Don't Fear the Mushroom!
With the past week's forecast filled with hurricanes, storms, and daily rain, you have probably noticed some fabulous fungi popping up outside!
After a good rain, I often get a lot of questions about mushrooms. People send me pictures of the mushrooms that have appeared in their yards, gardens, and planters. I've found that they have one of two reactions, either their fascinated or terrified of the new alien fungi that have appeared in the middle of their garden bed!
If you find a new addition coming up through the soil, there is no need to be alarmed! I find that most "mushroom fear" is based on a lack of knowledge. Yes, some mushrooms can make you sick, yes some mushrooms can kill you, and yes, they are a type of fungus. But, let's think about this guys!
-I want to stop right here and say I am NOT a mushroom expert, but I have been growing my knowledge over the years by attending workshops, expert speaking events, researching, and studying field guides. All that I'm explaining in this blog is the basic knowledge to give you a different way of looking at mushrooms.-
First, we encounter beneficial fungus almost every day, such as the ones found through a 2017 study that discovered we have millions of fungus colonies in and on our bodies. Funguses are also used to make antibiotics, that the average person has no problem taking once prescribed by a doctor. An what about all that beer and bread you happily consumed? That's right, y'all, you've already been in contact with the fabulous fungi! If you see mushrooms popping up in your garden beds, then pat yourself on the back! Mushrooms are an indicator of good ole healthy soil and are hugely beneficial to your garden. They are breaking down your gardens organics into usable food for your veggies and plants!
A mushroom is just the fungi that most people SEE. Mushrooms are actually the fruit of mycelium, a large network hidden underneath the soil that is made up of hyphae, tiny thread-like filaments composed of fungal cells. In other words, it's the same as seeing fruit growing from a tree; just mushroom fruit comes from the soil. Just like there are all different types of fruit, there are all different types of mushrooms. Some fruit is poisonous, and some mushrooms are poisonous. You may happen to be allergic to one fruit, but not others; the same goes for mushrooms. Which is why when trying new edible mushrooms, you only try a little at a time. You will not be poisoned by a mushroom you don't eat. Please don't eat it! You can touch them, pick them up and look, and wash your hands afterward. An really, that's not necessary unless you're going to put your fingers in your mouth. I always make my children wash their hands and stress the importance of not putting any mushroom into their mouth unless I've prepared it.
Mushrooming can be fun and exciting, I learn and see new types of mushrooms all the time, but any mushroom hunter will tell you to proceed with caution and common sense! The best thing to do is to start going to mushroom identification classes and workshops. Just like anything else, the more experience and practice you have, the better you will become! I'm horrible at remembering the scientific names, and the truth is I feel a little intimidated by people who can spout them out as if it's easy, but I can't let that get to me! I have to work on the important ones, like those I commonly find on our homestead, and the rest will eventually come. Get yourself a couple of Field Guides. My two favorites are A Field Guide to Mushrooms of the Carolinas & Mushrooms of the Southeast. Of course, both are focused on my area of the United States, so make sure you are getting a guide for your particular location. Another great resource is the Mushroom Mountain's, Spore Print YouTube channel. Take photos of your finds so you can look them up. Photos should be taken from all angles to have a useful reference for identification.
I hope that your fear of mushrooms has dissipated some, and from now on, you can see these fungi wonders as beautiful hard workers in the great cycle of life!
Check out some mushroom inspired designs in the shop!