Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why We Joined the Local Mycological Group

"Can I eat it?" Honeys, puffballs, parasols, chickens, winecaps, and pear-shaped puffballs, all edible.

While we have foraged wild edible plants for about 7 years now, our mushroom experiences had been limited, somewhat hesitant and filled with fear. Some mushrooms can kill you, no joking. We would fantasize about finding the ones labelled "choice edible" in the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, but were filled with doubt when it came down to correctly identifying any mushroom we found. Sometimes part of the description matched what we found, but not 100%. Sometimes we found stuff not in the book at all, or we just didn't know where to look. Our best score was trading Russ Cohen some wild fruit jellies for a hen-of-the-woods mushroom after he led a walk, and the taste and texture of that mushroom haunted us for more than a year, as we wondered how, when and where to ever find another. Joining the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society has changed that.
Fried "Chicken" Mushroom and
Onion Strings

Hen-of-the-woods, Chestnut, and
Butternut Squash soup
We are not scholars, we hunt for the cooking pot, so we are known as mycophagists. While the more learned biologists might scorn us for our primary interests of eating a mushroom rather than looking at its spores under a microscope or doing a DNA sequence, we want to know the answer to the most basic and persevering question of "Can I eat it?". Joining the local mushroom club will get that question answered, along with the all-important  "Is this poisonous?", "When and where can I find this mushroom?", "Does this taste good?", and "How can I cook this?".

Black Trumpets, Craterellus fallax
Gillian and her Puffball,
Calvatia  cyathiformis
It was at the Coventry Regional Farmer's Market  about one year ago that we ran into the club, on a day when the market was featuring mushrooms.Some vendors had mushroom-related wares, but we were interested in the promised display of Connecticut fungi and the ability of meeting local experts and enthusiastic amateurs. The array of different fungi on display was unimaginable, and we got the time and place of their next meeting to attend a trial foray. We joined up immediately, and while the first few forays were a bit overwhelming (CVMS identifies ALL of the fungi found on a foray, not just the edibles), some of the information we were learning was staying with us. Amazing! is just about all we could say about the fungi being found, displayed, and identified every week. Stinky mushrooms, mushrooms with teeth, mushrooms with pores instead of gills, red ones, orange ones,  and blue ones, crusts growing on trees, and mushrooms you could draw pictures on. Robert was photographing some gorgeous specimens, I was cooking up some yummy recipes, and Gillian was using her senses finding fungi. We attended every weekly foray for the rest of the season.

Summer oysters
Foray display
We renewed our membership for 2012, and I was "volunteered/recomended" for a position as the Membership Secretary for CVMS. I thought I would share some of the club literature and the benefits of membership, as we find it invaluable for education. It is the people in CVMS who make it the club what it is, including the local experts, the kind educators, the funny characters and the warm personalities. We are a group of people interested in the world around us!

Connecticut Valley Mycological Society, INC. (CVMS) was founded in 1975. It is a "Mushroom Club". . . A club for those interested in mushrooms as food, a club for those interested in mushrooms for study, and a club for those who are interested in mushrooms as an art form. Whatever your interest might be, CVMS, with its many members with diverse interests, can help you increase your understanding and knowledge in your special avocation.

LEARN more about mushrooms, where to find them, their diversity of color and form.

COLLECT mushrooms throughout the year under the guidance and supervision of competent amateur mycologists at regular field trips and forays.

IDENTIFY mushrooms by using field guide books or by taking notes at the regular forays where all collections are identified. If you find some mushrooms while foraging on your own, bring them to one of the scheduled forays and you will receive assistance in identifying them.

EXCHANGE recipes, ideas, and information.

RECEIVE our newsletter, the "Spore Print" regularly for information both entertaining and educational.

ENJOY the beauty of Connecticut State Parks. After a few months, you'll find that you can identify not only mushrooms, but mosses, ferns, trees, weeds, lichens, and many other forms of life. . . this is because of the broad interests of many of our members.

PHOTOGRAPH the beautiful and unusual mushrooms of Connecticut. Share them with other members during our indoor winter meeting.

BENEFIT from the "Workshops", lectures, field identification sessions, and the experience of our members.

BECOME aware of the delights and dangers of eating wild mushrooms.

DISPENSE of "old wive's tales". Discover how to safely collect mushrooms for the table.

WHATEVER your interest, let it mature and develop. Mycology is a strange science, the more you learn, the more you become aware of the questions you never thought to ask. Knowledge only seems to whet your thirst for more.

JOIN in the many activities of the club . . . workshops, forays, annual regional conferences, banquets, picnics, and fellowship! Get a Member Handbook. Enjoy the Spore Print news letter every quarter. But first,  you must be a member! Contact me, Karen Monger to receive an application at kraczewskiATcomcastDOTnet


lizzdelicious said...

That is super cool. When I move back to New Hampshire I might just join!

Kristina said...

I really hope to go on a local mushroom hunt this year.

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

I joined my state's mycological society last year and it has been nice having them as another reference when identifying mushrooms.

My approach with the edibles is pretty conservatives, I typically only go after those that are a choice edible that have no poisonous look-alikes. In my woods that means lobsters, black trumpets (my personal fave), oysters, chanterelles, and chickens. I miss the morels I had growing up south of here though, and the giant puffballs. And I've love to try a candy cap. I think I need to go on a mushroom that's an idea.