We really turned up the nerd quotient this weekend at the Puget Sound Mycological Society’s Annual Wild Mushroom Show. We’re rank amateurs when it comes to wild mushroom knowledge and experience, but we make up for it with enthusiasm. There were cooking demos, mushroom identification experts, and activities for kids (including a mushroom petting zoo). We even squeezed in a fascinating lecture by Britt Bunyard about really weird mushrooms.
The highlight was the main room of the show: an exhibit of countless mushrooms, grouped by type in semi-natural forest exhibits. The diversity of mushrooms is extraordinary, and I was impressed that they had so many fresh specimens in one place at one time. We saw famous choice edible mushrooms, like chanterelles, bolete/porcini mushrooms and the coveted Matsutake. There were poisonous mushrooms, deadly mushrooms, and mushrooms that didn’t look like mushrooms at all. Here are some of my faves:
Witch’s butter, or Dacrymyces palmatus. It’s an edible but flavorless rubbery jelly. Just because you can eat it doesn’t mean you should. The name and appearance made it look like a witch had hocked up a bright orange witchy loogie and spit it out on a log.
Ramaria/coral fungus. This haunting fungus looks like the tiny hands of lost souls reaching up from a shipwreck on the bottom of the ocean. I love it.
Pseudohydnum gelatinosum / jelly tooth. There was a specimen of this guy in the petting zoo. Playing with it reminded us both of sticky hand toys. We learned you can roll this mushroom in sugar to produce “Nature’s Gumdrop.” Let me know if you try that.
Clitocybe odora smells like licorice, no joke. We also sniffed candy caps (maple-y), Matsutakes (spicy), and a Russula that smelled like shrimp. There was even a mushroom that smelled like grape soda, though we could only detect a hint of it.
Mycodeltiology: the study of postcards with fungi. I’m not sure if this is a real thing but the postcards were adorable.
This gnome was knitted with yarn dyed with mushrooms. I learned that you should not underestimate the extent of mushroom-inspired art.
Oh, and during the lecture we learned there is a fungi called cordyceps that infects insects and turns them into zombies. Well, okay it controls their body just before killing them and growing out of the corpse. Check out this video:
You can see more of Krista’s mushroom photos here. I had a great time at the show, and I know so much more about how much I don’t know about mushrooms.