It’s time for National Mushroom day once again! October 15th is the day someone (probably a growers’ association), somewhere, decided to celebrate fungus on a nation-wide basis. Here are 5 quick ways to show your appreciation for the fascinating, fruitful world of fungus!
1) Go foraging!
There are all kinds of edible fungi out there – especially in the fall in most temperate areas of the planet. There are also plenty of toxic varieties and quite a few more that fall somewhere in between. But don’t let a lack of knowledge about which is which stop you from just taking a walk to explore and see what you find. Enjoy the fresh air, say hello to fellow travelers, and keep your eyes open for all kinds of mushrooms. On the ground, growing in lawns, or on trees and fallen logs. You might be surprised how many different kinds of mushrooms you manage to find.
Take a few moments to slow down and observe any that you do come across. What color are they? Do they have gills, or spongy pores, or maybe tiny “teeth” that look like icicles? What do they smell like? Are they brightly colored, or do they blend into the background? Growing on a tree, or out of the ground? If you want to learn more about which mushrooms are safe to eat (or of use for other things, like dyeing fibers or waste remediation), then these observations are the first step in that direction.
Once you’re regularly finding fungus, then the next step will be to look up some books with which to do some further research. Learning to use a good field guide and mushroom key will help with identification, as will joining the local chapter of a national mycological association or local foraging group. There are lots of informational and social groups and profiles on Facebook, YouTube, and even Instagram. Jump in somewhere, observe, and ask questions.
2) Cook something with mushrooms.
Mushrooms comprise a huge variety of flavors and textures, from meaty morels, to mildly fruity chanterelles, to the tangy, sour Fistulina hepatica (sometimes called the “beefsteak fungus”). You’re bound to find one that appeals to your whole family, even if they “don’t like mushrooms”. Several varieties beyond your usual “button mushroom” or Portabello can now be found in most supermarkets fresh (having been cultivated) or dried (often wild-harvested), so you can get started experimenting with dining on mushrooms even before you know how to identify them yourself.
I have a Facebook group called The Dining Shroom where people regularly share meals they have made incorporating mushrooms and other wild foods. Delicious stuff! You’re more than welcome to join.
I also recommend The Forager Chef’s blog for lots of delicious recipes using mushrooms, wild game, and other foraged foods.
3) Research a new fungus, or learn more about one you already know.
Did you miss morel season this year? Do you even know when morel season is in your area? Take some time now to do a bit of research and plan for a successful hunt next year. (Pro tip: Morels usually fruit in the spring, depending on elevation. Here’s a post I wrote on how to find morels in Idaho that should apply to many other areas.)
Maybe you tried some chanterelles or another wild mushroom in a restaurant meal and wondered if they grow wild in your area. Now’s a great time to check out a book from the library, do some Googling on foraging and mushroom identification in your area, and maybe save those links to a Pinterest board for reading this winter when it’s too cold and dreary to be out walking. Here’s a link to my FunGal Forager Pinterest profile if you’d like some ideas to get started.
4) Share some mushroom puns and jokes. (That’s what real friends are spore. 😉
You’may have seen seen this little mushroom guy around the interwebs. He’s actually part of a silly, punny, absurd webcomic you can find here.
Friends and family may not have mushroom for your love of puns and dad jokes, but keep them fungus- or foraging-related and you’re more than welcome to bring your silly jokes, bad puns (the best kind), and true “groaners” to the the comments below, or into The Dining Shroom on Facebook. We’ll welcome you with plenty of morel support.
5) Take a picture and post it to any number of fun sites full of other fungiphiles!
Did you know there are several thousand people out there who take selfies with mushrooms? (Properly known as a “Melfie” of course.) Or who share their fungal finds displayed lovingly, Fungi in Hand? Those two Facebook groups are couple of the happiest places on earth where fellow fungiphiles get to show off their spectacular finds, silly personalities, and generally let their fungal freak flags fly. =) There’s even a place for Melfie Regrets, when things don’t quite go according to plan. If you’ve got a little poseable buddy (or happen to find some kind of mascot when out, say, picking up litter) you might find that Mushroom Mascots, Poseable Pals, Articulated Amigos and Character Compadres is the place you want to be.
There also seem to be thousands of foragers on Instagram. Feel free to look me up over there as The FunGal Forager. If you follow my account you’ll get suggestions for lots of other related accounts like svampsafari or Oswald the Pinecone that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Mushroom foragers are an eclectic group, but in large part they seem to be curious, punny people who appreciate great food and take amazing pictures. I’m sure you’ll fit right in!
Let me know what you did for National Mushroom Day!
~Krista, The FunGal Forager