When It Rains, It Spores: Mushroom Hunting as a Family
UPDATE: The 40th Annual Santa Cruz Fungus Fair takes place January 10-12, 2014. For more information, visit fungusfed.org
A beautiful Boletus Edulis - photo by Taylor Flockwood
One of the joys of being a parent is watching your children discover things for the first time. Even more thrilling, is experiencing something for the first time together. A short time ago, my family did just that when we went mushroom hunting with my cousin and local mushroom enthusiast, Ray Mendoza, member in good standing of the Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz...yes, there is such an organization.
Since hiking trails abound in Santa Cruz, our kids are already experienced field and forest ramblers. Not a week goes by that we haven't gone on a nature walk. This time, however, Ray gave us new eyes to see familiar surroundings. Field guide and mushroom knife in hand, he led us to find fungi of many different shapes, sizes, and colors. It wasn't long before the kids took off ahead, only returning to present us with their latest discoveries: Turkey Tails, Artist Conks, or their favorite of the day, "teeny, tiny ant umbrellas."
Ray reflected, "I've been out in the woods my entire life, so it's fascinating to think that up until about ten years ago, I can't remember seeing one mushroom. I didn't know they existed until riding my bike one day with a friend who stopped to collect chanterelles on the side of the road. Now, I can go out and come home with a shopping bag full of mushrooms that I wouldn't have noticed before."
Local Mushroom Enthusiast Ray Mendoza
Mushroom hunting is an activity both kids and adults can enjoy, and once you get the kids started, they are really good at it (being lower to the ground and all). Another plus, in my opinion, is learning about poisonous mushrooms and the importance of not eating anything until it has been identified as edible. Remember, if it is your first time going mushroom hunting you should go with an experienced hunter until you are well educated in identifying the edible from the poisonous. And if you are not absolutely sure of the type of mushroom you have, don’t eat it! The Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz offers cooking lessons, local and long distance forays, and classes – many of which are held at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History - which will help you identify various types of mushrooms.
Mushroom hunting has taken our hikes to a whole new level, albeit, a lower one. I am definitely marking our calendar for the Santa Cruz Fungus Fair that takes place
January 13-15, 2012 January 10-12, 2014. Happy foraging!
Watch two avid mushroom hunters in action as they search the woods in preparation for the Santa Cruz Fungus Fair:
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