Mushrooms form a separate taxonomical kingdom of their own. In general, they are of poor nutritional value, and contain a higher percentile of toxic, harmful or inedible strains within their kingdom than other plants by way of comparison. Regardless of their poor qualities, they are one of the few organic forms of plantlife that may flourish in utter darkness, such as the caverns of Exile. In addition to the capability to grow without a proper source of light, the mushrooms grow and spread faster than plantlife of comparable size.
Mushrooms are the main means of subsistence for those living in the caves of Exile. The fast-growing mushrooms that thrive in Exile with a minimal amount of care were created or altered by the archmage Erika Redmark. They are farmed similarly to crops like corn and wheat on the surface. It is noteworthy that vahnatai of the lower caverns have cultivated strains of their own, either by creating such populations from scratch or by assisted evolution. Like humans, the vahnatai use mushroom-derivatives as the bulk of their diet.
Avernites have developed a variety of mushroom dishes, including: mushroom soup, mushroom bread, fried mushrooms, candied mushrooms, and many tantalizing combinations of mushrooms with lichen and giant lizard meat. Mushrooms are also ground into a meal which is used in place of flour to make rolls. Mushrooms may be fermented to create mushroom ale. Mushroom wine is produced as well, using a special breed of mushrooms developed by the Tower of Magi and grown around Almaria.
Despite their poor nutritional value, the mushrooms' benefits include providing essential micronutrients and minerals. Avernites who have returned to the surface have been found to be less susceptible to common diseases as well. For these reasons, mushroom farming has begun in earnest all over the Empire, although much of it is concentrated in Krizsan Province and Karnold Province in Valorim.
Mushrooms are also used in a variety of weapon and military poisons, and certain alchemical formulas. Although mushroom poisons are not particularly potent, poisonous mushrooms can be lethal. Poisonous mushrooms, including many toadstools, have been cleared from most populated areas of Avernum, but still exist in the darker recesses of the caves. Any citizens planning to grow their own mushrooms should check carefully with an expert to make sure that they are growing an edible variety, as the alternative can be extremely unpleasant and gruesome.
Several magical varieties of mushrooms also exist, though they are much rarer. Healing mushrooms (such as Aescal mushrooms) have a restorative effect, and are sometimes used in alchemy. Hallucinogenic mushrooms release spores that induce wild hallucinations and eventually sleep in anyone who comes near them. These mushrooms have only been sighted in the Za-Khazi Run. Rarest of all, euphoric mushrooms cause an extreme feeling of peace and happiness when they are ingested. Their victims often become so fixated on the mushrooms that they are unable to do anything but search for more mushrooms.