Writing Practice 1/5/2020 – “Mushrooms”

It is a strange mashup we have made in English for those multi-faceted varieties of fungus. We call them mushrooms, from a very strange quirk of language. Originally they were called “toe-fruit”, up until approximately the 13th century. Such a name applied because they were often harvested by walking through the forest, and kicking at the growths on the ground with your toes.

All of that changed, though, with the advent of 13th century farming techniques. A young farmer in England, whose name is unfortunately lost to history, had been finding toe-fruits in the wild for years. One afternoon she had entered her walled-off compost room at the side of her house, and found the toe-fruits growing not only at ground level, but at many different heights up and down the walls.

We now know that the spores of such must have been spread onto the rich, fertile compost by some method – mice, or perhaps accidental distribution via undigested food, or some other means. We know not what she said, or what she believed, but we do know that she became one of the first to cultivate toe-fruits with regularity, ultimately using the profits of her harvest to build another compost-room, and leveraging success over and over. The villagers around found her toe-fruits were ecstatic to find a regular, reliable source of such edibles, and when they asked her where she found them, she would cryptically reply that they came from “mush room”. Not wanting to give away the secrete of [illegible], for if she did others might apply the same to their own benefit, they more [illegible] accepted this bounty and applied the spoils to their lives.

Thus was both the strange name of the mushroom, which has carried on down to the modern day. Should you ever encounter other cultures and languages, though, you will often find yourself dealing with a name that, should it be translated literally, resembles not so much a room full of mush, but the fruit of your smallest digit.

Cheers!