October in the Pacific Northwest is mushroom time. The cooler days and wetter weather often bring large flushes of fungi growth in our forests. This month we organized a foray with local experts and mushroom aficionados Jack Waytz and Buck McAdoo. We arrived at Deception Pass on a beautiful fall day. It was wonderful mix of plant lovers. From our core group of medicine women, Ellen, Kate, Michelle, Mira and Carrie were all in attendance and for the first time we had the special honor of sharing the day with 3 week old Coralie. Carrie brought with her two friends, Matt and Hollie who are both Naturopathic doctors in Bellingham, and her friend Laura came up from Portland. Ellen’s friend Matt an herbalist and acupuncturist from Bastyr also joined us. We met at noon with a plan to forage on the banks of Bowman Bay but Jack and Buck arrived to deliver the news that only the day before a group on nearly 1000 people had been to the same hunting grounds and would have surely wiped out most of the goods. So we spontaneously headed south over the bridge to a less traveled path.
We began walking the trail and were immediately ignited by the level of enthusiasm both Jack and Buck had for mushroom hunting. The weather has been very dry so we were warned that we may not find a lot of mushrooms. We never did stumble upon stands of edible mushroom, but every small friend that was presented to the foray leaders was met with equal excitement and zeal. Both Jack and Buck offered an incredible amounnt of information for each mushroom found including identifying characteristics, latin names and edibility/toxicity. They offered other tips that were very helpful as well. For instance, Buck suggested that doing a spore print on a piece of glass and then using a razor blade to collect the spores would help a person be able to identify the spore color even if their were very few spores present. An interesting idea to all of the foragers came from Jack who insisted that if you don’t see a mushroom on the main trail you likely wouldn’t find it off trail as his experience informs him that “mushrooms want to be found.”
The trail was covered with numerous false chantrelles and a variety of mushrooms they called LBM’s (little brown mushrooms) that are difficult to identify one from another and therefore, generally are not edible. We found a few soggy boletes, russulas, puff balls and some beautiful polypores. It was wonderful day in the woods and though none of us took home basketfuls of mushrooms we all enjoyed the company and information.
Back at the cars, Jack stepped into the woods and came back with a handful of fresh AND edible shaggy mane mushrooms. Mira had really wanted to take some mushrooms home with her and took the chance to trace his steps and also came out with a couple of large shaggy manes.
We all returned to Ellen’s house and shared food and interesting conversation dense with all of the amazing (and unusual!) plant experience everyone has had. With the naturopaths at the lunch table we got onto topics of homeopathy and parasites and urine therapy was even discussed which is always good for a lively debate. Matt and Ellen had been playing with a new steam distiller all weekend and had made some essential oil of rosemary and grapefruit the evening before and we all got a chance to take a peek at the new equipment.
It was a day of friendship, community, connection and of course plants. It was great to open up the group to new faces and new ideas and we hope to see Laura back and writing for the blog soon.
Thanks Jack and Buck. Your expertise was certainly inspiring!
If you are interested in learning more about mushrooms and live in the North Puget Sound, attend the Northwest Mushroomers Fall Show on October 18th 2009 in Bellingham. You’ll find Jack and Buck there as well as many others willingly sharing all of thier info and years of experience.
Until November- Devils Club?