Eugenia Bone on Mushrooms, Myths, and Foraging

April  9, 2013

We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today: We talk to Eugenia Bone, food writer and mushroom enthusiast. Her latest book, Mycophilia, explores the world of mushrooms and those who study, search for, and eat them. Read on, and enter to win a newly minted paperback!

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Eugenia Bone loves mushrooms. She loves mushrooms so much that she has spent years studying the science and culture surrounding this mysterious class of organism whose mere definition is difficult to pin down. In her latest book, Mycophilia -- which just recently came out in paperback -- Bone describes the world of foragers with warm-hearted amusement and manages to present the science of the mushroom kingdom in a fascinating and readable way.

Intrigued by what would drive someone to dedicate so much time to the study of fungus, we chatted with Eugenia about her favorite food, and the new website that she hopes will unite -- and attract -- mushroom lovers from all over the world.

Give us a brief explanation of how you came to write about this subject. Why delve into the world of mushrooms?
It all started with basic gluttony: I like to eat wild mushrooms very much, but I only knew how to recognize a few.

I eventually recognized that in order to find wild mushrooms, two things had to happen: first, I had to learn why mushrooms grew where they did and when. Second, I had to go where the mushrooms are, which led to my travels all over the USA in search of great hunting grounds. I became obsessed with the weird and graceful biology, the larger subjects of ecosystem architecture and symbiosis, and the totally kooky culture of amateur mycologists. Bottom line, I made lots of wonderful friends and ate and drank myself silly.

Foraging season is almost upon us -- do you have any exciting trips planned? 
I’m thinking about the following trips: at the end of May, a hunt with Larry Evans and the Montana Mycological Society in Missoula. We’ll hunt burn morels on the site of last summer’s forest fires, camp, and eat meals by the river prepared by a local chef. Then, in August, I’ll go to the Telluride Mushroom Festival in Colorado to hunt porcini mushrooms in the San Juans at 10,000 feet. And in October, I am hoping to go to the Mushroom Gathering at the Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, where we hunt cinnamon-flavored matsutake in old growth forest, then soak in the steamy natural hot springs.

Of course, in the meantime, I’ll go to the Bronx to gather ramps, I’ll check my oyster spot on the East End of Long Island, I’ll dig the first dandelions from my parent’s lawn in Westchester, and I’ll hunt natural morels in Nyack with my club, the New York Mycological Society.


Learn more about the most common varieties of mushrooms.

What is your favorite mushroom to cook with?
You’re killing me. What I really love to do is a forest blend. A combination of mushrooms has so much subtle depth of flavor. But okay: I love maitake (wild and cultivated) roasted, candy caps in sweet applications, black trumpets pickled, and Amanita caesarea (the Italians call it ovoli) raw with olive oil. I love porcini raw, but also grilled, and the white button, in sauces for proteins.

What's the biggest myth or misconception surrounding mushrooms? 
There are lots, both in the biological and culinary realms. But let's stick to the culinary. Poisonous mushrooms tarnish a silver spoon: not true. Mushrooms that grow on wood are safe: nope. Mushrooms that animals eat are safe: nope. Mushrooms that can be peeled are safe: no.

There are something like 10,000 species of fungi that produce fleshy mushrooms (out of 1.5 million species altogether). About 400 of them are poisonous, 20 of which are commonly found, and 6 of which are lethal. When mycologists say poisonous, they are including mushrooms that make you drool uncontrollably and mushrooms that make you trip, as well as mushrooms that disintegrate your liver. On the other hand, of the 2,000 species considered edible, 100 are widely gathered and 15 to 30 are commonly eaten.

Tell us about your new website -- what is your vision for is a way for me to communicate with my readers, to help them find a mushroom club in their area, to steer them toward the mushroom forays and events that happen all over the country year round, and to answer questions. I get lots of blurry pictures of mushrooms in my mailbox. I also have dozens of mushroom recipes posted, relevant scientific papers, and links to mushroom-related websites. I like to see the website as a funnel: people go in because they read my book, but they go out with access to the greater mushroom community.

We're giving away a copy of Mycophilia to three fungus-loving Food52ers! To enter, tell us in the comments: what's your favorite way to prepare mushrooms? We'll pick the winners at random this Friday, April 12 at 3 PM EST.

Ready to cook with mushrooms?
Top your crostini with morels.
Entertain with a rich galette full of mushrooms, leeks and fennel.
Balance the crunch of celery with sautéed mushrooms.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lisa Poe Taylor
    Lisa Poe Taylor
  • EmFraiche
  • cookinginvictoria
  • Zelda S
    Zelda S
  • Amanda Nicole
    Amanda Nicole
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Lisa P. March 9, 2014
A much anticipated spring culinary tradition, foraged morels and asparagus.
EmFraiche December 1, 2013
Thank you for posting this interview! I read Eugenia's book a few months ago and was recently able to hold a halfway intelligent conversation with the wild mushroom guy at our farmers market about the pros and cons of the local pacific NW truffles vs the imported Italian truffles he was selling. I loved At Mesa's Edge as well!
cookinginvictoria April 12, 2013
I love all mushrooms, but if I had to pick just one, I think that I would opt for fresh morels, simply sauteed in butter with a little lemon juice or white wine. Sadly, the season for these beauties is short. They are available only for a very brief window in the spring. Whenever they appear at my local farmer's market, I splurge (yes, they are very pricey but so worth it!) and buy a bag.
Zelda S. April 12, 2013
I love them in salad.
Amanda N. April 11, 2013
I love fresh shiitake mushrooms sliced thin, sauteed with garlic, oyster sauce, shallot, and green beans til both are browned and caramelized and delicious!
Colleen,Nguyen April 11, 2013
Mushroom risotto, hands down
LeBec F. April 11, 2013
Chanterelles are my top mushroom for their sublime flavor and their unctuous silky creamy texture. My fav treatment is in an equally unctuous silky creamy risotto with chicken stock, white wine, garlic, parmesan, and a good amount of coarse freshly ground black pepper.
LeBec F. April 11, 2013
It's bad enough that Eugenia is smart and talented, but does she have to be so darn beautiful?
Susige April 10, 2013
I'm with mrslarkin on this one! Sometimes I eat so many out of the pan as they're cooking they don't make it to the table. ;0
Arin_Will April 10, 2013
Three ways.
shitakes that are umami braised. basically everything that you can think of that would be considered to have "umami notes'' (worsterschershire, balsamic, black garlic, kombu, fish sauce, tomato paste, really good coffee, game meat trim, etc.) braise them in the liquid and serve them hot with just about anything.
Confit Chantrelles, especially the little button ones, absolutely adorable, and more delicious than candy.
Raw lobster mushrooms microplaned over hazelnut agnolotti and served hot. so good.
oliveannie April 10, 2013
A favorite is too hard to pick! Marinated and grilled, pickled in red wine, stuffed with mushroom-walnut pate and baked, or just sautéed in garlic and butter are all vying for the top of the list. I had a mycology professor in college who would whip out the Bunsen burner and fry up some of our finds after we identified our foraged classroom materials. Can't wait to read the book! Yum!
Desert D. April 10, 2013
On pasta and pizza.
Jj April 10, 2013
I like marinated criminis, but also like my vegetarian pate with crimins (or buttons) watercress, scallions, and balsamic reduction.
Ruth J. April 10, 2013
I love to fry up white button mushrooms with butter and eat them in an open-faced sandwich with a fried egg and cheese on French bread.
And, of course, a rich mushroom soup with a mixture of wild varieties.
Fernando R. April 10, 2013
I love criminis in my fritattas.
Elizabeth R. April 9, 2013
I like them best sauteed over high heat, when the edges are crispy. Second to that, I like them batter-fried.
mrslarkin April 9, 2013
thin-sliced button mushrooms, sauteed slowly with butter, sprinkle of salt, until they begin to brown and the edges get crispy. yum!
Aliwaks April 9, 2013
I dry saute them with a branch of thyme in pan with lots of room until kind of crispy and brown on the edges then I love them tossed with fresh pasta, bit of good butter (truffle if I have it), flurry chopped chives & shaved parm or the same over very soft scrambled eggs, or on buttered toast, or actually spread across pizza dough with a few glugs of olive oil in place of butter and baked with a runny egg in the center.
Jennifer A. April 9, 2013
I love to cook them over medium low heat in a sauce pan with just a very little bit of oil, until all of the water starts to escapt them, then turn up to medium high add sherry until it cooks off, then butter and thyme (and then tuck it all in an omelet with goats cheese)
njc209 April 9, 2013
I like to dehydrate (really concentrates the flavors) then let sit in olive oil for a few days. I'll eat on top of good toasted bread with a little manchego.