Northwest Mushroomers Show
For 21 years, the Northwest Mushroomers Association has organized a annual public show of an enormous variety of local wild mushrooms. Since I’d never attended a mushroom show before, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Bloedel Donovan Park recently.
At the ticket table I was given a brochure to help me get oriented. I couldn’t miss the rows of tables down the center of the room containing the specimens (see photos I took), but other features weren’t as obvious. For example, experts were available at one table to help people identify wild mushrooms they’d found. Another table allowed people to try making spore prints, one of the most reliable methods of identifying mushroom genus.
One popular feature was the tasting booth where members were cooking up samples of common edible wild mushrooms to serve to the public. Another table demonstrated mushrooms commonly identified by touch and smell–the almond smell of a Prince, for example, or the feel of a false chanterelle versus an edible one.
Cascadia Mushrooms, a local mushroom farm, was on hand with their growing kits and information on growing mushrooms at home indoors or in your yard. (Cascadia also sells fresh mushrooms at the Bellingham Farmers Market, and they kindly supplied me some mushrooms for today’s recipe.)
Membership and book booths rounded out the offering. I decided to spend most of my time looking at the mushrooms themselves.
Besides the sheer number of species on display, the next most amazing thing was that the mushrooms were all alive. Living mushrooms had been placed in boxes with damp growing medium, along with labels identifying species. The mushrooms were grouped into categories according to whether or not they had gills, the type of growth patterns, etc. Labels also identified which species were edible and which were poisonous so visitors could compare edible varieties side by side with their less friendly cousins.
Knowledgeable association members roamed around the exhibits to help answer questions. (I also ran into what seemed to be a disproportionately high number of Lummi Islanders at the show–what was that about?)
In short, the show was fascinating and I learned a lot. The mushrooms were beautiful, and the variety alone was well worth the time spent. I’m already looking forward to next year.
Northwest Mushroomers Association (NMA) has monthly meetings in Bellingham during the spring and fall wild mushroom seasons, and they schedule group forays into wild mushroom territory around Whatcom and Skagit Counties. Members also share mushroom recipes at a yearly spring “survivors” banquet. For more information, check their web site.
NMA’s brochure cautions that some people are sensitive even to mushrooms normally considered safe to eat. They encourage you to try new mushrooms in small quantities, saving some uncooked samples, until you see how you react.
Some mushrooms are also safe to eat only when they are cooked. If you aren’t an expert, some club members make themselves available to help confirm species identification and answer questions. Fortunately, some of the most delectable species found in our area are easy to identify.
Try this menu for enjoying local mushroom harvests: