Forms deviating from the standard morphology usually have more specific names, such as "puffball", "stinkhorn", and "morel", and gilled mushrooms themselves are often called "agarics" in reference to their similarity to Agaricus or their placement in the order Agaricales. By extension, the term "mushroom" can also designate the entire fungus when in culture or the thallus (called a mycelium) of species forming the fruiting bodies called mushrooms, or the species itself.
Edible mushrooms are used extensively in cooking, in many cuisines . Though mushrooms are commonly thought to have little nutritional value, many species are high in fiber and provide vitamins .Though not normally a significant source of vitamin D, some mushrooms can become significant sources after exposure to ultraviolet light, though this also darkens their skin. Mushrooms are also a source of some minerals, including iron, selenium, potassium and phosphorus. Most mushrooms that are sold in markets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms. The most popular of these, Agaricus bisporus, is generally considered safe for most people to eat because it is grown in controlled, sterilized environments, though some individuals do not tolerate it well.
There are a number of species of mushroom that are poisonous, and although some resemble certain edible species, eating them could be fatal. Eating mushrooms gathered in the wild is risky and should not be undertaken by individuals not knowledgeable in mushroom identification, unless the individuals limit themselves to a relatively small number of good edible species that are visually distinctive. More generally, and particularly with gilled mushrooms, separating edible from poisonous species requires meticulous attention to detail; there is no single trait by which all toxic mushrooms can be identified, nor one by which all edible mushrooms can be identified.
People who collect mushrooms for consumption are known as mycophagists, and the act of collecting them for such is known as mushroom hunting, or simply "Mushrooming".
Many species of Mushrooms produce secondary metabolites that render them toxic, mind-altering, or even bioluminescent.Although there are only a small number of deadly species, several others can cause particularly severe and unpleasant symptoms.Toxicity likely plays a role in protecting the function of the basidiocarp: the mycelium has expended considerable energy and protoplasmic material to develop a structure to efficiently distribute its spores. One defense against consumption and premature destruction is the evolution of chemicals that render the mushroom inedible, either causing the consumer to vomit the meal, or to learn to avoid consumption altogether.
Psilocybin mushrooms possess psychedelic properties. They are commonly known as "magic mushrooms" "mushies" or "shrooms" and are available in smart shops in many parts of the world, though some countries have outlawed their sale. Because of their psychoactive properties, some mushrooms have played a role in native medicine, where they have been used in an attempt to effect mental and physical healing, and to facilitate visionary states.
Currently, many species of mushrooms and fungi used in folk medicine for thousands of years are under intense study by ethnobotanists and medical researchers. Maitake, shiitake, Agaricus blazei, chaga, and reishi are prominent among those being researched for their potential anti-cancer, anti-viral, or immunity-enhancing properties. Psilocybin, originally an extract of certain psychedelic mushrooms, is being studied for its ability to help people suffering from mental disease, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. Minute amounts have been reported to stop cluster and migraine headaches.
Mushrooms can be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibers. The chromophores of mushrooms are organic compounds and produce strong and vivid colors, and all colors of the spectrum can be achieved with mushroom dyes. Before the invention of synthetic dyes mushrooms were the source of many textile dyes.