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A Few of my Favorite Mushroom Guides
Resources for the Wild Food Enthusiast!

Mushrooms Demystified, by David Arora.

Mushrooms Demystified
by David Arora

      "Bring home what looks like a wild onion for dinner, and no one gives it a second thought--despite the fact it might be a death camas you have, especially if you didn't bother to smell it. But bring home a wild mushroom for dinner, and watch the faces of your friends crawl with various combinations of fear, anxiety, loathing, and distrust! Appetites are suddenly and mysteriously misplaced, vague annoucements are hurriedly mumbled as to dinner engagements elsewhere, until you're fianlly left alone to "enjoy" your meal in total silence.

      "For there are few things that strike as much fear in your average American as the mere mention of wild mushrooms or "toadstools". Like snakes, slugs, worms, and spiders, they're regarded as unearthly and unworthy, despicable and inexplicable--the vermin of the vegetable world. And yet, consider this: out of several thousand different kinds of wild mushrooms in North America, only five or six are deadly poisonous! And once you now what to look for, it's about as difficult to tell a deadly Amanita from a savory chanterelle as it is a lima bean from an artichoke."

--David Arora,
Mushrooms Demystified

      We tend to fear that which we do not know, and because mushrooms are mysterious, we have a mass cultural hysteria about them. But there is no need to fear all fungi. Author David Arora is one "fun guy" you will truly love. Through his encyclopedic book, Mushrooms Demystified, Arora teaches you how to distinguish the poisonous few from the edible many. The book includes comprehensive keys to more than 2000 species from across North America, although with a definite western slant to it.

      Despite the name, the book is intimidating when you first pick it up, with nearly a thousand pages of detailed text and keys. However, the more you read, the more you connect with the world of mushrooms and mushrooming. While most mushroom books are dry descriptions of the mushrooms and their uses, Aurora writes with an entertaining and human perspective that really engages the reader into the joy of mycology.       Mushrooms Demystified emphasizes the "Beginner's 70" most common and distinctive mushrooms that should be learned first. Arora uses macroscopic features for identification as much as possible, so you won't need a microscope to learn about the mushrooms you find. Neither does he use a lot of technical words in the text, although the book is fully scientific. Arora keeps it as simple and fun as possible.

      There is a good gallery of color photos included in the center of the book, but the majority of the pictures are in black and white. Although a bit too bulky to throw in the back-pack, Mushrooms Demystified is an essential reference book to identify or verify the mushrooms you find. The book also covers mushroom cookery, preservation, and toxins, plus it includes an insightful dictionary to the meaning of the scientific names. The publisher even included a handy ruler printed right on the back cover for easy measuring. Mushrooms Demystified was first published in 1979, then revised and expanded to cover more of the country, with updated text and photos. It has long been considered the mushroom-hunter's Bible. Ten Speed Press. ISBN: 0-89815-169-4. Second Edition, 1986. 959 pages.

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All That the Rain Promises, and More...: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms, by David Arora.

All That the Rain Promises, and More...
A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms
by David Arora
Reviewed by Thomas J. Elpel

      All That the Rain Promises, and More... is truly a "hip" pocket guide, loaded with David Arora's fun facts and stories about 200 of our most common mushrooms here in the western states. It is a fantastic introductory guide to hook beginning mushroomers, and a great companion field guide for more advanced mycologists.

      It is both an identification guide, and a doorway into the zany world of mushrooming. David Aurora makes this human connection, incorporating recipies, stories, and humor revealing people's experiences picking and using mushrooms for food and dyes. It is rich with colorful photos of wild mushrooms and the people who search the meadows and forests to find them.

      All That the Rain Promises, and More... is loaded with full color photographs, and it is easy to navigate. You can take it into the field to quickly identify the mushrooms you find. It is nicely cross-referenced with Mushrooms Demystified so you can turn to that book for more in depth coverage, when needed. In such a compact book it is surprising how much space Arora found for his whimsical stories. I couldn't put the book down until I had read them all. Ten Speed Press. ISBN: 0-89815-388-3. 1991. 260 pages.

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Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America: The most comprehensive mushroom guide ever, with over 1,000 color photographs, by Roger Phillips.

Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America
The most comprehensive mushroom guide ever, with over 1,000 color photographs
by Roger Phillips

      Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America is indeed the most comprehensive mushroom guide ever, as stated in the subtitle, although not a complete guide, since there are thousands of additional species not covered. However, as the most comprehensive guide, it is absolutely indispensable in mushroom identification for the sheer number of species covered, the continent-wide range of the book, and the studio-quality photography.

      The crystal-clear photography captures the external features of the mushrooms, as well as their internal anatomy. Equally importantly, many of the photos reveal young and old phases of the mushrooms, which can be dramatically different from each other. The accompanying text describes the anatomy of the cap, gills, stem, and spores. There is also information on the mushroom's odor, taste, habitat, and season, plus notes indicating whether the mushroom is considered edible or not.

      The book includes a unique photographic beginner's key illustrating some of the most common mushroom groups, as well as a text-based key and glossary for the more experienced mushroomers. Firefly Books. ISBN: 1-55407-115-1. Hardcover. 320 pages.

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North American Mushrooms: A Field Guide to Edible and Inedible Fungi, by Dr. Orson K. Miller Jr. and Hope H. Miller.

North American Mushrooms
A Field Guide to Edible and Inedible Fungi
by Dr. Orson K. Miller Jr. and Hope H. Miller

      North American Mushrooms is an excellent field guide, small enough to be portable, yet expansive enough to cover hundreds of the most common species of mushrooms across the U.S. and Canada with easy-to-use keys, detailed text descriptions, and vivid color photography to aid the user in precise identification. The book includes more than 600 color photos, plus tips on how, where, and when to collect wild mushrooms, suggestions for culinary uses, and a section on mushroom toxins. Falcon Press. ISBN: 978-0-7627-3109-1. 2006. 583 pages.

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Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms, by Paul Staments.

Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms
by Paul Staments

      Our species knows much less about fungi than we do about plants or animals, since fungi live mostly hidden underground or in rotten wood and in piles of manure. We just don't notice these quiet neighbors until they suddenly pop up and release their spores. But in this incredible book, author Paul Staments has pulled together all the latest information about fungi life-cycles and how to create the necessary conditions to grow your own.

      Growing mushrooms seems much like a cross between beer-making and planting a garden. In this book Stamets teaches you how to collect fungi spores and culture them in malt extracts, then transplant the mycelium into the proper mediums to grow crops of mushrooms.

      Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms especially encourages outdoor mushroom gardening, teaching you to find appropriate habitats in your own yard, then adding the necessary ashes, straw, manure, logs, and/or other nutrients needed for each particular species. More than thirty wild and cultivated species are covered in the book. Techniques for growing mushrooms indoors are also included. Mushroom culturing has great potential to be integrated into permaculture farming systems. As with most of the books we carry, I ordered this title first for my own interest, and I am excited by the new possibilities presented in the text. Ten Speed Press. ISBN: 1-58008-175-4. 1993, 2000. Third Edition. 574 pages.

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      Looking for life-changing resources? Check out these books by Thomas J. Elpel:

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Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids

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