A friend of ours is a mushroom hunter. We discovered this because at a party we held here at the yurt—and we knew it was a successful party because no one would go home—we ran out of food. Rather than panicking, our mushroom loving friend pulled Paul aside and they went out into the forest only to come back with a basket full of Chicken in the Woods, a large, fleshy mushroom. I was dubious but they fried their find up with garlic and we ate those puppies like the ravenous beasts we were. Delicious! The party was saved.
Note: Your party planning skills are not the best if your guests have to go foraging in the wild for snacks.
Anyway. Ever since that, mushrooms have had a creeping increase of mental real estate for the kids and I. Like last spring we realized we have a giant patch of these on our property:
Morels! The morels in this photo are the very first mushrooms I actually harvested myself. It’s quite a Thing, morels, apparently, since they only appear for a brief time (a couple of weeks a year or less) and local mushroom hunters keep tight lips about their favorite hunting spots. There are whole clubs devoted to hunting just this one kind of mushroom. People can get excited about the strangest thing.
But the kids have gotten really into it. They like the weirdness, the slight gross factor with some of them (slime! spores! bulging bulbous shapes! smell!), and the chance that they are touching something poisonous is always fun. Danger! Woo hoo! We point out mushrooms now on our walks like other people point out birds. It’s weird, once my eyes got tuned to looking for them, I see mushrooms everywhere now. And it’s positively freaky how many kinds there are.
Here are some the kids and I collected on a walk yesterday:
shroom snow man!
Look at that bottom one, a rich blue on top, and next is a shot of its gills, this shiny, greeny blue. When we cut it open it oozed blue ink-like stuff. WEIRD.
I think we were primed for all this mushroom hunting by watching Mushishi, another “mush” word, a wonderful anime about an incredibly varied life form that is neither plant, nor animal, just like mushrooms.
Really, it’s not hard to image that some of these guys might have supernatural properties, just like the mushi.
Wanting to know more, we have checked out stacks of mushroom books from the library, but for some reason I find it all but impossible to use these books. I mean, its interesting to look at them and we pour through the pictures wanting to locate entries for the mushrooms we find, but we never can. Maybe there are just too many, or possibly individual and regional differences in appearance make matching our finds to photos difficult. Probably we don’t know enough to know what we’re looking at, and that makes it harder. Plus latin names are tongue twisters that don’t stay in my head. We keep trying though.
This is one of the best books we’ve found for being easily accessible to noobs like us, Katya’s Book of Mushrooms from the kid’s section of the library, with cool woodblock art.
Sometimes very simple bits of information are the right dose, especially with a subject as vast as this.
We get our mushroom hunter gear (magnifying glasses, baskets, mysterious black cloaks, oh and outrageous hats are a plus) and we go hunting. It’s fun!
Here look at some more of our samples.
Despite not being able to identify any of these cuties, they’re still cool. Maybe more so, in a way. We are forced to make up our own names and imagined properties, magical, horrific, paranormal, or otherwise.
Some are so beautiful!
fly away zoom shroom
Some really do seem to blur the line between animal and plant. This guy looks like a mini-hedgehog and was covered with soft spikes.
We’re working on a small mushroom book of our own. Potion ingredients for warding off fire demons, or for turning one invisible, or for cooking up with apples and butter. Sophie is doing the illustrations. Luc is writing the mythology. Like the one we found on a tree stump that started out white, then burst open to reveal an oozing black interior. A Velvet Night Mushroom, that makes you stink if you touch it! Plus it might give you zombie-like sores.
So watch out! Mushroom hunting is serious business.