Mushroom Gastronomy by Krista Towns (Gibbs Smith) $35 – Published on June 4th, 2024

I always look forward to cracking open a good mushroom cookbook, but this one truly was a delight for the eyes. I’ve read many that fail to capture the entire fungal magnificence, but this one presents each and every mushroom like a veritable work of art.

This book covers some 24 species of mushrooms over the course of over 100 recipes, including some real classic preparations, fascinating fungal substitutions (Maitake Philly Cheesesteak anyone?), intriguing cocktails and teas, and even a few desserts thrown in for good measure. While accessible enough for anyone just getting into cooking with mushrooms, there’s enough depth and kitchen experimentation here to interest even a seasoned cook.

The introductory section covers some of the more basic aspects of the topic at hand. We look at a basic mushroom-cooking pantry, a brief overview of cooking and preserving methods (including smoking), followed by a very short section regarding foraging, mainly warning the inexperienced to be very careful indeed. This isn’t an identification guide by any means, as there are a multitude of other books out there suitable for that purpose. Thankfully, Mushroom Gastronomy has the sense not to attempt to be everything for everyone (all at once).



Each mushroom is illustrated with beautiful close-up photographs that put many other such books to shame. This is followed by a brief overview touching upon cultural history, worldwide distribution, and where you’ll find them, whether in an Asian grocery store or under broad-leaved beech or oak trees. It’s a nice touch that shows the occasional intersectionality between wild and cultivated fungi.

Krista Towns then goes on to list nutritional value, selection, storage and then recommended cooking methods with some cool little tips and tricks- just don’t call them “hacks”, please!

Although ideas of what ingredients to combine with different mushrooms will come naturally to more experienced cooks, I found the inclusion of a “flavour thesaurus” for each specific species a little touch of genius.

For example, it’s suggested that Black Trumpet Mushrooms go well with: Butter, Citrus, Cheese (cream, goat, ricotta), Eggs, Fish (cod, salmon, white fish), Garlic, Ham, Herbs (fresh basil, parsley, tarragon), Lemon, Olive oil, Pasta, Pork, Potatoes, Poultry, Rice, Shallots, Squash, Wine (white). You see, even if one knows these things already, it’s nice to have a little reminder of the options open to you.

Living in rural Ontario, I have access (albeit fairly sporadic) to most of the wild mushrooms contained within, but when it comes to cultivated “wild” fungi, there are few species that I find myself pining for. I very much doubt I’ll be seeing Cordyceps, Matsutake, Nebrodini, or Huit Lacoche mushrooms at any farmers’ markets or country (not-so) supermarkets anytime soon.

Saying that, it’s a lovely, well-thought-out book that I think all of my family will benefit from.

(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)