So I’m a little worried I was too hard on the Back To The Roots mushroom kits in my last post since, like I said, mushrooms are funny things. Even the most mundane mushrooms need just the right conditions to grow, never mind the more unusual varieties. Truffles—the mushrooms and not the chocolates—are so ridiculously expensive because they only grow in really special places or under special conditions, although, contrary to what I’ve heard most of my life, truffles can be cultivated. They’re still not easy to grow, though. When I was a kid we had a neighbor who grew white button mushrooms in his garage. It was pretty cool, but I think he gave it up because it was a lot of work to grow the same mushrooms he could buy in the store. He was also the local mushroom expert and had a whole shelf of books on mycological matters. Once when he found me reading some of them we had a long talk and he told me there are five easily identifiable wild mushrooms—puffballs, inky caps, morels, chanterelles, and oyster mushrooms—that are edible and delicious. Not all of them grew where we lived, though, and even the ones that did needed just the right conditions to pop up. And after reading what certain species of Amanita can do to you I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to eat a mushroom again—not even ones that came from the store.
And then there were the really weird ones that I first saw sprouting up all over the neighborhood one spring day when I was walking home from school. They were pink and stood straight up with a broad tip at the top and, yeah, it looked like there were penises coming up out of the ground. I even heard one lady who had a bunch of them in her yard say, “Oh, sure, but where’s one when you need one?” but that’s another story.
The caps were soon covered with a brown slime and then bloomed into webbed spheres. The neighbor guy was only interested in edible mushrooms so he didn’t try to identify them—they smelled bad and their weird looks just screamed “poisonous or at least awful-tasting”. I still thought they were fascinating—disgusting, but strangely appealing, like a John Waters film. With the internet’s help I’m pretty sure they were some variety of the aptly named stinkhorn family of fungi. Like all mushrooms they soon disappeared and while one or two came up the following spring we never again had a mass invasion. Whatever special conditions prompted their appearance the first time never came again. They’re funny things.
Yet another reason I dislike mushrooms!
Oops – forgot to leave my name!
While I would say don’t be too hasty I respect everyone’s right to not like any food. After all I’ve gotten more than enough grief for not liking tomatoes.
I don’t like when they spring up in the backyard because I don’t want the cherished rescue mutt to dine and take ill, Chris!
That’s a good point, Mark–when we have mushrooms in the yard I make sure to pick them before the dogs are allowed to roam freely. They don’t show much interest in mushrooms but you know dogs. What piques their interest could change at any time.
It’s funny to me that I’ve never heard of “Ray Bradbury Theatre” until today, even though he’s always been one of my favorite authors. Thanks for improving the neighborhood every time, Chris.
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I discovered “Ray Bradbury Theatre” many, many, many years ago, flipping through a cable guide back when those were still printed, and found it on the USA Network. I think you’re in good company as a fan of Bradbury–his name seems to be what attracted many talented actors.
My Mom was from Europe and during WWII her Parents would let the Kids go out and pick Mushrooms to bring Home for dinner prep since food was rationed at the time. Nanna put a lot of stock in Kids getting it Right, I would be terrified of harvesting the wrong kind and horribly dying of some Mushroom Poisoning.
That’s a very understandable fear. I’ve often heard it said that the first person to eat, say, an oyster, must have been very brave, but the truly brave person was the second one who ate a mushroom after someone else died from one.
Ever since I saw an episod of ER where a woman died a painful death from eating the wrong kind of mushroom, I never pick my own. But we do get fairy rings from time to time and I really love to see them:-)
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The fact that a destroying angel mushroom can literally kill you in hours and that even the treatment–assuming you can get treatment in time and that it works–can leave you with lifelong health problems makes me very wary of any mushroom that grows in the yard. But from what I understand if you’re enough of an expert to know exactly what you’re looking for it can be very rewarding.