Wild Mushrooming: A guide for Foragers is different. It is not a conventional field guide that aims to provide readers with descriptions and photos of as many fungal species for a given region that a publisher will allow. The book is written specifically for Australians who are newly awakening to the pleasures of foraging in a country with many unique habitats and organisms, including fungi which may appear to be the same as those covered in most Northern hemisphere field guides, but may be phylogenetically distinct and in terms of their edibility. Alison Pouliot is an ecologist, nature photographer, author of The Allure of Fungi, and is involved with international as well as Australian fungal conservation. Tom May, a mycologist and a Principal Research Scientist at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, is a taxonomist who has also written extensively on fungal conservation and ecology. The two have artfully merged their areas of expertise and have created a thoughtfully written guide that will appeal to nature enthusiasts of diverse backgrounds. The topics addressed should be part of everyone’s basic foundational education for foraging: understanding of fungi, what they are made of, how they feed, their vital functions in the ecosystem, their relationship with other organisms in the ecosystem. The writers urge readers to adopt a slow and conservative approach to starting the satisfying hobby of mushroom foraging that incorporates awareness of the diverse environments to be found on the continent.
The authors describe characteristics of the major morphological groups of fungi and provide representative photos of each. They discuss and illustrate features that should be thoroughly observed regarding color changes in a mushroom cap, hymenium, and stipe over time, how the fruiting body may be connected to its substrate, and the range of possible odors and tastes sensed. Readers are informed on the necessity and procedure for collecting spore prints, determining spore colors of the major genera, and using chemical tests. An entire chapter is devoted to poisonous fungi of Australia, their symptoms, and syndromes. Particular attention is paid to Amanita phalloides, Amanita muscaria, Agaricus xanthodermus, Chlorophyllum brunneum, Chlorophyllum molybdites, Coprinopsis atramentaria, Omphalotus nidiformis, Paxillus involutus, and several other fungi known to cause assorted health issues ranging from death to gastrointestinal discomfort. The meatiest chapter (nine) is devoted to descriptions and photos of a selection of just ten well-known edible mushrooms and their toxic lookalikes. These include international favorites such as Lactarius deliciosus, Coprinus comatus, Lepista nuda, Tremella fuciformis, puffballs, and even cultivated mushrooms.
The final chapter, entitled “Fungi in the kitchen and on the table” provides information on drying and storing wild mushrooms and on preparing them for cooking by grilling, barbequing, baking, boiling, roasting, frying or skewering. Included are recipes for 29 different meals featuring a wide assortment of both wild and cultivated mushrooms used to create a variety of mouth-watering meals from pâté, salads, soups, pizza, curry, risotto, parmigiana, and ragout, to frittatas and even pickled saffron Lactarius. Also provided are the total preparation times and the number of people each serving will feed. In my view the book is worth purchasing for this section alone. Finally, Pouliot and May the include a glossary of mycological terms and concepts and three pages of recommended further reading and resources for foragers with an interest in pursuing mycological information beyond the obvious culinary benefits of foraging for wild mushrooms. Wild Mushrooming: A Guide for Foragers is well-written and researched. The photos and illustrations are clear and instructive. The book will provide potential foragers with ecological and mycological background information everyone needs and should know to forage safely and responsibly. It is a refreshing and original read
Review by Dianna Smith, 2021