Before starting this Friday Fungus! series, I must admit I never gave mushrooms much thought or respect. An okay salad garnish, the lone morsel of viable nutritional value from one of those Japanese places at the mall, a fried appetizer when passing through ‘Bama, something to stuff down a bad neighbor’s chimney, or just something to kick and watch explode – this is what ‘shrooms have meant to me in the past. But the deeper we dig into the world of fungi, their astonishing role in the development of human history continues to be an absolute revelation.
The unassuming appearance of today’s mushroom belies its wild and surprisingly checkered historical ties to Viking berserkers, zany fertility cults and according to at least one person, the foundation for the spread of Christianity. No big deal.
The Fly Agaric is the quintessential image of a mushroom. Thanks to garden gnomes and Mario, the classic red cap with white stem has become the face for fungi worldwide. But man oh man that’s not even scratching the mildly poisonous dermis of this toadstool.