This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
"I am a mushroom enthusiast. Danger of poison? Not a bit of it. With the exercise of a little common sense there is no danger of mistaking the edible variety for those that are poisonous. All toadstools, technically speaking, are mushrooms, but all mushrooms are not toadstools. Popular custom has given the name of mushroom only to the variety used in the kitchen. I have seen both sorts growing side by side, and exactly similar in appearance, but the difference is soon apparent when you attempt to remove the skin. You can't skin a toadstool; it will break off in small fragments. The covering of the non-poisonous, on the contrary, can be removed without the slightest difficulty. Mushrooms are extensively cultivated in France, but I did not know until recently that a simitar industry was practised in this city (Philadelphia), I had frequently noticed on Boldt's bill of fare, even in the depth of winter, 'fresh mushrooms,' and this naturally led to inquiry. I found that there are four or five persons in Philadelphia who make a business of cultivating the delicious fungi, and that in addition quite a large number of private house holders grow them in their cellars. One gardener utilizes a large Dock Street cellar for the purpose.
A down-town truckman forces them to grow under the glass of a hot-house. An old Frenchwoman and her daughter down in 'The Neck' are more successful than all others, they having a bed made in an enclosed cow-shed. The largest grower is J. E. Kingsley, of the Continental Hotel, who has a large farm in addition to the biggest hotel in town. Those who grow them here receive from $1.00 to $1.50 per quart for them, and on some occasions even higher figures are obtained. When you come to eat them in the cafe a. one-dollar note buys you about two mushrooms, and yet at that figure they do not even approach the delicacy of flavor and deli -ciousness of taste of the same growth when purchased in the open market house for from 10 to 25 cents a quart. I tell you it is almost impossible to counterfeit nature. For instance, what a mockery are the canned mushrooms that so many people eat under a wild idea that they are enjoying a luxury! They are of a different species from our wild mushrooms, and are cultivated in immense caves near Paris. When in their early or button growth they are canned and sent to this country, where they are served in sauces. But what a delusion! To one whose palate can quickly appreciate the delicacy of the true article they taste as though one were chewing on preserved shavings.
On a vacant plot of building land in the immediate neighborhood of the Harrow road and within four miles of Charing Cross is produced annually what is probably the most valuable crop grown in the open air and without the aid of glass on any acre of English soil. The space occupied is, indeed, rather more than an acre, the rent being just £12 a year, but the space devoted to mushrooms and manure is under an acre, and the uninitiated will be astonished to learn that from this small plot has been gathered in the last twelve months about twelve thousand pounds weight of mushrooms, all of which have been sold at Covent Garden at a price varying according to the season, but averaging ten-pence a pound for the whole year. Now, the value of twelve thousand pounds at ten-pence per pound is just five hundred pounds sterling. We have therefore the amazing circumstance that an acre of our metropolitan area has produced a richer garden crop than the cosiest corner of Kent or the most favored nook on Lord Sudeley's jam farm in Gloucestershire".