including mushroom bisque and marinated chanterelles. If you need more, A Cook’s Initiation into the Gorgeous World of Mushrooms by Philippe Emanuelli has many recipes with directions and photos of mushroom dishes that you could make.

Some people deliberately eat or drink mushrooms “recreationally” because of their toxicity!.Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the most Used and Abused Drugs by Cynthia Kuhn, PhD, Scott Swartzwelder, PhD and Wilkie Wilson, PhD tells about the psilocybin mushrooms and their hallucinogenic effects on people.

People even write fictional stories about mushrooms. There is a short story in the book The Stories of Ray Bradbury called “Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!”. It is dark in the cellar….. and we all know mushrooms love that! But, if your kids are afraid of the dark, then Dark Emperor &Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman may be a better choice of book that shows them a magical side of nighttime. It has pretty pictures and a nice little poem about mushrooms growing in a forest, with other poems featuring a spider, a cricket, a bat and more. Another story for kids is Mushroom in the Rain a book about animals taking cover in a rainstorm. It shows children the importance of sharing and is written by Mirra Ginsburg.

And finally, for those of you who just can’t get enough mushrooms, you can make your own origami mushrooms! Trash Origami by Michael G LaFosse and Richard L Alexander is full of fun ideas for using recycled candy wrappers, old calendar pages and those left-over bits of wrapping paper.

Be sure to visit A Reading Life for more reviews and news of all things happening at the Everett Public Library.

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