Taking Inventory: Mushroom

Do you need to make much-room in your day to read this?

Not much grows naturally in Minecraft’s caves. You might find the occasional patch of mossy cobblestone, or vines near the surface, but the only plant life you’ll normally come across when mining are mushrooms. Which just so happen to be our item of the week!

Wait, go back a minute. Plant life? NO! Mushrooms aren’t actually plants. All plants contain a chemical called chlorophyll which they use to turn sunlight into energy, and which also makes them green, but mushrooms don’t have chlorophyll at all. Instead, they get their energy by breaking down decaying organic matter.

So what are they then? They’re fungi, which is a category all of its own, and also includes yeasts and moulds. Fungi don’t get as much attention as plants, because they tend to live in soil or underground where they can’t be seen. In fact, they’re genetically closer to animals than they are plants. Think about that next time you cook up a mushroom stew.

Mushrooms were added to Minecraft way back in June 2009, in the same update that added the first flowers, blocks of gold, and — believe it or not — the inventory. Without the inventory you wouldn’t get to read ‘Taking Inventory every week and I wouldn’t get paid, so it’s a good thing that made it in there. Originally, they were purely a decorative item, dropped by pigs and sheep when they were killed.

When survival mode was implemented, mushrooms were an early source of healing. Brown mushrooms would heal you for two and a half hearts, but red mushrooms would damage you for one and a half hearts. In the real world, some mushrooms are poisonous too, so don’t just go eating weird mushrooms you find on the ground. In fact, don’t eat anything you find on the ground. In fact, don’t eat anything. Ever. Better safe than sorry!

Over the years, Minecraft’s mushrooms have become a lot more interesting. They no longer restore health, but you can craft them into stew, which fills up the hunger bar. In version 1.0 of Minecraft, rare mushroom island biomes were added, which are covered with mushrooms but also serve as the home of bizarre cow-mushroom hybrids called “mooshrooms”.

If you want to find mushrooms in Minecraft, the best places to look are mushroom islands (obviously), underground, and in the Nether — where mushrooms spawn freely. Once you’ve got a few, plant them on podzol and bonemeal them to get huge mushrooms, which can be broken down into LOADS of tiny mushrooms, each of which can be planted again. Soon you’ll be swimming in mushrooms. Don’t forget your bathing costume! And that swimming in water would be far more pleasant!

Unfortunately there are no mooshrooms in the real world, but regular mushrooms are a much more important part of our lives then you might imagine. Without fungi, we wouldn’t have bread, wine, beer, or antibiotics. More importantly, we also wouldn’t have forests or lots of other natural biomes, all of which rely on fungi to break down dead material into food for new plants.

So next time you spy a mushroom while mining, remember that without these humble beings, the world as we know it would be totally different. Then turn it into a stew, because it’s delicious. Yum.

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere