How I became a member of SCSHROOM
Instalment #1…first person interview with myself…How and why did you become a members of SCSHROOM?
David: Well, I had recently retired from a long and fairly stressful career in labour relations, and move to the Sunshine Coast of Canada. I had always been interested in wild foraging and had accompanied my father, as a child in Saskatchewan, on his many mushroom forays. He was a passionate and avid mushroom picker. Every opportunity he got to head out into “the bush” and hunt for mushrooms, he did. He became a bit of a local legend, in that when others came home with empty buckets, he always had ones full.
However, being young and distracted by Rock and Roll and other fancies of a young man, I didn’t really pay too much attention to what I was picking, where we were picking and what we weren’t picking. So my identification skills were limited to one or two species, what we called “red tops” or ”kozaree” and morels.
The red tops are what I now know to be Leccinum testaceoscabrum, or Orange Birch Boletes. These are very distinctive and pretty difficult to not identify correctly. The same goes for morels.
My father also picked other mushrooms; “peidpenki” – now I know are honey mushrooms and something we called” krova-peski”, or translated into English, “cows mouth”. I am not sure what they were; they may have been chanterelles or some kind of Russula.
Now as much as my father loved mushrooms, my mother didn’t. She was always afraid that my father would poison us with his mushrooms. Even now she is worried that I will poison myself when I tell her I have been out picking.
My mother’s approach to cooking mushrooms was to boil them for an hour, drain and then fry them up with cream, onions and garlic. I asked her some years later why she boiled them. Her answer was “to kill the poison in the mushrooms”.
I now know that to some degree she was wrong, but also correct in her cooking technique. Some people are sensitive to some of the enzymes in mushrooms, especially Honey mushrooms. The recommended ways to cook them is to first par-boil them for 3-5 minutes, drain and then fry them.
My father also told me to only pick those mushrooms that I knew for sure were good and to leave the others alone.
So I had a bit of knowledge of mushroom identification, a fear of the “unknown” mushrooms and the possibility of “poisoning” if I cooked them wrong. I moved to the west coast when I was 20 and left behind the only mushrooms I knew for sure were safe.
Living out here in the great temperate rain forests of BC, I encountered an incredible diversity of fungi, all foreign to me. I knew that many were edible and some being choice, such as chanterelles, procini and pines mushrooms. I wanted to taste these, but I needed to be able to be sure I was picking the right ones.
I bought guide books, and went out into the woods, but I was never really confident in my own observation skills to positively identify the mushrooms. What was I to do?
When I moved to Sechelt, I did an internet search and found two mycological groups here in the coast. They were the Elphinstone Mycological Society, and SCHROOM. I attempted to contact the first group, but found they were no longer active.
So I contacted the second group, SCSHROOM, sending an email to their contact site. Within a day or two I received a response from the president, Ann Harmer, and was invited to join the club and go on a foray. That began my journey into the wonderful world of fungi. Here were people who knew the woods, knew the mushrooms and could help me safely identify the edibles.
That fall was my first exposure to the Mushroom Festival and many “expert” mycologists both here on the coast and from abroad. That was the year I first met Larry Evans, and was blown away by his ability to identify every one of what seemed to me to be hundreds of mushrooms we had collectively harvested. He knew the common as well as scientific names of them all.
At that moment, I knew what my goal was…it was to be able to do what he did and be able to identify every mushroom that I encountered. But how I though?
I asked him how I should approach this seemingly herculean task. Should I start reading all the books the club had in the library? Enroll in some on-line mycology programs? His response was simple…focus on a handful of species each year, get those down pat, then move on to a new set the next year. Before you know it you will have dozens of species that you are able to identify.
That was good advice that I took, but I also became the librarian of the club which gave me access to all of the guide books owned by SCHROOM, of which I spent the winter, spring and following summer reading.
That is my story of how I found SCSHROOM….now how did you find SCHROOM?
Hope to see you on the trails some day