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Celebrating the fungus among us

Posted by David Lyon  September 28, 2011 03:29 PM

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While the recent soggy weather has us reaching for the Clorox products to banish mildew from the bathroom, our friend and neighbor Larry Millman is enjoying a kind of fungal apotheosis. Well known to hardcore local mycologists for his devotion to the lore of fungi, Millman has a new book out for the rest of us. Entitled Fascinating Fungi of New England (Kollath + Stensaas, www.kollathstensaas.com), it's a field guide to some familiar mushrooms (including many we see in the lawn) and many others we've never noticed. The book is written in non-technical language and meanders just far enough down the path of anecdote to remain truly engaging. Rick Kollath's color illustrations are frankly far better than photographs for diagnostic details. (We actually prefer illustrations to photographs in field guides.) While Millman is not going to let you know where his porcini patch is located (''somewhere between here and Alaska''), he does lay out the differences between the gourmet delight of the yellow morel (found April to October in apple orchards) and the rather dire consequences of dining on the false morel (damage to liver, kidneys, and red blood cells). Millman does address the issue of edibility, noting that his book is not an open-air menu and suggesting that you eat wild fungi at your own risk.

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