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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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mushroom a term of uncertain derivation, first recorded as an English word in the 9th century; it seems likely to have come from mousseron, a French term which nowadays applies only to various small mushrooms. The Grete Herbal of 1526 said of ‘mussherons’ that: ‘There be two maners of them, one maner is deedly and sleath them that eateth of them and be called tode stoles.’ Thus at that time mushroom was, as now, a wide meaning and could embrace toadstools too.

Scientists now use ‘mushroom’ in the strict sense to denote only the fruiting body of a fungus of either the order Agaricales (in which falls the common field mushroom and others—see agaric) or the order Boletales (in which the cep or king bolete is best known). But in everyday usage the word can be used very generally, applying to any edible fungi; and is certainly taken to include any edible fungus of the same general shape as a mushroom proper, having a round cap and usually a stalk. Some kinds of mushroom which grow out of the side of a tree trunk have almost no stalk. For example the oyster fungus, often called the oyster mushroom, has a very short, offset stem. And there are also stemless fungi attached directly to a tree trunk and known collectively as bracket fungi. But even these can be called mushrooms. Any fungus of obviously non-mushroom shape, such as the puffball, morel, or truffle, is usually referred to under its own name; but the general remarks on mushrooms here refer to these equally.