As an absolute mycology newcomer, this seems like a good beginner’s guide to mushroom hunting thus far. Gotta start somewhere!
I have no business reviewing a field guide to mushrooms, let alone “Mushrooms of Northeast North America” by George Barron. Why? I have never willingly eaten a mushroom. The rare one that finds it way inadvertently onto my slice of pizza is thrown out in disgust. The few times I have bit into a mushroom, I have gagged.
So what is with this budding inner mushroom hunter apparently I harbor? Who knows?! I would not know a chanterelle from a white from an oyster from a portobello from a shiitake mushroom if they were labeled with giant black marker in the supermarket. In fact, I have no idea how to cook a mushroom, or what they are even supposed to taste like…WOW!
Last year Marc and I went to the Natural Living Expo in Marlborough, MA. One of the vendors there was Taproot Herbals who happens to have wonderful Chaga Tinctures (check them out here.) I purchased an amazing bottle of the Chaga Plus Mushroom Power, and really love it. In a way, I think it is this tincture that has opened my eyes to the world of foraging fungus!
So of course I bought books…And finally this spring, Marc and I have been going out mushroom hunting. Of the five shroom identification books I have, George Barron’s “Mushrooms of Northeast North America: Midwest to New England” keeps rising to the top of the most helpful stack.
At 8 1/2″ in its maximal dimension, this identification guide is great for backpacks, but a bit too big for standard pockets. It is very well constructed, with a good binding, and glossy (probably water repellent to some degree) pages. Twenty-three pages of introductory material guides you through the organization of the book and the basics of mycology. There are a few pictoral quick reference keys.
The bulk of the guide divides mushrooms into “non-gill fungi” (Including slime molds, sac fungi, and basidiomycota) and “gill fungi”. The gill fungi is further divided by spore color (pink, dark, brown, and light). A beautiful glossy, well-taken, informative photograph adorns each one-half to one-third page mushroom entry. The description of each of the 609 represented species is a brief 3-5 sentences, and contains basic information with no fluff. A note on edibility is also included.
Finally, the back of the book contains an illustrated quick reference guide on edible mushrooms, a glossary of mycological terms, references, and an index. The guide is easy to flip through and well-organized overall.
So, the final word on this? I really am not even an amateur mushroom hunter; I am an absolute newbie. This book seems like a good place to start, even if I have yet to make a single successful/confident identification. I have no doubt that it will take me years to develop proficiency. And this review reflects my lack of knowledge on mycology. So, why bother posting this? It is a reminder to you (and myself) that we all need to start somewhere. So, grab your books and go…
P.S. Maybe my eyesight is getting worse, but I took a cue from my botanist pals and bought a magnifying loupe (10x magnification). I ended up getting this one, and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. I think it will be very helpful with floral and fungal identification. Keep it in mind if you eyes are getting a bit squishy…there are many types of loupes out there!
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The Walking Herbalist has no affiliation of the authors or the publishers of this book at the time of the writing of this review. We purchased our own copy of this book for our own private use. This review is simply here to help our readers put together their own herbalism library, and other than possible commissions as an Amazon.com affiliate, we receive no compensation for this.