As plants die back and the rains return in Autumn, fungi take the stage. The return of the Autumn rains awaken the slumbering mycelium, who stretch their hyphal networks through their respective substrates. In eager anticipation of the wild delicacies (and especially the mycorrhizal species like chantrelles, porcini, matsutakes, and Candy caps, which resist human cultivation as they grow only in association with certain tree roots), mycophiles and foragers hit the forests…raincoats, wool hats, cute little baskets and all.
Mushrooms have mystique. They are their own universe. Being a plant person, I was intimidated when I began learning about mushrooms. Structurally, they can resemble plants. But metabolically, they are more like animals—oxygen breathing, external-stomach-having, animalistic occupants of their own dikariotic kingdom. And throughout the centuries, certain cultures have been more mycophillic and mycophobic than others. Western Europe, for the most part, eschewed our fungal friends, whereas Asian societies embraced them for food and medicine for over 2 millenia (some sources say 4 or even 7 millenia). In the Western world, we’re beginning to befriend our fungal allies and, in the process, opening previously sealed doors of perception. Read more