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Mushrooms as health food, meat substitute and safety hazard

Mushrooms contain a fair amount of fiber and a relatively broad spectrum of vitamins, says Martha Powell, past president of the Mycological Society of America.

Plant pathologist Paul Wuest, pointing out that mushrooms are low in calories, low in fat and high in potassium, adds, "They are the ultimate health food."

If you long for a meaty flavor in chili but don't want to add meat to the beans, consider substituting some wild or cultivated specialty mushrooms.

They aren't inexpensive, but instead of chanterelles, which at $15 to $20 a pound are among the more expensive, use shiitake, at about $9 a pound, or cremini or an assortment.

The selling price of some wild mushroom varieties is up around $100 a pound. Last fall a wild-mushroom picker was shot to death in the Winema National Forest in Oregon, apparently by a rival picker, says forest service agent Bill Reanier, who routinely wears a bullet-proof vest.