Mushrooms, or fungi, separated from plants together with animals over a billion of years ago. Technically they are closer related to us humans than any other plant-based organism. Below the forest ground, fungal bodies extend themselves in nets and skeins, binding roots and mineral soils, and communicating through tiny threads called mycelium. These travel underground, connecting the roots of different plants in an area, even different species, allowing them to communicate. They are also very robust and are masters of survival: the first living thing to emerge from the soil of the blasted landscape after the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 was a mushroom.
Simultaneously they are delicious culinary treats. Their aromas are not pleasant, but mouldy and heavy, disturbing even, evoking a sense of sadness in some. Amongst many mystifying tales around what was Buddha’s last meal is evidence around sukara-maddava or truffle-like fungus that was found in Bihar and fed by the monks to Buddha. Soon after consuming this Buddha died and attained nirvana.
They grow fast and stubbornly in a dark and damp environment, some glow at night, some are poisonous, some rare and some create enormous economic value. Enjoy devouring these wonders on toast.