If you’re thinking those mushrooms Anne Renwick wrote about in FLIGHT OF THE SCARAB are real, you’d be right!

Their scientific name is: Tricholoma matsutake

The matsutake mushroom is a rare, highly sought after (and therefore expensive to buy) wild mushroom in possession of a spicy, earthy and piney flavor. Though it originated in Japan, China and Korea, it can be found growing in Europe and on the west coast of North America. 

The Marvelous Matsutake Mushroom

This is a mycorrhizal mushroom meaning it forms a symbiotic relationship with pine trees. This makes them difficult to cultivate. Roots and the mycelium intertwine letting mushrooms provide minerals and nutrients to the tree – and the tree reciprocates by sharing sugars with the mushroom.

Cultivating matsutake, valuable edible fungi

Do people really ferment them into wine and beer?

They do indeed! Pine mushrooms are used to make a traditional Korean wine: Would You Believe it – Mushroom Wine! And there’s also the Flying Dutchman Mushroom Picking-Ass Kicking-Matsutake Ale. Or, if you prefer to make your own, here’s a home brew recipe: Homebrewing With Mushrooms.

Do they have medicinal value?

They do! Scientific studies have shown that a polysaccharide (sugar) that the mushroom makes has antimicrobial and anti-tumor properties: Anti-microorganism, anti-tumor, and immune activities of a novel polysaccharide isolated from Tricholoma matsutake. Unsurprisingly, they have a long history of traditional medicinal use in Chinese and Japanese medicine. Check out this page for more information AND some great photos of this mushroom: The Power of Matsutake Mushrooms in Medicinal Use

Do matsutake mushrooms glow?

Alas, they do not. Purely fiction. Do they form fairy rings? Again, no. 

Do any mushrooms glow? Why, yes, some do! Approximately 112 mushrooms are known to emit a faint green bioluminescence using luciferins and luciferases – one of these real species shows up in A SNOWFLAKE AT MIDNIGHT. In this book, however, our glowing matsutake mushroom fairy ring is fictional – though it does grow beneath a pine tree. For more on how bioluminescence works, check out this post.

Why Do Mushrooms Glow in the Dark?

Why Latvia?

Because they are among the world’s most avid mushroom pickers, heading into the woods with a basket and a knife in search of edible mushrooms. They have a nature deity called the Sēņu māte or Mushroom mother. (Check out the list of mātes!)

Latvians & Mushrooms – A Not-So-Secret Love Affair

Latvia is Home to Europe’s Most Active Mushroom Pickers

Flight of the Scarab by Anne Renwick, a Steampunk Gaslamp Fantasy Romance

About Anne

Though USA TODAY bestselling author Anne Renwick holds a Ph.D. in biology and greatly enjoyed tormenting the overburdened undergraduates who were her students, fiction has always been her first love. Today, she writes steampunk romance, placing a new kind of biotech in the hands of mad scientists, proper young ladies and determined villains.

Anne brings an unusual perspective to steampunk. A number of years spent locked inside the bowels of a biological research facility left her permanently altered. In her steampunk world, the Victorian fascination with all things anatomical led to a number of alarming biotechnological advances. Ones that the enemies of Britain would dearly love to possess.

To chat with Anne, stop by on Facebook or join the Department of Cryptobiology Facebook group. You can also join her newsletter list to have cover reveals, sneak peaks, sales and giveaways delivered straight to your inbox.

1 Comment

  1. Tina

    Sadly I’m not a fan of mushrooms. I’ve never liked the earthy taste of them. 🤷🏼‍♀️ But I enjoy reading about them. I wonder if it’s a coincidence that mushrooms figure in both of my favorite books…Snowflake and Scarab?!

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