Reviewed by FMN Kristine Lansing
“Fungi outnumber plants by a ratio of 6:1 and make up 25 percent of the Earth’s biomass. The biggest single living organism on Earth is a fungus. It is 2,200 acres in size, weighs 6,286 tons, and lives in . . . eastern Oregon. Some fungi are so tiny they live between the cells of other organisms.”*
If you’re interested in either fungi or people, then this captivating book — published in 2011 — is for you. In just over 300 pages, author Eugenia Bone introduces us to the truly “weird world of mushrooms” and to many of the people who fancy them. With knowledge and humor, Ms. Bone introduces us to the fungi we often encounter in our lives, from the not-exactly “humble” button mushroom, to the portobello, the morel, chanterelle, matsutake, truffle, and many more. We learn how fungi grow in the wild, how they are collected, and many of the ways in which they are used. We learn also how mushrooms are cultivated and harvested in commercial settings, and gain insight into some of the significant challenges commercial-scale mushroom farmers routinely face. And the book concludes with a futuristic discussion of the potential roles fungi might play in bioremediation.
“Mycophilia” isn’t solely about the mushrooms, though. Much fun lies in accompanying Ms. Bone to myriad conferences and festivals, in meeting some of the passionate folks who are drawn to fungi — from scientists; to collectors; to hunters, gatherers, and even thieves — and in learning exactly what it is about fungi that ignites their passion.
Eugenia Bone is a nature and food journalist, a faculty member at the New York Botanical Garden, and a former president of the New York Mycological Society. Her most recent book is titled “Microbia: a Journey into the Unseen World Around You.
*“Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms;” Eugenia Bone; Rodale Books; 2011; Introduction