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4.7 out of 5 stars
Mushrooms: River Cottage Handbook No.1
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155 of 157 people found the following review helpful
on 3 September 2007
My wife had a mushroom epiphany last year when stood in the middle of a wood in the Chilterns surrounded by all sorts of Fungi: If we were able to tell which was deadly poisonous and which deliciously edible, we could pick away to our hearts content, dash home and make soups and pâtés and all sorts of mushroomy things for weeks to come! As it was, we didn't know a toadstall from a chanterelle and returned home empty-handed, but therein resolved to investigate what guidebooks were on offer. We were rather disappointed by the rather earnest, flatly-written books we found, often with rather dated illustrations or an absence of recipes (surely the point of cooking them is eating them!) and absolutely no sense of the fun and excitement that might be had foraging for your dinner of an autumn afternoon. So we never got around to it. But as this autumn approaches, we were reminded of the coming mushroom season by the Guardian's River Cottage Mushroom guide (bascially a little taster of the book itself) and immediately realised that the handbook was just what we were looking for. And so it arrived in the post full of lovely pictures, concise descriptions and brilliant recipes all bound together by John Wright's strangely humourous writing style (parts are actually laugh-out-loud funny.) We went out to Hampstead Heath yesterday and immediately found a good hoard with which which we made some fantastic mushroom tart. We're hoping it will become a regular jaunt over the coming months and it's all thanks to this great little book.
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72 of 73 people found the following review helpful
I have long been interested in edible fungi, and have always wanted to eat what I have foraged. One thing stood in my way, would I die?
I bought a book on mushrooms, hurried home to read it, only to find out that it was far from reassuring. I have repeated this several times, each book raising more questions than it answered. There always seemed to be room for error, and after all, you don't want to make an error!
I finally bought John Wright's book, it is far and away the best and most thorough book I have read, and he does it in a pleasant and funny manner.
I have since picked and eaten some mushrooms, and am yet not dead! Hooray!
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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on 2 November 2007
This River Cottage Handbook, `Mushrooms' by John Wright, is a genuinely funny and hugely informative guide to mushroom and toadstools with some useful cooking tips and recipes too. (Some are even simple enough to try!)

Although this is a River Cottage book it's not by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall; he does write a short introduction which viewers of the series will recognise as an account from one of the River Cottage shows. Fortunately, John Wright is a worthy (and appropriate) River Cottage author.

The book is divided into five sections:

Starting Out (p8-39)
Edible Species (p40-135)
Poisonous Species (p136-179)
Recipes (p180-245)
The End - comprising: index, useful addresses, etc. (p246-256)

`Starting Out' briefly addresses such things as mushroom collection, conservation, identification methods, glossary, etc. and includes the obligatory `key'. While Wright's key is about 10 pages, he notes `... it is not as daunting as many others - I have one that is nearly 500 pages long', it is still nearly impossible to use for extreme fungi novices like my wife and I. Still, it seems to be a necessary evil as fungi identification is supremely difficult.

As noted in other reviews, Wright's approach has been to identify just the edible and poisonous species so if the specimen you have is not one of the hundred or so here, don't eat it! This, of course, means that when you go out looking you will see lots that you can't identify. (Indeed (as extreme novices), we could only indentify about 10% of what we saw from this book.)

So this book is small enough to take out on a forage but can't cover most fungi species. However, it is easily good enough and entertaining enough to read cover-to-cover, unlike most others. While it'll make you laugh every now and then, it'll also teach you masses about mushrooms and toadstools. We love it.
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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2007
I was attracted by the cover of this handy sized guide to mushrooms and was even more impressed by the content. It has inspired me to overcome my fear of making a fatal error and try mushroom hunting. The photographs alone are wonderful. The text is informative, amusing(definately lol!) and full of fascinating historical, medical and fungal facts. The detailed descriptions of individual species make me feel quite confident about identification and the selection of tempting-sounding recipes which follow add to the appeal of this useful and attractive book.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2007
What a brilliant little handbook.

My wife and I take regular country walks and on the most recent I came across what I believed to be ceps. With this little book I was able to clearly identify the said mushroom and harvest same. We ate them for dinner, tossed in a little butter with crushed garlic on toast.

Yesterday we came home with a small basket from which we made the most delicious mushroom soup, following the recipe on page 204.

The River Cottage Handbook has given me the inspiration and knowledge to collect fungi.

Buy it, carry it in your coat pocket or glove compartment and harvest nature's riches.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2007
This is the perfect book for those interested in identifying all those mushrooms...whether they be in your back garden or out in the forest.
Very cleverly written, easy to read, concise, and excellent discriptions and pictures. The size of the book is also perfect for bringing out in your coat pocket, when you are rambling around doing your detective work.

The author is also very witty and makes the book a really enjoybale read!
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2007
I have most of the funghi and mushroom guides available and I've been mushrooming for over 20 years. The photos are excellent and John Wright's writing is really entertaining - he actually made me laugh out loud!
Probably the best written guide around.
It even surpasses my other favourite right now, 'Setas de Galicia' which does beat it for lurid fungal photos, but is so heavy that it slows me down on the chase for a particularly good cep.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2008
I already owned a number of mushrooming books but, in many instances, they confused more than they helped; this book doesn't. Yes, you'll need some back up books, but this book really is superb and very, very well written, so much so that I read it in a day, just because it was so hilarious and enjoyable to read.

"I'm just off mushroom picking" is often the prelude to an obituary but armed with this book I feel I have a decent chance of eating wild mushroom omelettes well into my dotage.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2009
My wife and I began collecting edible mushrooms last year, and this book, our first on mushrooms, was the perfect starter. With its help we identified, collected and ate 4 varieties of edible fungi. With increasing experience and growing confidence we hope to expand our repertoire in this and future years.

The book is definitely not a comprehensive field guide. It restricts itself to 60-some readily identifiable edible species and a smaller number of the unpleasant-to-deadly fungi that must be avoided. Of particular value to the beginning fungi forager is the fact that the description of each edible species identifies any similar-looking poisonous fungi that might be gathered by mistake and gives a cross-reference to the book's detailed description of the poisonous species.

While the author makes clear the inherent risks of eating wild fungi and recommends cross-checking in multiple sources, the book is sufficiently clear and comprehensive within its range to give you the confidence to pick and eat your first foraged mushroom. Additionally, the text makes clear that some of the species are very easy to identify, while others take more experience to be sure of. Our four first-year mushrooms were all in that easy to identify category. But now, with a year's worth of puzzling over the various attributes of many fungi, we feel ready to branch out into the next category of the not-quite-so-easy-to identify.

And, of course, as other reviews have pointed out, this book is wonderfully written - full of wit and humour as well as sound advice. I have re-read most of it several times. and each time I learn a little more and still chuckle at some of the humour.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2009
I back onto the south downs and have picked and eaten field mushrooms for many years, I have often seen many types of fungus in the area as I walk my dog every day all year round, so I did a bit of research and found this book well recommended, I have to agree with most of the comments here and add that this has opened up an amazing new world to me and I am fast becoming a mushroom fanatic, in the past 2 weeks I have eaten 5 different varieties of mushroom with the confidance that I am not going to die (Always a bonus) and enjoyed every minute, especially wood blewitts with garlic, John is right about these! I highly recommend this book, especially for the novice it is not too complicated, great pictures and there are clear descriptions about most species to ensure you don't make a mistake.
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