I have a very good friend in Slovenia with whom I share interests in mineral collecting and in enjoying edible mushrooms. Mirjan and his wife Marija roam the local forests, collecting a great variety of edible mushrooms. Some are familiar to me because of closely related American species, and many are not. Mirjan often sends me pictures of the results of their latest foray – a table full of one or several kinds and colors of the currently available species.
But Mirjan has always been jealous of any morels that I find (I report my successes, of course). He always says that no matter how hard they look, they never find any. Apparently they don’t grow around there, he says.
So about the beginning of April, I got the following message from Mirjan, with the subject “unbelievable”:
You would probably recall my lamentations on morel mushrooms that we couldn’t find in spite of all our efforts.
This morning Marija told me that some strange mushrooms were sprouting in our garden. As a matter of fact we had four days of a steady rain that was hardly expected because not a single drop fall in March. When I stepped out I couldn’ t believe my eyes. There were true morels growing in our garden – subspecies Morchella conica var. Costata. As of today, nine of them. The largest on the photograph is about 7 cm tall.
Last year we decided to revive our garden a little bit and changed a green layer of I-don’t-know-the-name-of-green-plant that covered that portion and covered it with tree bark. It seems that the morels were always there but we didn’t noticed them under the green cover. It is, namely, obvious that they grow from under the slabs. I’ll wait for a day or two to see if they will get larger, otherwise they will end on a plate. I look forward to eating them.
And a couple of days later:
It was evident today that the morels had gained in size, but I couldn’t resist any longer so they fell victim to my appetite. Marija prepared them with spaghetti and cream — delicious.
I made two photographs on April 3 and today, and put them side by side in approximately the same scale. See the attached file. I’d say that the largest one gained about 25% in four days, which was not enough to wait any longer. Who knows, maybe a wicked and greedy snail would come by and eat away all of my decades long efforts.
It may comfort some Ohio morel hunters to know that the frustration of a failed search is widely shared. Still, I would not recommend the strategy of waiting for them to appear in your garden!
Sneakily slithering, seeking sustenance, single celled slime molds slowly slide through the forest…
It takes a keen eye, and a good amount of moisture to catch a myxomycete! These tiny friends of fungi are often found on dead wood, but can sometimes even be seen creeping across your lawn.
The first myxo that ever caught my attention was Arcyria denudata, which I first saw in a field guide. I immediately loved the common name “Cotton Candy Slime Mold”. Getting to meet one in real life, however, was even more thrilling, as the tiny pinkish red fruit bodies really do evoke memories of the fluffy fair food! One of the most prolific slimes in our area is Fuligo septica, which has the stomach-churning common name of ‘dog vomit slime mold’. Since I’m not a dog owner, I can’t speculate as to the visual accuracy of this name, but I’d guess it exists for a reason. You’ll often find it creeping through a flower bed in urban areas, though it can be found in the wild as well.
There are also many species of Trichia, Hemitrichia, and Metatrichia that frequent Ohio. Careful examination of the subtle features of the fruiting bodies can sometimes aid in distinguishing them. For instance, this specimen is most likely Hemitrichia clavata, which looks very similar to, but has a more elongated cup at the base than H. calyculata.
Another common myxomycete is Physarum polycephalum. “Polycephalum” means “many headed”, and the fruiting stage makes it clear from whence this name came. In the plasmodial stage, P. polycephalum can be difficult to distinguish from Badhamia utricularis and other myxos, but most slimes can’t be identified solely from this stage. Once they fruit, however, the differences are obvious. P. polycephalum usually fruits upwards, away from gravitational forces, whereas B. utricularis typically hangs down.
A fun thing to do with myxomycetes is to capture them and bring them home to start your very own personal slimarium! To create one, you’ll need an enclosed container to keep in both your slime and any unexpected visitors that may sneak home with you. An old fish tank with a bit of plastic wrap over the top worked quite well for me, although any clear enclosure will suffice. I added some large rocks, well decayed pieces of log, a few handfuls of live moss, a bit of water at the bottom, and I periodically misted inside to maintain humidity. When you’ve found a specimen, simply remove a small bit of the substrate along with the myxomycete, and carefully transport it back to the tank. In a pinch, you can even use a clear plastic food container with a moist paper towel at the bottom as a living area.
While slime molds love oats, and they are a consistently consumed food source, I’ve found it to be more interesting to offer them a variety of foods and see what they prefer! They typically love mushrooms, though they have strong preferences on which they will eat. Pleurotus spp. are always a favorite, Postia sp. was not a big hit, they only eat the bacteria off the surface of the Trametes versicolor, and they absolutely abhor Rhodotus palmatus. Additionally, they will eat pasta and the bacteria on the outside of acorns, but despise raspberries and broccoli. This is an example of how slime molds navigate to make choices and select food source.
If you’re wondering how this blob-like organism moves, it does so through a pulsing locomotion. The slime forms “veins” which are wrapped in proteins that squeeze, creating a wave like effect. The waves move forward and recede slightly less with each pulse through the finger-line extensions known as pseudopods. You can see the progress over time here, as well as the ripples of the waves in the second photo.
Since I was eager to find out exactly what my most recent slime pet was, I forced it to fruit by denying it food. Despite the fact that myxomycetes can perceive light and typically avoid it, when they are ready to fruit, they will sometimes climb up to a high point, which may help to increase the range of the spore dispersal. I was quite pleased to discover upon fruiting, that this specimen was in fact Physarum polycephalum, which is often used in lab studies, including the semi-famous study of slime molds solving mazes.
Now you might have thought this story was over at the fruiting, and I did too! Imagine my surprise when after a few months of not introducing anything new into the slimarium, a second slime suddenly appeared! Remember, they are sneaky! In the plasmodial stage, this Arcyria cinerea doesn’t look much different than its roommate, P. polycephalum. Once it fruited, however, the differences were obvious.
It is also interesting to note that there are some fungi that feed off of slime molds. I only discovered this Polycephalomyces tomentosus feeding on this Hemitrichia calyculata once I got home and was editing my photos. Next time, I’ll try to be more observant of the even tinier things.
by OMS board of volunteers chairperson Debra Shankland
Your volunteers in the Ohio Mushroom Society were happy to return to offering in-person forays in 2021. Although we took another year off from large, full-weekend forays, nine limited-participant mini forays were conducted in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Darke, Hancock, Lorain, Perry and Portage counties.
In addition to our own events, our members were informed via email about local mushroom-themed movies and regional events hosted by others, such as a two-hour mushroom ID webinar hosted by OSU Extension.
Our Mushroom Log newsletter had undergone a change in editors in the past year. We appreciate Bob Antibus for taking on this huge task, and thank Dave Miller for his many, many years of putting together this interesting and informative read. We conducted a survey of our newsletter readers to gauge their interest in the Log’s different departments, and importantly, their willingness to receive the newsletter electronically only. A large majority welcomed the change, which will allow us to feature full-color photos, resource links, and even more pages without the limitations of print starting in 2022.
In addition to our formal newsletter, six blogs were posted to this website in this past year, providing recipes, humor and timely tidbits.
If you value all of these services, don’t forget to renew your membership for 2022. OMS memberships run from Jan 1 – Dec 31, and lifetime memberships are offered as well. Another benefit of OMS membership is a discount on the North American Mycological Association membership, saving you $5. You can check out NAMA at https://namyco.org
Finally, I’m going to boast that OMS was listed as an important resource in a two-page color spread in the 6 Oct 2021 issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, leading their “Taste” section. We take pride in helping people further their knowledge and appreciation of fungi, and it feels good to be recognized for our efforts.
For the last several years, I have found large mushrooms of the Agaricus group very late in our season – mid-October to mid-November. I have seen these primarily near my home in Oberlin, but also at several locations along Route 2 from Maumee State Park to Oberlin. Individual “buttons” can reach a pound in weight, and they often occur in rings where it is possible to gather several pounds of mushrooms from a single ring.
Mushrooms are white, typically slightly scaly, and tend to occur in clusters. Unopened caps can be the size of softballs; the stems can be several inches in diameter. The cap separates from the stem during growth, leaving a prominent ring. The gills, when first exposed, are tan-pink, and become almost black with age. The odor is of almond, but not as strong as what I think of the typical Agaricus arvensis, the horse mushroom. The spore print is dark chocolate brown.
In attempting a better identification of this Agaricus species using MushroomExpert.com, I was surprised to discover that there are hundreds of species (nationally). I was thinking in terms of three species – A. arvensis; A. campestris, the meadow mushroom; and an uninteresting woods-dwelling species that I thought I remembered seeing pictures of. Working through the lengthy key of 100(!) species, I encountered A. crocodilensis, noted for its large cap. It seems to be a better choice for my specimens because of its scaly cap – the key indicates that A. arvensis tends to be smooth. But the distinction based on field characteristics is very minor, and may not always be reliable.
So, are those horses or crocodiles in that field? I really do not know. Given my resources, I cannot know with certainty. I do know that they are locally and seasonally abundant, large, pretty distinctive, and, for me, edible and tasty. These mushrooms sauté very nicely when cut into spoon-sized pieces. The almond smell is conspicuous early, but apparently cooks off, as it disappears before most of the liquid is boiled away. The resulting mushrooms have a nice solid texture and a good flavor, and they freeze well. Given the right place, it is easy to gather a winter’s supply of frozen mushrooms in one outing.
This commentary should not be construed to invite casual eating of mushrooms that the reader may think are the same species. Neither the author nor the Ohio Mushroom Society warrant the edibility for you of this mushroom, or a mushroom you may find and think is the same. The actual species in this commentary is not known. It is known to be edible to me, but others may not have the same experience. If you think you have found the same mushroom and wish to eat it, follow the standard procedures:
* Use all resources available to you to identify what you have found * If you choose to eat the mushroom, – cook it well – eat only a small bite for the first time; imbibe no alcohol – if you have no bad reaction, try a bit more, but still be cautious – keep a sample of the mushroom to give to poison control if you have problems
It’s shaping up to be a fantastic July for mushrooming, with rain, rain, and more rain. I hope many of you are finding basketfuls of chantarelles, chickens of the woods, and other delicious things. I, sadly (or not?), have had all my free time commandeered by the baby opossums, bluebirds and robins I’ve been fostering for the Ohio Wildlife Hospital, with little time left for me to make it out into the woods, so my mushrooming has been limited of late. Happily, though, I’ve found a great way to preserve and enjoy the flavors of mushrooms harvested in times of plenty, which allows me to enjoy them during dry spells: mushroom seasoning powder. If you’ve got more than you can eat right now, consider making this umami-packed powder, which has the added benefit of taking up very little space in your cupboard. This is also a great way to use the non-tender parts of mushrooms like chicken of the woods, which don’t make for good fresh eating.
SHROOMAMI SEASONING POWDER
It’s important to cook your mushrooms first, even though you will ultimately dehydrate them, since wild mushrooms should nearly always be cooked before consuming. So once you’ve cleaned them, roughly chop them, toss them with a little (not too much!) oil, and spread them on a baking tray. Roast at 400 or 425 F for 25-35 minutes, until the edges are browned.
Roasting time will depend on the type of mushroom. For mushrooms that are on the tough side, like the stem pieces of chicken of the woods, you may want to use a wet cooking method rather than (or in addition to) roasting, as this will tenderize them a bit. Either add some cooking liquid (water, stock, or white wine or sherry) to the roasting pan, or braise them in the liquid on the stovetop for 10-15 minutes. If there is cooking liquid left in the pan after the mushrooms are cooked through, it begs you to make a quick sauce or gravy or add it to another dish!
When your mushroom pieces are cooked through and lightly browned, chop them into smaller pieces and dry them in a dehydrator or in your oven on the “warm” setting.
Now it’s time to pull out your kitchen gadgets! A food processor will work in a pinch, but I like to use an electric coffee grinder to get the finest grind possible. Working in small batches, grind the dehydrated mushrooms into a powder. Take care when taking the lid off of your grinding device, since the mushroom powder will be very light and apt to drift up and out of the bowl – give it a few seconds to settle before removing the lid.
You’ll probably end up with some powder and some larger nubs; gently sifting it through a fine strainer will let you separate out the larger pieces, which you can re-grind or save separately from the powder.
The mushroom powder can be used as is, but you can boost its flavor power by adding salt, pepper, dried herbs like thyme and sage, or anything else you fancy. Proportion-wise, aim for at least 3 parts mushroom powder to 1 part other seasonings.
I like to save the larger pieces that I sifted out for adding to risotto, soup, tomato sauce, or anywhere else I’d use fresh mushrooms. The seasoned powder is great for adding to gravies, sauces, and soups, mixing into pasta dough, sprinkling on hamburgers, grilled or roasted vegetables or eggs, or rubbing onto meat roasts and anything else that benefits from an umami boost. I’d love to hear in the comments how you’ve used it!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go feed some baby robins.
The Vermilion River north of Wakeman in Huron County features the Augusta-Anne Olson State Nature Preserve, well known to birding enthusiasts. Immediately across a sharply meandering stretch of the river is Bellwether Farm, a 137-acre nature preserve and demonstration sustainable farm owned and operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. It includes mature woods and steep slopes that separate the river valley from the glaciated shale surface into which it has eroded, as well as residences and farm lands, mainly on the uplands. The farm features educational programs to teach about farming, sustainability, and nature as it is seen there. Several places along the Vermilion are known as good places to look for morels. In fact the entire valley is a good candidate, though lack of access and careful secret-keeping obscure the details of the picture. Morels have frequently been found at Bellwether in the past. General foraging for morels is no longer permitted on the property, however. Instead, morels have been folded into the programs of the farm.
In keeping with their educational goals, the Farm Manager set up a morel program this spring. Saturday forays were held during late April and May to look for morels and provide participants with an introduction to mushrooms. Morels that were collected were sautéed and frozen, and augmented by collections made during the weeks by staff members. These were a feature of a gourmet celebration dinner and program, “Magnificent Mushrooms”, held on May 29 in the farm’s central building, the “Grange.” Chef Lonny Gatlin prepared pork steaks from the farm, with a gorgonzola sauce richly endowed with morels; mashed potatoes; salad with greens from the farm’s gardens; and lightly baked baby hakurei turnips, also farm-grown. Dessert was carrot-cake cupcakes, featuring farm carrots. Pete Richards, OMS board member, presented an illustrated talk on morels and how, when, and where to find them (and avoid false morels). Concern about telling people things they’d already learned on the Saturday hikes dissipated when it turned out that only one of the diners had been on one of the hikes.
OMS and Bellwether have also collaborated in the past with fall forays with the more traditional OMS focus on documenting the entire suite of fungi present at the time. The farm is a great place to look for mushrooms, and our findings fit nicely with their goal of cataloging the complete biota of the farm. There will be such a fall foray in 2021, scheduled for August 22 with a September 12 back-up date. For more on Bellwether Farm and their programs, visit www.bellwetherfarm.com/about.
If you are lucky enough to find wild edible mushrooms this year, you may be looking for a few tips on preparation for the table!
Of course, if you plan to eat any wild mushrooms, you should always be absolutely certain that you have correct identification, and that the species is listed in modern field guides as edible. Always check with an experienced identifier if you are unsure about what mushroom you are looking at. Many wild mushrooms can be confused with poisonous species if you do not have adequate experience with a particular species. Some species that were previously considered edible are now known to contain dangerous toxins.
Once you are sure of your ID and edibility, check to make sure that all of the mushrooms in your collection are the same species. It is possible for species that look similar but are not the same to grow close together. Also check your field guides to see whether there is any information about not collecting otherwise edible mushrooms from specific locations. Mushrooms sometimes concentrate toxins from certain trees. Never eat any mushrooms collected from industrial and agricultural sites or yards where chemicals may have been purposely or accidentally applied to the soil or trees. Mushrooms have been shown to concentrate radiation, heavy metals, pesticides, and other chemicals.
Next, clean your mushrooms. I wash them with in water to remove any insects and soil or other debris, and then dry them with a towel to remove excess moisture. Many people like to soak morels overnight in salt water to remove insects from cavities in the mushrooms. If any of your mushrooms appear to be discolored or showing other signs of spoiling, throw those away. Old mushrooms, like any other spoiled food, could cause illness.
Generally, you should always cook wild mushrooms thoroughly before consuming them. Many mushrooms, including morels, have substances that cause illness if the mushrooms are eaten raw or undercooked. I usually cut mushrooms into small pieces cook them at least 10 minutes after they are heated through to make sure of thorough cooking.
If you are cooking a mushroom that you haven’t eaten before, eat only a couple of bites on the first day that you try them. Some people experience personal reactions or allergies to new foods. You can try eating more the next day if you suffer no ill effects.
I hope you will have success in finding some wild edible mushrooms this season! Since it is illegal In Ohio to sell wild-collected Ohio mushrooms, this may be your best chance to try eating them.
Please see a couple of my favorite preparation methods below.
Morels can be fried, baked, or steamed and eaten as a side dish or included in other recipes calling for mushrooms. This is my preferred way to prepare them because the flour helps to retain moisture and to concentrate the delicious flavor.
Morels, precleaned, soaked overnight in salt water, and dried as above (You may want to cut large ones in half, lengthwise.)
Extra virgin olive oil, butter, or both
Put a generous amount of flour in a shallow bowl. Roll the morels in the flour to coat. Heat enough oil or butter to coat the skillet over medium high heat. The skillet should be large enough to lay out the morels in a single layer. Cook until browned on one side, and turn to brown on the other side. Heat should be high enough to brown the mushrooms, but low enough to allow thorough heating through for several minutes.
This is a delicious recipe inspired by the combination of Walt’s famous recipe for candied chanterelles and the gift of a bottle of fine Armenian brandy. You could use any brandy you prefer. I have used cognac with good results.
Chanterelles, cleaned and dried as above, and sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Wildflower honey (or any kind you have on hand)
On medium high, heat just enough olive oil in a large iron skillet to prevent sticking. Add the chanterelles in a single layer and sauté until golden on both sides. Remove from heat and add an ounce or two of brandy depending on how many mushrooms you have. Be careful because the brandy may flame if you add it over the heat. Add a little water or more brandy if all the brandy evaporates immediately. Return to low heat and stir and simmer until the liquid evaporates. Drizzle the mushrooms lightly with a bit of honey to glaze, and cook, stirring another minute to finish.
We at the Ohio Mushroom Society are excited to once again offer in-person forays for our members. These field experiences are fantastic opportunities to learn more about identifying mushrooms! Some of you may not have been to a mushroom foray before, so here’s what to expect at an OMS-sponsored foray.
First, register with the foray Host (this step is very important!). Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive an email confirmation detailing the location and where to meet for the event. The confirmation should have an attachment of the OMS waiver form. The waiver is for everyone’s protection, and a waiver must be completed for every foray you attend, since they’re only valid for the date specified. To save time, we ask everyone to complete the waiver at home and bring the signed copy with you.
Forays are open and free to all OMS members; your membership will be verified by the Host prior to the foray. If you were a member in 2020, your membership will automatically be extended thru 2021. If you’re not a current member, you can join OMS on the spot–just complete a membership form and bring $15 in cash or check for a family membership. You can download a form from the OMS website under the Join tab. The foray Host should also have some copies.
Some forays will take place in areas with spotty cell phone service, so it’s a good idea to check the route and perhaps print a map before you leave home. Depending on how ‘out-of-the-way’ a foray location is, there may be an “OMS Foray” directional sign or two to help you locate the meeting spot. Look for the Host, dressed in field gear, loitering near their car at the meeting spot. They’ll greet you, ask you for your paperwork and check your name off the list.
To be prepared for a foray, one should be adequately dressed for the conditions in the woods, and packing drinking water, a whistle or other signaling device, a phone (in case cell service is good), a basket and a knife. Other helpful items to have include smaller, rigid containers for tiny or fragile mushrooms, a notepad, field guide, and magnifying glass. This year, we also ask that everyone wear a face mask covering the mouth and nose. Everyone’s safety is a top concern!
With everyone and their gear and paperwork present and accounted for, your Host can facilitate introductions. You can expect an explanation of the best ways to harvest mushrooms for identification purposes. You’ll also get tips on safety, ways to handle mushrooms to keep them in good condition, and minimizing the group’s impact on the environment. Your Host will orient you to the habitat types and trail conditions at that location, and let you know where and when to meet with the collected specimens for ID.
The group will be asked to separate into smaller sub-groups of 2 – 6 people to ensure as wide a search as possible for specimens. Smaller, widely-spaced groups are not only safer during this pandemic, but it also prevents compaction of forest soils and damage to vegetation. In a few locations, participants may be asked to stay on trails. The only downside to separated groups is that some species may be over-represented, since one group may not know that another group has already collected a turkey tail, for example.
Usually, the woodland search occurs over 1.5 – 2 hours. When the groups gather together once again, identification and examination of the collected specimens takes place, usually over the course of an hour, depending on how many species are collected. The mushrooms are placed on individual paper plates on which their names (scientific and sometimes also common names) are written. This makes for a great photo composition, where the caption is already written! This is when you can learn the details that help you discern one species from a look-alike, ask questions, and discover more about seasonality and habitat preferences of different mushrooms.
The paper plates are collected at the conclusion of the foray, and the species names are recorded for the benefit of the landowner and our own understanding of which mushrooms occur where and when. At some forays, some mushrooms, along with their habitat details, are collected and prepared as voucher specimens, to scientifically document their occurrence at a particular site. Usually this happens at major, two-day forays, which also include guest speakers.
In short, a mushroom foray is not at all like the dictionary definition of a foray: a sudden raid or military advance, to take plunder. The goal is rather to learn more about mushrooms and enjoy a day in the woods, while leaving no trace of our presence. There may be forays where modest harvest of plentiful species are allowed, but this isn’t always the case. Places to gather for mushroom forays are few, and you can bet that more places will be closed to us if they’re ransacked.
I hope this helps to get you excited about this year’s forays! OMS board volunteers are working hard now to secure foray locations and work out logistics so that these events can be conducted safely. Look for the foray schedule under the Events tab, or in upcoming Mushroom Log issues.
Like so many, I came to mushrooms by foraging – specifically, for morels. Morels are delicious and relatively easy to safely identify for beginners. After some years of that (years!) I graduated to the also delicious and spectacularly more abundant chanterelle. And then I was hooked, drawn into the world of fungi.
Something about fungi is infectious; once you learn a little bit about identifying this or that you want to learn more and more. Shortly after just eating mushrooms, you start to notice how colorful and strangely beautiful they are, then you’re stupefied by their importance to ecology, their weirdness, and so on and on. Very quickly you encounter and start hanging out with others in the equally colorful, weird and amazing mushroom subculture. From professors to photographers to psychonauts – not to mention gourmands – the mushroom people are quite a wild group. This happened to me, and like a node in a mycelial network, I quickly relayed knowledge I learned from my new mushroom friends back to others whenever I happened to be out on a hike or in nature…
A few years ago I worked at an office kind of job in Boston. When there I was usually cooped up inside working a lot. I took any spare moment I could to escape out into woods and explore, sometimes with co-workers. Of course, on those walks I would find many mushrooms and regale my friends with stories I learned from Walt Sturgeon, Gary Lincoff and others. Perhaps my friends thought I was a bit out-there, but I think that they appreciated my passion and enjoyed the stories and information. Because I forage, they also saw me occasionally pick edible mushrooms.
I keep in touch with many friends from that job. One, in particular, occasionally sent me a photo, usually of a marasmius oreades or some such fungus just prior to being mowed over. Once he found a morel (especially rare in Boston!). But generally speaking, nothing all that interesting. And then, more recently, one day late in the fall I got a text from him with this photo and this exact message:
“Local harvest. Safe to eat?”
YIKES! Now, even the most greenhorn mushroom forager knows that a cutting board in a kitchen is NOT THE BEST PLACE TO IDENTIFY A MUSHROOM. From a photo. In a text. On a phone.
As soon as I saw the text I tried to call my friend to discourage this crazy, irresponsible foraging behavior, but no answer! Judging from the season and the photo – cap appearance, thick flesh, overall shape – I figured these were *probably* late-fall oyster mushrooms. But still! Did my over-enthusiasm for mushroom foraging lead my friend to this fate? And, just what fate would that be? Distressed, I sent detailed texts of possible similar mushrooms (oysters , lentinellus, etc.) and also scarier but less-likely possibilities, and obvious questions asking where, exactly, were these mushrooms growing, do they have a particular odor or taste, and so on. But each text began the same way: Don’t eat the mushrooms!
Finally later that evening, he called back and said he picked them with another friend, apparently a local mushroom forager, who identified and helped to prepare them. And after all, no one got sick, but the meal was only so-so. I could’ve told them that late fall oysters aren’t the greatest-tasting shrooms and saved them the trouble. Now, I’ve learned something. When wandering in the woods with friends not yet indoctrinated into the mushroom culture, I say don’t eat any mushrooms! Or plants for that matter. It’s a good strategy for at least two reasons: peace of mind, and more for me!
Having been a member of the Ohio Mushroom Society for 45+ years I have encountered some remarkable folks. Here are some examples.
There was the dousing lady. She had a medallion on a string and was testing mushrooms on the foray display tables. If the medallion swayed, she considered the mushroom was good for her. Fortunately, she was not eating them based on this determination!
Then there was a barefoot young man who announced after he got in a carpool, that there might be an odor as he seldom showered. Some months later he was looking for OMS references after being arrested for possession of a controlled substance in Montana.
One of my favorite people stories was a phone call. I did not know the man. He was interested in finding Gymnopilus spectabilis, a hallucinogenic species. He wanted to join me in observing it in the woods. I told him that I knew a couple logs where I had found it in the past and that I could contact him if I saw it again. Then he said he wanted to collect it under the light of the full moon! Don’t call me, I’ll call you. This man later became a prominent Amanita muscaria afficionado at the Telluride Mushroom Festival.
I have met two savant boys. One questioned me about a Cordyceps species. It soon became apparent to me that he knew as much or more about Cordyceps than me. As an adult mycologist he has written a book and travels extensively studying fungi. The other would be in the front row when I was giving a talk around the display tables. His questions were hardly that of a child and his interest was intense. A couple years later he is giving mushroom slide programs to adult audiences.
My first mushroom program was at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown. I brought an Amanita muscaria as an example of a common poisonous mushroom. I probably exaggerated its toxicity a bit. One man in the audience stepped up and in front of the crowd and took a bite of the cap. So much for my credibility. I doubt that he ate enough to poison him, but it was a learning experience for me. The next day a woman went to the park office with a bag of Amanita muscaria. She had washed the warts off the all the caps, and wanted to confirm that this was the mushroom I showed as a good edible. So much for stressing how toxic it is. Some people hear what they want to hear. Most mushroom hunters are good people and overall are an interesting group. I have made many good friends in mycological circles. As in any pursuit, it takes all kinds.