Wednesday, October 3, 2012

magic in a mushroom

after three days of rain, beautiful mushrooms began popping out from under the mat of pine needles and moss below the eastern white pines. they looked a little magical, like something out of a fairytale forest. i don't know a thing about mushrooms so i consulted a book and also the internet to find out what they were, but mushrooms, with highly descriptive names like turkey tail, black trumpet, hedgehog, puffball, chicken fat and oyster—which, by the way, were of no help at all—are tricky. they have lots of parts like gills and caps and teeth and veils and numerous gill attachments and cap morphologies, etc.

several different mushrooms appeared in the woods behind the house.

i thought a few were horse mushrooms—the photo of my mushrooms looked a lot like the horse mushrooms on the internet. they were even "scaly below the veil and smooth above." as i continued reading the lengthy and detailed (and boring) description of horse mushrooms i became more convinced that i had identified them correctly.

soon, though, i began to have serious doubts. horse mushrooms, the article said, were found in grassy fields. it also said beware of mushrooms where the base was thicker than the top of the stem (as in photo #1) because they were usually poisonous. then some more horrid words jumped off the page at me and made me realize i will never ever ever ever eat a mushroom directly out of the woods—not that i was intending to anyway.... i was merely admiring the potentially deadly lovelies—even if a mushroom expert said it was safe (well, maybe a mushroom expert could convince me....).

the article said "if the mushroom has white gills throw it out!" the italics and exclamation point alone—never mind the words—were frightening. they screamed so loudly i winced. sure enough, several of the mushrooms out back had pure, lily-white gills. (i read that toadstools and mushrooms are not scientifically different, so these were, in fact, real mushrooms—real poisonous mushrooms.)

i felt let down. i thought i might have had a special mushroom growing in my yard, a mushroom i could have bragged about. but was it possible that maybe some of my mushrooms weren't poisonous? that maybe i had hallucinogenic ones growing out there instead? magic ones? hmmm.......but magic ones were fancy and colorful and speckled and spotted and mine were plain—lovely, but plain. wait, that's not right. happy mushrooms were always kind of brown and shriveled and ugly—it was the poisonous ones that were pretty. also, maine was too cold for wild magic mushrooms, i thought.

like i said, i don't know a thing about mushrooms.


BavarianSojourn said...

Gorgeous photographs, but that first one is just amazing! I once went on a mushroom walk with an expert, but to be honest I don't actually trust myself so have never picked any to eat myself... Then last year I read an article about how so many Italian's die a year from mushroom picking. Not from eating poisonous mushrooms, but from picking them in really precarious places! :/

Cottage Garden said...

Those photos are amazing. Mushrooms in all their glory!

I believe mushroom picking is a national pastime during the autumn in Italy. I love them in pasta dishes.

I've not been around in Blogland much during the summer and have missed so much of your wonderful writing Mignon. Time for a catch up I think!


Leonora said...

You have quite a variety there. I love the first photo with the mossy ground beneath.
I think you're wise to admire them without bringing them into the kitchen. I've always been confused about which are safe and which are poisonous.
As for 'magic mushrooms'... weren't they popular during the psychedelic 60's??

Jayne said...

Oh my, that first photo sure is a "little magical, like something out of a fairytale forest." But all the photos (even if edible they look too darling to eat!), as well as your commentary are delightful.

Can you imagine how long it must take before one feels expertly in mushroom knowledge? So much to learn, and one little mistake... yikes! I'll stick w/picking mine out at the market. :)