If you go down to the woods today…the last of the St George’s mushrooms have sadly gone, killed by the heat.
But in memoriam of these delicious morsels for another year, I want to celebrate the Japanese naturalist and illustrator Minakata Kumagusu.
Kumagusu is something of a legend in Japan thanks to his work ‘The Illustrated Book of Bionomics of Japanese Fungi’. This book covers 4,500 different kind of fungi with an amazing 15,000 illustrations.
He essentially devoted much of his life to what we find in dark, damp places. For example, turning up new varieties of mycetozoan, a kind of slime mould, which admittedly doesn’t sound quite so appealing.
And his work lives on in the varieties of mushroom used in modern-day Japanese cooking – the maitake, bunashimeji, matsutake, enoki and hiratake, as well as the more ubiquitous shiitake.
Check out a particularly good example via Aki Matsushima’s combination in her Masterchef dish of clam steamboat with dashi jelly, smoked chicken oysters, seafood and vegetables.
Anyway to return to Kumagusu. You can’t purchase his huge mushroom tome - it’s viewable only at the the archives in Tanabe.
But you can enjoy more about his life here, and revel in his love of microbiology at the museum celebrating his life and work in Wakayama.
Kumagusu closed his life in 1941 with the words: “I can see purple flowers blooming on the ceiling” - obviously obscuring the many mushrooms up there as well.