Sunday, November 8, 2009

Enough mushrooms for a year

We missed the mushroom show this year at Van Dusen, so I made it up to D by bringing her to the Vancouver Mycological Society's show at Richmond Nature Park this afternoon.

When one thinks of toadstools, one often has the Amanita muscaria in mind.

Puff balls are one of those edible mushrooms that are easily identifyable, but as one of the Mycological Society showed me, the best way is to slice it lengthwise to ensure that you don't see any gills.

Got a few interesting facts from the volunteers:
  • the part of the mushroom you see is only the fruiting body. The mycelium (or root system) exists, for the most part, beneath the surface.
  • spores are generally the best way to identify mushrooms. Only with precise identification can one positively identify the edible ones. I've seen pollen grains under a microscope, but spores can be even smaller
  • I've often thought it odd that mushrooms kept in the fridge too long will themselves be invaded by other fungi. This is apparently quite common, and some fungi are made to taste even better because of it, such as the lobster mushroom.
  • Some mushrooms have evolved poisons, while others take the "if you can't beat them, join 'em" route. Truffles, for instance, emit an alluring odour to animals to encourage their dispersal (of the spores) to far off lands.
  • Even the mushroom experts agree that the safest way to enjoy mushrooms is from the supermarket.

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