Of course, the fruiting bodies of various fungi are prized for their epicurean and hallucinogenic properties. In Morel Tales, the sociologist Gary Alan Fine makes an amusing study of the "culture of mushrooming," tagging along with intrepid members of the Minnesota Mycological Society as they perform the "naturework" of plucking such deep-woods delicacies as slippery jacks and bringing them home to sauté. Wild mushrooms, Fine writes, are "culturally mediated objects," and millions of risk-loving Americans now enjoy the weekend thrill of harvesting them.
Peter Jordan's Wild Mushroom is too hefty for your backpack, but perfect for the kitchen. Jordan is a British mushroomer who offers tips on identifying toothsome amethyst deceivers or lethal death caps, recipes for whipping up Hedgehog Mushroom Pancakes or Shaggy Ink Cap Soup, and endless enthusiasm: "Imagine the ultimate triumph of finding your first giant puffball -- its head actually bigger than your own!" (Mark Rozzo)