Do mushrooms fascinate you? Have you ever wondered how to forage for them?
I first met Debbie Viess, co-founder of the Bay Area Mycological Society, at a class where she had a table heaping with mushrooms of all shapes, sizes and colors. At the end of an inspiring hour of Debbie presenting, a line of gardeners formed to show photos of fungi and ask, “What is this growing in my garden?”
With rain bolstering the mushroom population at Common Ground, it seemed best to ask Debbie for a snapshot into her upcoming mushroom class on February 6, 2016. (Check out more of the details of the class by clicking here.)
Q: Why hunt for mushrooms? Why is it rewarding?
Viess: Hunting mushrooms sharpens your eyes and deepens your knowledge of the forest, and is as magical as an easter egg hunt, for kids of all ages. You never know what you might find on a walk!
Q: What do you need to start to become a mycophile?
Viess: All you need is an interest in nature, decent boots, a collecting basket, and a pocketknife. There are many excellent local field guides, but first you have to find those cryptic critters. They can’t run, but they sure can hide!
Q: How do mushrooms tie into a garden?
Viess: All plants have a fungal partner, whether they are symbiotic (attached to roots or living within plant cells) or saprobic. By decaying the heartwood of trees, fungi help to create breaks in the woods, allowing light to reach newly growing plants. Fungi help to break down all sorts of dead plant matter. Fungi are unique in that respect; only a very few bacteria can also break down lignin and cellulose. Without fungi, we would be buried in dead wood up to the stratosphere! Many fungi will independently colonize a garden, popping up in compost, or garden beds, and often come in with planted trees and shrubs and mulches. Some folks actively plant edible mushrooms in their vegetable gardens, harvesting the fruits of both. Fungi draw minerals and water from the soil, and share with adjoining plants.
Q: What do you need to know about mushrooms?
Viess: Learn your mushrooms first; eat them later. Some mushroom hunters never eat what they find, preferring to collect for science or use mushrooms as subjects for art or photography. Others only hunt for food. It is easy to make mistakes when you are a beginner, so go slow and have fun learning! Mushrooms can’t hurt you if you don’t eat the wrong ones.
As a novice mushroom forager myself, I can attest to the sound advice Debbie offers. Going slow and realizing that the fun of the hunt is in the learning is an important part of foraging. One of the best ways to learn more about the art of the mushroom hunt is by meeting Debbie Viess at Common Ground’s upcoming class, Gardening on the Edge: All About Mushrooms.
And make sure to check out the other upcoming gardening classes that cover anything from fruit tree grafting to beekeeping! Click here to see the class lineup for 2016.