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NatureSpeak Articles

Something under the ground is stirring

Can you hear the mushrooms growing with each drop of falling rain on the roof in the evening? It would seem that some people can.

For some the autumn brings dismal days. Days to stay inside and read a book, do a crossword, and wait for the ski lifts to start up for the season. But for a few, early mornings in the autumn can be filled with all the excitement of a treasure hunt. That’s because the fall and the rain that it brings means that the mushroom season is upon us. For people who like to forage for mushrooms, every rainfall is as welcome as an old friend at your door.

For some people, it’s like having a sickness (for which there is no doctor’s note). It is like a flu that makes people call in sick or leave behind all their responsibilities for the day. I call it mushroom fever and I know many who suffer with this seasonal affliction.

Once you’ve found a few valued mushrooms you find yourself needing to go back and find more, without even knowing why. It’s like they’re calling you out of your slumber early in the morning so you alone can find the prize hiding in the soil.

There are many different breeds of mushroom people. Some are just out for profit; others like to make delicious meals from wild mushrooms and a few, like myself, simply like to admire the beauty and mystery of these fruits of the 5th kingdom.

The Sea to Sky corridor is home to many diverse kinds of mushrooms. There are russulas, boletes (which can be very tasty), chanterelles, morels and all kinds of other mushrooms which are not so good for eating but wonderful to photograph and admire.

For myself and many people in the corridor, the mushroom which causes the most fuss isTricholoma magnivelare, otherwise known as the pine mushroom . Most of the pine mushrooms harvested in the corridor are exported to Japan.

Pine mushroom are mysterious. They are known to be mycorrhizal in nature, which means their roots are linked to living trees in a mutually-beneficial relationship. In this area, their preferred partners are Douglas fir, pine and western hemlock trees. They tend to flourish in old-growth areas but also have been found in 30-50 year stands.

Pine mushrooms generally grow on drier soils that are low in nutrients. The best time to find them seems to be after a good rainfall and not until the mercury has dropped down to be almost chilly enough for toques. A good place to look for these mushrooms is wherever you see deer paths in forested areas, because the deer like to eat them just as much as people do. I guess they know gourmet food when they see it.

So the next time it rains all day and you think you need to stay inside, remember that with every drop there is a mushroom quietly creeping from below the soil. Furthermore, there is likely a person with severe mushroom fever out on the hunt.

Upcoming Events

Oct. 14-15. "Fungus Among Us" Mushroom Festival, Maurice Young Millennium Place. Friday night Mushroom Medley slide show, 7:30 p.m. with mushroom experts Adolf and Oluna Ceska and Andy MacKinnon, in the multipurpose room. Saturday mushroom walks 9 a.m. to noon. Meet outside Millennium Place. Saturday, 1-3 p.m. cooking demo with Ophra Buckman and a display of mushrooms at Millennium Place. Prices for Whistler Naturalists members (non-members): whole event $25 ($40); Friday night $5 ($8); Saturday $20 ($30); walk only $10 ($15); cooking demo only $15 ($25). Membership $15.

Written by: Kathy Jenkins


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