Known as the meat of the vegetable world, mushrooms have their ardent supporters as well as their fierce detractors. J.R.R. Tolkien's hobbits went crazy over them, while the French philosopher Denis Diderot thought they should be 'sent back to the dung heap where they are born'. In Mushroom, Cynthia D. Bertelsen examines the colourful history of edible fungi, whose story is fraught with murder and accidental death, hunger and gluttony, sickness and health, religion and war. Some cultures equate them with the rottenness of life while others delight in cooking and eating them, and elevate them to the status of delicacy. And then there are those 'magic' mushrooms which some people link to ancient religious beliefs. In the nineteenth century mushrooms entered the realm of haute cuisine after millennia of being picked from the wild for use in everyday cooking and medicine. This new demand drove entrepreneurs and farmers to seek methods for cultivating mushrooms, including experiments in domesticating the highly sought after but elusive truffles. Packed with images of mushrooms both nondescript and outlandish from around the globe, this savoury book will be essential reading for any who appreciate the earthy delights of mushrooms.