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AGRICULTURE: Gastronomic great leap forward

Scientists have taken a giant leap for gastronomy by growing the highly prized golden chantrelle wild mushroom in a greenhouse. Until now, the fungus has defied all attempts at cultivation and can only be harvested from pine forests.

Large quantities are imported from the United States because it is a variety in decline throughout Europe. The team, led by Eric Danell from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, reported in the science journal Nature that they had transferred pine seedlings carrying the fungus into pots in March, 1995. Five fruit-bodies emerged during the following spring and autumn.

The scientists believe their technique could be applied to other endangered species, such as Tricholoma matsutake, which is the most valuable mushroom in the world, costing about pounds 60 each.