Mushrooms are extraordinary

One of my favorite parts of sitting behind the Information Desk is the regular opportunity I get to practice my sleuthing skills.Sometimes people have a quick question that can be answered with a few taps on the keyboard but there are also times when in-depth mystery solving is required.

That being said I am sometimes presented with opportunities to practice my sleuthing skills when I am away from the Reference Desk.

I know that not everyone likes to eat mushrooms either because they don’t like the taste or they simply think that they are ‘freaky’, but I was surprised to learn that there are other reasons people don’t eat them.  On a recent visit to my sister she advised that she knew two people who at one time in their lives loved to eat mushrooms stopped after they learned ….something. One person was a scientist and the other a gourmand friend who once would try any sort of mushroom that she came across will no longer allow mushrooms on his plate.  His explanation “If you knew mushrooms, you wouldn’t eat them either”.  My sister would like to keep eating mushrooms so she asked him not to tell her, however it is just the sort of thing that sets my thoughts on overdrive…I *need* to know!

Basic google searches “Why don’t scientists eat mushrooms?” and variations on the theme didn’t yield the kinds of results that I was looking for….mostly how to avoid poisonous mushrooms, why magic mushrooms work and the health benefits of mushrooms.  After several failed attempts I let it go until I came across a really remarkable mushroom at our local farmer’s co-op.

I began to do more research this time simply about mushrooms. Sometimes the internet brings you gifts that you didn’t even know you were looking for….this simple search not only offered me some possible answers why mushrooms are an off limits consumption item but also both amazing facts about these little understood, often misunderstood species AND some amazing projects that people are working on.

The finds that I am sharing today come from  While I know that TED doesn’t have an exclusive on all the best things on the internet, they do a pretty good job of finding a lot of the best people in the world to share their ideas here we go.

Paul Stamets talk, “6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World” based on mycelium came the closest to answering my original question.  “We are more closely related to fungi than we are to any other kingdom.” Not only does mycelium inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, it is “sentient. It knows that you are there.  When you walk across landscapes it leaps up in the aftermath of your footsteps trying to grab debris.”  “Fungi were the first organisms to come to earth – plants came hundreds of thousands of years later.”  When the earth was cast into darkness 65 million years ago – Fungi and the organisms that paired with it survived.  The things that mycelium can achieve to help clean the planet are simple and extraordinary.  Toxic clean up, build carbon banks.  If you watch I expect you will agree with Mr. Stamets “by engaging mycelium, we can change the world.”

Continuing on the same – vein of mycelium and how this extraordinary species can help us to reduce our impact on earth – Jae Rhim Lee explores “Mushroom Burial Suits” FYI – I want one.

Finally, Eben Bayer proposes asks “Are Mushrooms the New Plastic?”  There can be no doubt that we need to reduce our use of plastic..  Thank you Eben for all of your work towards discovering a better way.

Mycelium, mushrooms, fungi – Thank you.

Some books that you might find of interest from our collection are:

In the Company of Mushrooms :  A Biologist’s Tale

A Field Guide ot Mushrooms, North America

Magical Mushrooms, Mischeivous Molds

The Mushroom Hunters

Shroom a Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom

Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard

Photos taken by the author

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