The use of edible mushrooms for food dates back at least to early Roman times. Originally a delicacy for the elite, mushrooms are now extensively grown on a commercial scale, especially the cultivated mushroom or champignon, Agaricus bisporus, and the shiitake mushroom, Lentinus edodes. Their culture requires careful control of temperature and humidity. The bulk of the crop in the United States is grown near Philadelphia. In Europe more than 50 species of mushrooms are marketed. Although mushrooms contain some protein and minerals, they are largely composed of water and hence are of limited nutritive value.
The truffle, puffball, and other edible fungi are sometimes also called mushrooms. In all cases the term mushroom is properly restricted to the above-ground portion, which is the reproductive organ. Mushrooms are classified in the kingdom Fungi, phylum (division) Basidiomycota.
See A. H. Smith and N. A. Weber, The Mushroom Hunter's Field Guide (rev. ed. 1980); O. K. Miller, Jr., Mushrooms of North America (rev. ed. 1979); G. H. Lincoff, The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (1981).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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