Tag Archives: Fungi

Entangled Life

Book cover of Entangled Life by Merlin SheldrakeThere are moments in 
moist love when heaven is
jealous of what we on
earth can do.
– Hafiz


So the original plan was to write about sex*, but this. Dang. I’m going to quote from Sheldrake’s book again in this short span of two sentences because I cannot do him justice (though in my defence, the first quote was a quote of a quote): “This wasn’t sex: Fungal and plant cells hadn’t fused and pooled their genetic information. But it was sexy: Cells from two different creatures had met, incorporated each other, and were collaborating in the building of a new life. To imagine the future plant as separable from the fungus was absurd” (Sheldrake, Entangled Life, chapter 5: Before Roots). That’s the first quote I highlighted in the pages because it captured the excitement I felt about this book throughout my reading it, though part of why I hadn’t highlighted anything prior to it was probably because I was going along at breakneck pace.

Alright, so maybe I didn’t start off with a good combination (sex and fungal matter). So if I may just direct your attention to these following points for why you might be interested to read this delightful book on fungi (apart from the fact that it’s a book about fungi – you all know how I feel about mushrooms and their kith):

  1. The author, Merlin Sheldrake, grew oyster mushrooms out of his own book, harvested them, then cooked and ate them (@MerlinSheldrake).
    • His review of the mushrooms? “They were delicious: I couldn’t taste any off notes, which suggests that the #fungus had fully metabolised the text.”
  2. The illustrations within the text were drawn using the ink from the shaggy ink cap mushroom (Coprinus comatus). Yes, this includes an illustration of Coprinus comatus using Coprinus comatus.
  3. The excellently chosen epigraphs. To give you an example, the introduction starts with the quotation at the beginning of this post. That’s bold. So is cultivating oyster mushrooms off your book about fungi. And planning to make cider of another physical copy of your book about fungi.
  4. What more do you want? What more do you need?

It actually gets even better. (Who’d have thought it possible?) Sheldrake is evidently in love with fungi and suffused with a curiosity about the natural world, and that passion is contagious, infecting the reader just as a mushroom might shoot its spores far out and beyond its body, through the pages, to seed in you an interest in the fungal world.**

Continue reading


Book Cover of Mycophilia by Eugenia BoneFungi. Shrooms (magic and otherwise). Sporing bodies.

Yeah, I have to admit, that last one doesn’t have quite the right mouthfeel as a description of what you put into your mouth every time you eat a mushroom or other fungus, but either way, I am incredibly pro-mycophagy. A fungivore, if you will (though I eat more than just fungi, so perhaps that isn’t quite the most accurate description?), who will heartily agree that mushrooms “represent[ing] a distinct and unique food group that adds a great deal to a healthy diet… should be eaten enthusiastically” (Bone, Mycophilia, p.186). (So much so, in fact, that I actually misremembered this quote as saying mushrooms should be eaten with exuberance.)

I love gobbling up shiitake mushrooms in either side dishes or soups, and the thought of being able to try out a new mushroom strikes me as an exciting adventure*, to the point where the missed opportunity to do so not long ago actually haunts me a bit.** It was only recently that I started wanting to  learn more about the mushrooms I love though, despite having grown up eating a variety of fungi & mushrooms: shiitake, cloud & wood ear fungi, and enoki, to name a few. My interest was piqued by my gardening ventures, for sure, but also the fact that there’s a fun book written entirely on the topic of mushrooms (I’m not sure if it qualifies as a microhistory exactly): Mycophilia by Eugenia Bone. Mycophilia is exactly what it sounds like: an ode to mushrooms that will have you digging up different organizations and festivals, and which will have you wanting to forage for more information about fungi, if not actually for the mushrooms themselves. (I should note though, that this is not a foraging guide, of which we also have a number: mushroom guides for Canada.)

Eugenia Bone is also the author of Microbia: A Journey Into the Unseen World Around You, which is written in just as approachable a manner for the lay person. I did find a few chunks in Microbia that were repeated from at least one chapter to another though, which jarred me a bit as I was reading through it because – didn’t I just read this?? – which might actually have been worsened by the fact that some facts are actually just repeated between the two books, but apart from that found it quite a fun and informative read. And in reading both Microbia and Mycophilia, I believe the main lesson that Bone comes away with is actually a bit larger than just their exact subjects: it is that this entire world is interconnected, and that there is no individual that can exist independently of what has been contributed by all the other organisms that have done their part to make the environment what it currently is.

With that in mind, check out some more books about fungi and mushrooms below!

Continue reading