Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review - 100 Edible Mushrooms by Michael Kuo

Although this book has been around since 2007, only recently I got a copy of Michael Kuo's 100 Edible Mushrooms (with tested recipes). The book has the same humorous tone of Michael's Morels and the same editorial quality. This paperback edition is printed in nice, thick, glossy paper, and it has hundreds of nice photos. The book is an easy read and I imagine that one could possibly read it from cover to cover very easily (although it will be more useful as a reference book). To me the book doesn't look like it is intended to be a field guide, given the size and weight, but I think it could possibly be used as such (it is a heavy field guide though). The book text is basically divided in three sections, based on how much experience Mr. Kuo deems necessary for someone to identify each of the mushrooms. The first section is composed of the mushrooms which are "easy" to identify, followed by the ones that "require experience", with the last section being dedicated to the ones which are "difficult". Although the book is appropriately named 100 Edible mushrooms, there is also a section on poisonous/toxic look alikes (which I consider very useful) and according to the author, in total there are much more than 100 mushrooms on the book (I did not count). The book has some very good features as for instance, the fact that for each of the mushrooms covered on the book the authors present data on identification, habitat photos and culinary information (including recipes at the end of the book). Although the information on the book is very nice, I am not sure one could identify with certainty all the mushrooms on the book using only the information provided by the authors and a few more detailed photos would be a good addition to it. Also, although the books tries to highlight some of the important aspects of mushroom identification through "focus points" it would be much better if, for each mushroom, a small table pointing out the required characteristics (which must be present or absent from each mushroom) was available.

Last, although I have to admit that I am not that experienced to judge properly the author's classification system for easy, medium and difficult to identify species, if anything, it looks like the book errs on the safe side, placing some mushrooms which are considered easy to identify on the medium difficulty chapter. For example, Mr. Kuo places the hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa), most puff balls and most boletes (except for the giant puff ball Calvatia gigantea and the parasitic bolete Boletus parasiticus) as mushrooms requiring experience, while in Alexander Schwab's Mushrooming Without Fear they are classified as being easy to identify and recommend to beginners. Obviously both authors have good reasons for their choices but I imagine that Mr. Kuo is a little bit more cautious, specially with species that could be mistaken for lethal ones (even it this is very improbable).

All in all, Michael Kuo "100 Edible Mushrooms" is a very nice book, fun to read and full of great information for both the novice and expert amateur mycologist. You can buy the book for US$18.45 at by clicking on the link above or by going to our Amazon partner store, Mushroomer. Have fun!

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