Mushrooms: Culture

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For most of history, “picking up some mushrooms” didn’t mean stopping at the grocery store. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Rytas Vilgalys is a Professor of Biology at Duke University. Recently he took us scavenging for mushrooms in New York’s Central Park and talked about different cultures’ attitudes to this venerable practice.

“There’s a common theory that different cultures either love mushrooms — examples like Eastern Europeans and a lot of Asian cultures are very fond of mushrooms. And then there are other cultures that are historically a little bit careful or wary of fungi, and so the name toadstool is sort of a relict of our English ancestry. And so in the British Isles, people tend to shy away from most mushrooms. Ah maybe they eat a couple of species but they don’t eat them all. But if you go over to Eastern Europe or Northern Europe, Scandinavia, Baltic countries even small children know what the different species or groups of species are.”

Besides being in the right environment with an experienced guide, mushrooming has to be done at the right time of year. In many places that’s the fall.

“I’d say if you had a good solid week of wet weather here you’d have mushrooms coming out all over. Starting from March or April, you’ll get a couple of flushes out in the summer and then in the Fall is usually the best mushrooming season. — so starting around September and October. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw other people picking mushrooms, although maybe not so much here in Central Park . . .ah you never know”

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Mushrooms: Culture

Not all societies look upon mushrooms kindly.
Air Date:10/25/2004
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience

For most of history, "picking up some mushrooms" didn't mean stopping at the grocery store. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Rytas Vilgalys is a Professor of Biology at Duke University. Recently he took us scavenging for mushrooms in New York's Central Park and talked about different cultures' attitudes to this venerable practice.

"There's a common theory that different cultures either love mushrooms -- examples like Eastern Europeans and a lot of Asian cultures are very fond of mushrooms. And then there are other cultures that are historically a little bit careful or wary of fungi, and so the name toadstool is sort of a relict of our English ancestry. And so in the British Isles, people tend to shy away from most mushrooms. Ah maybe they eat a couple of species but they don't eat them all. But if you go over to Eastern Europe or Northern Europe, Scandinavia, Baltic countries even small children know what the different species or groups of species are."

Besides being in the right environment with an experienced guide, mushrooming has to be done at the right time of year. In many places that's the fall.

"I'd say if you had a good solid week of wet weather here you'd have mushrooms coming out all over. Starting from March or April, you'll get a couple of flushes out in the summer and then in the Fall is usually the best mushrooming season. -- so starting around September and October. And I wouldn't be surprised if you saw other people picking mushrooms, although maybe not so much here in Central Park . . .ah you never know"

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music