Sunday, March 17, 2013

for the love of mushrooms

Hi, my name is Leah, and I'm a mycophile. I love mushrooms. Eating them is such a rich experience - sweet, earthy, umami. My new interest in eating mushrooms is accompanied by a new interest in foraging them as well. My whole life I've been taught not to eat anything I find, especially not mushrooms and red berries. But you know what? Now that I have all this librarian-training and these rad research skills, I feel confident that I can make informed decisions about found and foraged foods.

For Christmas I received a book called, The Complete Mushroom Hunter, by Gary Lincoff. Its size doesn't really fit the field-guide norm, but its beautiful color photographs and detailed mushroom profiles make it an invaluable resource. Written in a compulsively readable style, the book interweaves identification information, dangerous look-alikes, and seasonal mushroom-hunting guides with cultural attitudes towards mushrooms and anecdotes from around the world.

Having already combed my neighborhood for berries and fruits, foraging mushrooms seemed like the next logical step. I got interested in mushrooms last autumn after spending a semester working on a project that involved Jean Craighead George's excellent middle grade novel, My Side of the Mountain. The teenage protagonist, Sam Gribley, sets out to rough it on his family's forgotten land for a year, and giant puffballs are a staple of his diet. One afternoon I was walking the bike path near my house with Flash and noticed what looked like three white volleyballs off to the side of the path. I followed a hunch and checked them out, poked one with a stick, knocked it over to see how it connected to the ground, and stood back in awe of this crazy fungus. I was so excited that this might be the mushroom I had read so much about in Sam Gribley's adventure, so I looked it up as soon as I got home. Here's a picture of the one that caught my eye from the path you see in the background.

Now that the ground is relatively thawed and I'm equipped with this book, I'm looking forward to setting out in search of secret delicacies. When I became a birder, I started collecting books on that subject. Now that I'm a librarian, I realize I have my own personal reference collection, and The Complete Mushroom Hunter expands that collection in a direction I never expected. Happy hunting!

1 comment:

Carol Geisler said...

You would be interested to know that one of our contra dancers who mainly dances at CDNY across the street and also at Brooklyn Contra is I believe the President of the Mycological Society in CT. Marc Palmer on Facebook.