MUSHROOMS, fungus. Israel is rich in various species of mushroom which grow chiefly in the winter. A large number of them are poisonous. The poisonous ones are mainly of the genus Amanita. Easily recognizable among edible mushrooms are those of the genus Boletus, called in modern Hebrew orniyyot because they grow on the roots of the pine (mod. Heb. oren), of which most of the forests planted in Israel consist. The mushroom is not mentioned in the Bible, though some exegetes (Rashi, D. Kimi) identify it with the poisonous pakku'ot of II Kings 4:39–40. The pakku'ot, however, are the colocynth. In rabbinic literature the combination kemehim u-fitriyyot ("truffles and mushrooms") is usually found. They have in common that, although they "grow in the soil," one does not recite over them the blessing for vegetables but the blessing "by whose word everything was created." The Talmud gives as the reason that, unlike ordinary plants, "they do not draw their nourishment from the ground but from the air" (Ber. 40b). In this way they explained the fact that they possess no true roots, being fed by other plants, and absorbing moisture from the air. Mushrooms and truffles are also exempt from tithes (see: Ma'aser\>\> ), "because they do not grow by being sown, or, because the earth extrudes them" (TJ, Ma'as. 1:1, 48d). The latter reason refers to their quick growth, which makes it seem as if the earth is expelling them. The extensive sprouting of mushrooms after rain is reflected in the aggadah about Honi ha-Ma'agel\>\> who prayed for rain after drought. After rain had fallen in abundance and the heavens were free from clouds "the people went into the fields and brought home mushrooms and truffles" (Ta'an. 23a). Truffles are found chiefly in the light soils of the Judean wilderness and in the sands of the Negev. In contrast to mushrooms, they grow under the surface. In addition to kemehim, truffles are called shemarka'im (Uk. 3:2) in the Mishnah. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Loew, Flora, 1 (1928), 26–44. (Jehuda Feliks)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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