Though Barbora Batokova grew up in the city, she's always been a country girl at heart. In fact, she has fond memories of time spent with her family outside the city foraging mushrooms. This love of mushrooms stayed with her as she moved from her native Czech Republic to the United States for university. And as a way to stay connected with her heritage, she revisited the idea of photographing and foraging mushrooms. This gave birth to Fungiwoman, Batokova's Instagram and website, which is not only a collection of mushroom photography but a resource of information and inspiration.
Batokova has always been interested in the variety of shapes, sizes, and colors found in fungi and how they can be used as ingredients to create a delicious meal. But photographing them has opened up a whole new world for her.
“I began to learn about the fascinating world of mushrooms and how powerful and amazing they are,” she tells My Modern Met. “They can do so much!
“They are well known for their indispensable role in the forests and recycling organic matter, but there's so much more. Thanks to their chemical defenses and properties, they present a huge potential in medicine as well as in defense against bioterrorist threats. They can break down toxic waste, creating a huge potential for mycoremediation, a form of bioremediation in which fungi are used to decontaminate the environment.
“I am so amazed at the seemingly endless possibilities of how mushrooms can help save the planet, fix what we've broken, and make our lives better and more sustainable!”
Through her work, Batokova hopes to inspire others to learn more about these incredible organisms, and to think more about sustainability in nature. She also hopes to bridge the disconnect that people often have with the natural world by providing them with tools to get out into the forest and see the incredible mushrooms that surround them.
Batokova carries out this mission through informative captions on her Instagram posts and with information and recipes on the Fungiwoman website. In spring 2024, she will release a book that collects all of her knowledge and love for mushrooms. In this way, she wants to change perceptions about them, particularly in the United States, where she's found a lot of fear from people about selecting poisonous mushrooms.
“My goal is to introduce readers to mushroom foraging, share some of my personal mushroom-related stories, and teach them about the major groups of mushrooms, as well as the most sought-after edibles like chanterelles, morels or porcini; the most poisonous like the death caps or eastern destroying angels; or medicinal mushrooms like reishi and turkey tails. I am also including mushroom recipes that are often inspired by Czech cuisine. One of the hardest things so far has been narrowing down which mushrooms to write about and picking out the photos for the book!”