by James Sands
Humans and mushrooms have deeply rooted connections that manifest throughout cultures and along myriad avenues—culinary, medicinal, environmental, religious, as well as in mythology and folklore to list a few. Whether it is swilling shaman pee laced with fly agaric or slicing baby bellas onto a pizza, we humans have certainly been creative in our attempts to use, understand, and explain them. In western Europe, historically it is considered bad luck to disturb a fairy ring—a circle of mushrooms. If you did so, you could be forced to dance for days in repayment for your transgression. In some north American native cultures, mushroom rings were thought to have been made by the buffalo. Farmers in the British isles believed the grass inside a fairy ring was poisonous to animals. Mushrooms figure prominently in traditional Chinese medicine. And in Lithuania, they have a saying that all mushrooms are edible but some are edible only once.
Regardless of how you feel about them, it is hard to dispute mushrooms are beautiful and mysterious creatures. They are also one of the most prolific and beneficial organisms on the planet and found almost everywhere—including the pages of this photo essay. Bon appétit!