There’s something magical about mushrooms. (And I’m not talking about Magic Mushrooms). I am immediately transported to the land of Alice, Wonderland, the Caterpillar, and the Cheshire Cat whenever I see the telltale caps poking up from the grass. It’s even more exciting when you can be an observer of nature’s microcosms and macrocosms in your own back yard. Literally.
This summer brought a token smattering of small white mushrooms to our neighbourhood. These fungi were fun to shred with our old (made-in-the-U.S.A.) human-powered lawnmower. We even had the lone truffle-like blacker-than-black morel–the one I first mistook for a rotted branch–growing beneath our prolific Italian prune plum tree.
A fairly wet early fall, followed by a spell of dryless days, and almost two weeks of unremitting fog, have provided the perfect environment with which to litter our verdant property with mushrooms. Not just a handful or even a colony of five or ten. These mushrooms have sprouted en masse in just a couple of days, in patches of twenty or more. Like a plague. Some are growing right on top of each other–why? I wonder; there is still room to grow, even if I’ve accidentally put a foot down on (whoops!) a few this morning.
Others vie with fallen leaves and blades of grass for liebensraum on the dew-dotted lawn, which we’ve purposely neglected to mow for a couple of weeks now, so this profusion of beige, brown, and cream can proliferate. If harvested now, there are easily 10-15 lbs for the taking.
The rounded caps of the smaller brown mushrooms remind me of baby bonnets, and the bigger mushrooms look like fully extended umbrellas (with matching, soft-to-the-touch umbrella-like ribs–lamellae– underneath). There’s an entire life cycle of mushroom being played out there!
With at least two varieties of these potentially delectable denizens in my possession, I have a mycologist’s dream come true. These latest wonders look like fairy ring mushrooms–beige with an upcurling broadbrimmed top, and a darker brown halo in the middle of the cap–an apropos name for this time of the year.
However, not being a degreed mycologist myself, I’m not about to fry these up in the pan lest they be my last supper. Not even if they are the much revered pine mushrooms–which, I suspect, are growing in the backyard, and can weigh up to 20 lbs (or more!) if their progress is left unchecked. Not even if I can find a visual match to them on the Internet. Photos can always be wrong. Yes, it sounds paranoid. But with so many poisonous imposters masquerading as innocuous edibles, it’s better to be cautious.
Mushrooms aren’t easy to grow. I learned that many years ago, on a Discovery channel episode. So much human intervention, so many ingredients, and so much time goes into replicating the right set of conditions that Mother Nature demands to make mushrooms flourish. I’ve gained a respect for the process, and a grudging acceptance for the grocery prices one pays for agaricus bisporus.
These photos of fall’s latest celebrities were freshly taken this morning. Enjoy!
- Toadstools or Mushrooms? (rowenadunn.wordpress.com)
- Magazine Mistakenly Advises Eating Dangerous Mushroom (fromthetrenchesworldreport.com)