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Mushrooming without Fear: The Beginner's Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms Paperback – October 17, 2007
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About the Author
grew up in Switzerland and gained a master’s degree in philosophy and history at Aberdeen University. He now lives in the beautiful Emmental region of Switzerland and fills the gaps between fishing trips by working as a management consultant. His hobbies include mushrooming, cooking, exploring the countryside, and reading poetry. He is the author of
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Here, 128 pages are devoted to only 12 mushroom species. (Not mushroom "types" as is suggested on the rear cover, these are twelve particular species). Surprisingly little space is devoted to content. Consider:
- 17 pages are title sheets with section titles, the table of contents, and a blank filler page
- 13 pages are devoted to explanation of, and multiple re-hashings, of 8 basic rules of collecting. One page, which begins with the words "Always remember..." is repeated FIVE TIMES. That's five copies of the same one-page reminder, which has also been thoroughly rehashed several times before.
The margins are extremely wide and the text is large. The photographs, while impressive, are sometimes accompanied by only one or two sentences per page. Some photographs have no text at all, and a few are repeated at different places in the book either by direct repetition or by Photoshop cropping or bunching.
Critical identification techniques (such as spore printing) are completely absent from this book. Identification instructions are so vague as to be almost impossible to use effectively. Although the photographs are outstanding, some of them are repeated to fill space. Mushrooms are seldom shown in the button stage.
Shockingly, the poisonous look-alikes are not actually shown. In some cases, key information about poisonous look-alikes is missing. For example, the Jack O' Lantern mushroom (which is identified in SOME field guides as having gills but which can often resemble the false gills or "ridges" of a chanterelle) is found almost exclusively on rotting wood. This so-called guide says that the chanterelle is found on the forest floor, but a key identification component for the mildly poisonous look-alike is omitted. (By "mildly poisonous", I mean an effect serious enough to require hospitalization but not necessarily fatal). The far more dangerous galerina mushrooms, which are also easily mistaken for chanterelles especially the trumpet chanterelles, are not mentioned.
The fact that at least some orange-capped boletes are mildly poisonous does not deter the author from recommending the orange birch bolete. Likewise, several blue-bruising and red boletes are toxic. The puffball is shown in cross section (as is appropriate) but the look-alike "Destroying Angel", one bite of which will cause liver failure in an adult, looks almost identical in its immature form. Most responsible authors provide at least a drawing of a baby amanita to show what it looks like before it bursts out of its volva. Immature agarics can also resemble puffballs (although agarics generally aren't quite as toxic as the death cap or destroying angel amanitas, which can and will kill you with one bite).
Some of the safety recommendations are overkill: it is not necessary to cook all wild mushrooms for fear they have been contaminated by "dogs". If the mushroom has been soiled by a dog, don't pick it or eat it. Similarly, there is no mushroom so toxic that it is dangerous to touch or to cut with a knife. Instead of overstating the risks of touching the wrong mushroom, the author would have been better advised to at least draw a picture of the deadliest mushrooms in their button form, which is when they are most likely to be confused with edible ones.
Expect a lot of baby talk. The term "tummy ache" makes an appearance, as does an extended ramble about Santa Claus near the end of the book. Some of the information about fly agaric is just plain wrong: the fly agaric found in Europe happens to be a different species from North American fly agaric, so the stories about berzerkers and Santa Claus (while amusing) are in reference to the wrong mushroom. Add to this the spelling errors and repetition, and you will see that the book was clearly not peer reviewed or even edited prior to publication. There is no index, and sources are not cited.
Note also that the author decided-- on page 102 of 128-- to redefine some basic North American geography. "Eastern North America" is assumed to be primarily north of Georgia, the "Pacific Northwest" is assumed to be Washington, Oregon, and parts of Idaho, and "California" refers to the Bay Area only. The Rocky Mountains and Midwest are completely ignored, as is the entire nation of Canada. This IS NOT A NORTH AMERICAN FIELD GUIDE.
This author most likely knows how to take a spore print and what an amatoxin is. Unfortunately he has oversimplified mushroom collection to the point where he is not providing enough identification information to safely identify the twelve desireable mushrooms in the book. This is ironic given the extent to which the author harps on safety.
If you want an actual North American field guide, the National Audubon Society is an excellent field guide, and Michael Kuo's "100 Edible Wild Mushrooms" will provide you with far more useful information.
What helped us was the fact that the book features only a few edible and easily to identify mushroom species. For successful identification you have to follow all the rules in the book and check your mushrooms not only against the color photographs, but also against the positive ID check lists and color range bars in the book. If one of the checkpoints cannot be checked off for a particular mushroom you found or you have any kind of doubt, you have not positively identified the mushroom, and you should not eat it. If, on the other hand, you are able to positively identify a certain mushroom, you are in for treat.