Zine Review: Radical Mycology

We have much to learn from mushrooms, says the just-released zine, Radical Mycology.  Authored by the self-identified Spore Liberation Front, the primer states in its “call to sporulate:”

The complex life of mushrooms provides profound and novel examples of networking between different species and environs not exhibited by most other life forms.  These actions show a sentient concern for not just the mushroom involved but for the surrounding environment as well.  We believe that as one learns more about these habits, and the ways in which they can influence our own human behavior, one quickly begins to perceive the interconnectedness of life surrounding them all the more clearly.

Clearly, this is no standard field Guide.  Radical Mycology is a political and spiritual call to humanity to look down at the ground and learn from one of the most wondrous living organisms known. Most mushroom affectionados will have no difficulty comparing their mycological friends to human existence and sustainability, but this zine brings this concern more sharply into focus than most publications.

The “networking” that the SLF are referring to is one of the major forms and life stages of mushrooms: mycelium.  The mycelium is the “vast underground web-like structure” that is the hidden vegetative body that produces the mushroom “fruit.”  Many mushrooms you see above ground can be part of the same mycelium below.  In fact, one single mycelium network in Eastern Oregon has been identified as possibly the largest living organism in the world, stretching over 2,400 acres! Mycelium have recently been understood to act as kind of underground economy for their habitat, not only providing nutrients for surrounding organisms, but actually acting as a middleman between them!  Radical Mycology contains a “Mycorestoration” section that details the new science of using mushrooms to restore habitats.

The zine discusses species identification and culinary uses, but this is often where other written works end.  Radical Mycology goes further by offering cultivation tips and other interesting tidbits, like stories of hunters intentionally causing forest fires to produce a flush of Morel mushrooms.  It freely discuss the psychedelic properties of mushrooms, both for spiritual and medicinal use.  Along with using mushrooms to dye fabric and make paper, the zine reveals the often misunderstood fungi to have a history of use as old as civilization itself.