Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Deep, Dark Mushroom Surprise

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Deep, Dark Mushroom Surprise

Article excerpt

`DOWN here, Poobie!"

Oh no! It was Emma calling to me from down in the basement of her house. Emma's mother, Mrs. Mack, grew all sorts of mushrooms down there in the dark. Grew them and sold them, every last one. Mushrooms. Why, the kids in the neighborhood almost never went down there, for who knew what creatures were hiding under all that dirt? Besides, the place smelled like an overturned chemistry set. And you could hear things growing from the top of the stairs, where I was now.

"Come on up, Emma."

"No, I need your help down here."

Down? The basement door was open, and up came a fungusy green light. My whole body started to itch. I made a face.

"Is your mom down there?" I asked.

"No, but she'll be back soon. Hurry!"

My best friend sounded worried. Down I went, trying not to touch anything, not even the railing, which was sure to be slimy. The place was warm and damp.

"Over here, Poobie."

I followed her voice around to the back of the stairs, where she was standing in front of long rows of what looked like wooden window boxes on a table. Two light bulbs shone down from the ceiling, making everything green - even Emma's face, her cobweb earrings, and her baseball cap.

She was wearing a pair of gardening gloves. "Careful not to touch anything," she warned.

"Don't worry," I said.

How could I with my hands inside my pockets?

"So, what's up, Emma?"

"It's like this," she said in a rush. "My sisters' birthday is tomorrow, and Mom told me to make them a mushroom pie, only I'm not sure which mushrooms'd go best, be tastiest."

The funny noise that came out of my mouth stopped her. "Emma, er ... a mushroom pie? For a birthday? Even teenagers don't like mushrooms that much, do they?"

I was confused, and so was Emma.

She said, "Got me. I wouldn't eat it."

Her twin sisters were weird, but not that weird.

"You said your mom told you to make this?"

"Yup. She told me to do what was on the note while she went shopping; she'd be back by lunch. The note's on the kitchen table. Only, we don't have much time."

I gulped, "We?" Did she mean me? She did.

"You'll see," she said. "But what about the mushrooms, which ones? Help me look."

I'd been trying hard not to, but now I did, and what I saw made my breath wzzzzzzzz out.

Mushrooms. Thousands of them, every shape and size, greenish in the fungusy light: fat doorknobs, oyster shells, pancakes, loops, plungers, arrow heads, and blobs. Furry marbles on stems to flatties the size of dinner plates. They had streaks, splotches, and spots on their backs. They were bubbly and crunchy and ... alive.

No wonder you could hear them growing! They were poking up out of the black dirt, stuck to the walls and bookcases, twirling around stacks of carton boxes, hanging down from the ceiling attached to the spidery network of wires. Mushrooms. Everywhere.

"Are they poisonous?" I asked.

Emma made a face. "They're not toadstools. Mom sells `em."

"I know," I said. "My mom always buys some."

"See. Now help me decide. Then we'll make the pie."

I looked around. "What about these mini-doorknobs?"

"Agaricus bisporus?" Emma's face brightened. "You're right, Poobie! I knew I could count on you. AB's grow in cereal. The next tastiest ... enokitake? No, probably the pleurotus. Yup, perfect. Help me pick some."

She handed me a pair of gloves.

"How do you know what they're called?" I wanted to know.

Emma laughed. "Guess," she said.

I could. If your mom grew mushrooms in the basement....

It took us about five minutes to fill up a little wicker basket, and then the two of us headed upstairs - fast. Curious, I went right to the scribbled note:

make bd pie

w mushrooms

heavy cream

cold asparagus

dill pepper

yogurt fruit

"You're right, Emma," I said. …

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