Friday, May 27, 2011

Know Your Mushrooms?

There are many skills in life I wish I possessed-- the ability to sing, a better understanding of the stock market, and the capacity to identify wild mushrooms.  Sadly, I suspect I won't develop any of these talents in my lifetime.

I remember my grandfather roaming the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains behind his house to forage for wild mushrooms.  He'd leave the house with a golf club, a single golf ball, and a brown bag.  He usually came back with a dripping honeycomb from his neighbor's beehive and a bag full of mushrooms.  At the time, I  was much more excited by the idea of chomping down on a thick slab on honeycomb slathered onto the bottom half of one of my grandmother's homemade rolls.  Today I wonder what kind of mushrooms he used to collect and whether or not he could answer this question:

Is this a morel mushroom I found growing in my backyard?
Wild mushroom growing at the base of my tomato patch, May 2011.

Because I frequently have several curious little people running around my backyard, I felt I had no choice but to uproot this happy little fungus before figuring out what it was.  Here's a second, closer view of it.  (This is a family-friendly blog so I am resisting the urge to write phallic jokes.  Feel free to invent your own.)  But if you can identify this mushroom, please write to me and tell me what it is!

My backyard is home to several different types of mushrooms-- all of them unfamiliar to me.  I suppose I should start trying to identify them, but frankly it's a lot easier to just let my daughters stomp on them before throwing the pieces into the yard waste bin.  I suspect that mushroom-lovers will flinch at my heartlessness treatment of these beautiful fungi, but when it comes to mushrooms, I believe it's better to be safe than sorry, especially with children around.  I must admit that I feel bad about my callous attitude towards mushrooms-- at least until I see the gleaming eyes of one of my sweet daughters gleefully smashing these delicate specimens to smithereens.