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Mushroom lovers take shelter at show

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There are two types of mushroom lovers in the world according to local mushroom identifier Aven Andersen.


“There's the avid hunters and there's the people walking down the street who see a mushroom in a lawn and wonder if they are safe to eat,” Andersen said.


“Those are the people we want to reach out to.”


Andersen and about 250 other mushroom enthusiasts make up the Olympic Peninsula Mycological Society who bring its annual free Wild Mushroom Show to the Sequim Elks Lodge on Sunday, Oct. 21.


The mushroom masses of more than 700 people file into the hall to see the many mushrooms found in the area and learn about the mysteries in their backyards.


“In the fall, mushrooms are everywhere. Even in your houses,” Andersen said.


People each year of the show bring in buckets and boxes full of mushrooms looking for advice from master mushroom identifiers like Andersen, who helped identify 132 species last year.


Andersen said he can get most mushroom finds down to a genus but people often have to use a microscope and chemicals to get down to the species.


One highlight of the show is multiple tables displaying mushrooms separated into edible, questionable and poisonous categories.


Club president Jim Deckman said the mushroom society is big on education about hunting for and eating the right mushrooms.

“We want to help people learn to identify a few mushrooms they really like and be able to know them well,” he said.


Andersen said the tables are educational in that they might help prevent someone from becoming sick because one out of every 200 calls to poison control is related to mushrooms.


For those with a taste for mushrooms, Andersen's wife, Shirley, said some can hold up a long time, but chanterelles can become hard, so she recommends cooks grind them into a powder or saute and freeze them.


On the hunt

With the season right for the picking, or preferably digging, for mushrooms, Deckman said they are found just about anywhere.


“Every time I go out I find something,” he said.


Locally, experts find the fall means the most edible mushrooms.


“There's not a lot of edible mushrooms growing in the springtime on the peninsula,” Andersen said.

As for the best spots, it really depends on where you want to go and seek out.


Popular mushrooms like golden chanterelles often are found around Douglas-firs and The Prince (Agaricus augustus) is found typically in the summer, Andersen said.


Finding a fungi is a joy for seekers, but the hunt is a part of the fun, too, Andersen and his wife agreed.

“When you hunt for mushrooms it's like an Easter egg hunt,” Andersen said.


“It loses people in the environment and it's a reason to get out,” Shirley Andersen said.


Mycological members are welcome to hunts and there are newcomers' excursions for dues-paying members ($10 per person or $15 per family a year). A typical hunt consists of 15-30 people.


The group often discusses safety at meetings and carries precautionary equipment like radios and whistles.


Andersen said some of the terrain is sometimes steep but they plan to go places where anyone can walk.

Olympic Peninsula Mycological Society meets six times annually across the North Olympic Peninsula.

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