Books: The Nibbling Kingdom

MUSHROOMS, MOLDS, AND MIRACLES by Lucy Kavaler. 318 pages. John Day. $6.50.

Fungus meant mushroom to the Romans. To scientists today, the term connotes a vast vegetable family whose members include some of man's best friends and some of his deadlier enemies. Only in recent decades has science even begun to tell which is which, or even to count their kind; so far, more than 100,000 species have been identified, and there are probably at least 150,000 more awaiting discovery.

The savory truffle is a fungus, and so is the unsavory trifle that causes...

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