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Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms Paperback – September 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
By following a few basic guidelines, readers interested in foraging for their food will find themselves with a wealth of culinary opportunities courtesy of longtime amateur mycologist Marley (Mushrooms for Health). An enthusiastic guide, Marley introduces foragers to the most common wild edible shrooms – morels, puffballs, chicken mushrooms, and shaggy mane – as well as their more recognizable cousins in the market, such as chanterelles. Basic recipes for preparation (risottos, simple pastas, and the like) are included, enabling readers to get the most from their bounty. But Marley spends equal time with their more toxic and psychedelic brethren, describing key characteristics, common regions, and potential side effects, ensuring that initiates spend more time in the woods than the ER. While the book does have a set of color slides to aid in identification of edible and poisonous varieties, the sample pales in comparison to the many species Marley mentions. He's an enthused guide, though his tireless mushroom minutiae (trivia, history, taxonomy, and so on) and narrow focus on species native to the American northeast narrow the book's appeal. (Oct.)
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Mushroom lovers who can only get their fix by sampling the often paltry array that appears in their grocer’s produce section may be sorely tempted to indulge their mycophilia when they encounter some choice fungi in the wild. Unlike many Asian and European cultures, however, most Americans are hesitant to just pluck one off the forest floor and eat it on the spot. Perhaps such evocative names as the “Death Cap” mushroom has something to do with this mycophobia. Yet, says Marley, armed with proper background, this culinary caution can turn into complete confidence. From the fabled psychedelic “magic mushrooms” to the duplicitous appearance of “false morels,” Marley examines these fungal fiends and provides thorough descriptions of their habitat, appearance, and toxic properties to ward off potential misadventures. An avowed mycophile, Marley offers an entertaining and inquisitive look at both the heroes and villains of the kingdom Fungi in an enlightened guide that comprehensively examines their nutritional benefits, undesirable properties, and diverse cultural history. --Carol Haggas
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Marley explains that mushrooms are as embraced by Eastern cultures as they are feared by Western ones, but with some knowledge and understanding (and a few good recipes!) hitherto hidden culinary experiences await. I got this book expecting something of a fungi field guide but other than a few pages of color photos this book isn't meant to help you know precisely if that mushroom you just found is safe or not. Instead it seems part memoir on Marley's part, and part attempt to break down the negative misconceptions and encourage people to look beyond the usual (and usually bland) varieties available in the grocery store. Marley covers the more commonly found edible varieties (and yes, with recipes), as well as those famous (or perhaps INfamous) poisonous varieties ("All mushrooms are edible, but some only once"). He even discusses their use in transcending the limits of the ordinary mind - also known as "getting high" - from the so-called hallucinogenic `shrooms; but I liked the section where he discusses their ecology. And his ending chapter on cultivating edible mushrooms was interesting; perhaps enough that I might even try it sometime.
The focus is more heavily on mushrooms in the Northeast, but again, this book isn't meant as a field guide. I think not only mushroom lovers and culinary aficionados will enjoy this book, but also those of us who just enjoy knowing more about those oddly interesting mushrooms we sometimes find around us. And it might just inspire some of us to try something new.
The first chapter is an overview of Russian culture and its love for mushrooms. I've noticed this love in Tarkovsky films, russian biographies, and even russian children's stories that contain little mushroom men. However, to produce a statement that russian schoolchildren learn the names of 100 common mushrooms before they are adolescents (pg.11) seems to be a bit of a stretch. Nevertheless, its not a bad opening for the book, which then examines the american distrust of wild mushrooms, as ubiquiously poisonous. The next part of the book explores the science and instinct needed to collect wild mushrooms for eating. Guidelines are given for the neophyte, and much space devoted to the main FOUR wild edibles. Examples include chanterelles, Porcini, agaricus (common supermarket schroom), giant puffballs, morels, sulfur shelf and shaggy manes. The history of modern mushroom cultivation, and cultural acceptance of mushrooms as food, is given in depth analysis. And yes, recipes are shared. Would you care for some Puffball Parmesan, or Shaggy mane potato leek soup?
After about 90 pages convincing the reader that your fear of eating wild mushrooms is unfounded, since most poisonous mushrooms only give you cramps, numbness and gastro-intestinal distress, MARLEY comes to the Poisonous Mushroom section of the book, that is subtitled "Not as Bad as You Fear". Toxic mushrooms are listed, but without any photos for identification. Except for discovering their latin names, this doesnt do much good. Again, a field guide is a nessacary accessory for this book. After some statistics on mushroom poisoning in America, as well as thruout history, the book settles into a long discription of the DEATH CAP and the DESTROYING ANGEL, aka the AMANITA mushrooms. Long, detailed discriptions of mushroom toxicity, symptoms, and regions of the world where each species grows is overkill. Unless you work for a poison control center, it'll be boring. (And mostly useless, unless you have photographic color plates in front of you.) But its another good lead in, for the semi-poisonous FLY AGARIC mushroom, which is the most common psychedelic mushroom that shows up in our culture. Fly Agaric is the red mushroom with the white polkadots. This section will intrigue anyone who's ever flown on the Schroom broom to distant mental landscapes. Most mushroom enthusiasts in the USA, are former hippies who were introduced to the wonders of mushrooms while ingesting psilocybin caps. Greg Marley freely admits to as much about himself. Some of his statements about mushrooms and religious/spiritual insight, smack of spiritual materialism. Walter Pahnke's famous "good friday" experiments at Harvard was explored, when psilosibin mushrooms were given to monks, supporting the view that religiously inclined people will have spiritual insights on psychedelics. The high from mushrooms MIGHT give one a feeling of spiritual insight, but its a false revelation. Why would anyone believe the Divine Spirit is bought from your friendly neighborhood drug dealer? Moreover, to say that santa claus wears red and white clothing because the Fly agaric mushroom is red and white, or that his reindeer can fly because they eat a diet of magic mushrooms, borders on nonsense. On the other hand, the back story to the discovery of psilosibin mushrooms from Mexican shamans is interesting. Since the psychedelic scene has changed so much from heydays of hippie culture, much of this information about LSD, magic mushrooms, and setting for a good trip will be helpful for those who want to become schroom heads. I was amazed that psilosibin turns up in a lot of mushrooms that grow around the states,(eg the LAWNMOWERS MUSHROOM) besides the classic psilosibin mushrooms with the blue stems. I was not amazed to find out that kids poison themselves regularly thinking they found some kind of magic mushroom. Only after 30 pages enticing the reader with stories of schroom enlightenment, does the author place the caveat on recreational Psilocybin use. Naturally, they're illegal. The real dangers of psychedelic research in the hands of the inexperienced, lays in borderline cases of mental illness exacerbation. (next to nothing is said about this danger.) The writer seems to approve of magic mushroom ingestion, in the right setting, for spiritual insight. People tend to read this information, and not register the caveats, as much as the lure of easy spirituality, or high times.
The book winds down talking about a honey mushroom with a 30 acre mycelial network (the mushroom root system), making it the largest plant in the world, and anywhere from 1,500 to 10,000 years old. Then, Fairy rings are discussed, which are rings of mushrooms, that surround a barren parcel of ground in the woods. Of course, folklore has many explanations for such phenomina. After that, fungal luminescence is covered, which some call foxglove. Another chapter is devoted to mushroom diversity declining, due to the lack of tree diversity, as well as invasive species from mulching practices. Also, the ecological nitch that mushrooms occupy as decomposers of trees gets examined. And finally, a chapter is devoted to the pleasures of growing your own mushrooms in your own backyard. For those thinking this chapter contains the information for growing magic mushrooms from either mycelium or spores, I can assure you that the secrets to psilocybin culturing are NOT found here. Growing any mushrooms with the information explained here, would be difficult. Nevertheless the author does point out his various mistakes in attempting to grow various edibles over the years. AND THERE YOU HAVE IT. The book is a mash up of our culture's love-hate affair with mushrooms of all types. For those who love mushrooms, own a field guide and love to discover various species of mushrooms during their romps in the woods, enjoying this book is a safe bet. Since so much is covered, nothing is examined to any great depth. It might be important to remember, that the writer is NOT a college botanist, or researcher. He's a well informed amateur enthusiast. My biggest problems with the book included lack of editing at points, and overly dry examination of statistics, like including mushroom poisoning statistics for a medium sized city in Russia, or including poisonous mushrooms' latin nomenclature. Since its such a grab bag of information, few people will find the whole book of great interest, unless everything about mushrooms intrigues you. With a book like this, you'll obtain an overview of information about all aspects of mushroom culture.
Most recent customer reviews
I don't know anything about gathering wild mushrooms but this was a requested gift so I am sure it will be well received.