on November 12, 2001
Hadeler's Medicinal Mushrooms You Can Grow is a small and elegant introduction to the fascinating world of mushroom cultivation. The text is a passionately written argument for the incorporation of mushrooms, both edible and medicinal, into one's daily diet for optimal health, nutrition and well-being. As Hadeler describes the book as a `practical guide to small scale farming of selected fungi and an introduction to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)', he succeeds immensely on both counts.
Specifically, the book takes the reader on a guided tour of the fungal kingdom, and elaborates profusely on the mushroom, giving copious information on its habitat, role in nature, nutritional value and its usefulness as a medicinal, particularly from the standpoint of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). As such, this slim volume contains copious amounts of detailed information not easily found in other volumes on the subject of mushrooms. Hadeler's highly unorthodox yet refreshingly enjoyable writing style incorporates Latin phrases, German and Chinese words, historical anecdotes, and interesting facts to impart useful information. The book further stands apart from other texts on mushrooms with its skillful penmanship and its dedication to clear, concise definitions of key terms and concepts, making it read less like a how-to guide and more like a compelling story. Hadeler's gifted writing ability, combined with his obvious and overflowing love of the subject enable him to explain highly advanced concepts in a very simple and straightforward manner. Thus, cultivators of all stripes, from budding amateurs to seasoned old-hands, as well as the general layperson will find much of value in this book. In passing, I especially enjoyed his very well written section on poisonous mushrooms and the undeserved myco-phobia that they have created among Occidental cultures.
Hadeler uses short vignettes, essays that combine interesting anecdotes from TCM and German cultural and medical folklore along with pertinent facts and information, to introduce the reader to a dozen exotic edible and/or medicinal mushrooms. Throughout the book, the history, philosophy and practical application of TCM is clearly apparent to the reader, and Hadeler goes to great lengths to explain the differences between TCM and Western medicine in order to demonstrate convincingly what TCM has to offer the open-minded Westerner. The first half of the book, based on historical anecdotes and scientific data, places the mushroom squarely in the context of the fungal kingdom and develops a strong argument for its incorporation in the healing arts, while the latter half of the text is devoted to short expositions on the cultivation of a variety of mushrooms, from the common Oyster mushroom to the exotic Wine Cap mushroom. In keeping with his strong advocacy of the use of mushrooms in daily life, towards the end of the text Hadeler gives the reader considerable information on the storage, preparation and cooking of mushrooms for use in nutrition and health maintainance and/or improvement. In addition, he provides a valuable bibliography containing a cross-section of papers that expound upon the nutritional and medicinal aspects of mushrooms as well as their cultivation.
Unlike many authors who emphasize the more recent Japanese influence on mushroom science and cultivation, Hadeler provides detailed information on the Chinese contribution, both past and present, to medicinal mushroom research, mushroom science and cultivation. Moreover, Hadeler brings a level of honesty, passion, and no-nonsense practicality to mushrooms and their cultivation rarely seen among other writers in the field. While simultaneously providing useful methods of cultivation and utilization of mushrooms, he freely acknowledges the potential problems one may encounter when employing the book's cultivation techniques and the limitations of mushrooms in nutrition and health. It is most sincerely hoped that subsequent printings will make use of a diagrammatic approach to mushroom cultivation and provide a detailed glossary of key terms used in the book and most often encountered in the mushroom, TCM and alternative medicine circles. Also, a chart listing the names of the various mushrooms discussed in the text in English, Latin, Chinese, Japanese, German and Russian would be an especially welcome addition and allow the worldly cultivator to converse with others in the global mushroom community with ease. Finally, a truthful discussion addressing pest control issues and waste disposal in mushroom cultivation should also be included.
Although this is not the first book that I would recommend to those looking to do mushroom cultivation as a hobby or a business venture, it is a book that I would unhesitatingly recommend to those who are inquisitive about fungi and mushrooms and their cultivation. As such, this book serves more as a good starter text for those looking to build up their knowledge on various aspects of mushrooms and less as a practical how-to guide to mushroom cultivation. It therefore ranks highly among the books every inquisitive layperson and mushroom cultivator should read. Furthermore, those inquiring minds wishing to learn more interesting facts about mushrooms and fungi are especially encouraged to read In the Company of Mushrooms, A Biologist's Tale by Elio Schaechtler and Magical Mushrooms, Mischievious Molds by George Hudler.
In conclusion, this handy little volume is not only an enjoyable and satisfying read, it also is a wonderful treat for the mind and a liberating tool for the soul.