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Fungus among us
Don't risk it. Get the straight scoop by attending the Olympic Peninsula Mycological Society's 2010 Wild Mushroom Show. There will be four experts on mushroom identification on hand to help you find out if you can enjoy those fungi.
Some rarer mushrooms have considerable market value: you might find a pot of gold in your own backyard.
Society chairman Lowell Dietz is stoked, saying, "We may have as many as 200 species on display," at the show.
Society members are scouring the hills for more samples. At the show they'll be divided into poisonous and non-poisonous varieties, and information will be provided on other uses for the mushrooms, including their value as dyes and for medicinal purposes.
All will be labeled by genus and species to help you determine what you have.
Dietz said those who are bringing in samples from home should remember not to pluck the mushroom or cut its stem - dig it up. Including the mycelium (the mushroom's "roots") with the stem and cap makes identifying it much easier. If the mushroom is growing on wood, bring some of that, too.
The Seattle Times says this is a great time of year to go mushrooming. They say "areas dense with Douglas-firs, Ponderosa pine, white and red firs, and mountain and western hemlocks are breeding grounds for a variety of popular mushrooms."
The Times also notes, "mushrooms breed well under huckleberry and rhododendrons that create shading, forest duff like fern and moss leaves and dense soil that retains moisture from rain."
The right time and place
If that makes the peninsula's mountains sound like prime picking grounds, you're right - and now is the time to get busy with the society.
It's a great hobby, says Tammy MacNaughton of Joyce, who with her husband, Donny, and daughter Nycole is a great mushroom enthusiast. The three join society forays two to three times a year, but "we're out there almost every weekend," MacNaughton said.
She says mushrooms can be prepared in a number of ways
"I sauté, freeze, can and dry them," MacNaughton said. "And I give a lot away. I've got bags of them to give away today."
The society holds forays throughout the year, with various volunteer leaders providing a great deal of time and effort to the cause.
"Our club would not exist without volunteers like them and Dr. (James) Deckman," Dietz said.
He said society members are particularly grateful to Deckman for taking up the reins for this year's Wild Mushroom Show.
The show is free and open to the public from noon until 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 17 at the Elks Sequim Lodge, 143 Port Williams Road.
For more information, see www.olymushrooms.org.
Olympic Peninsula Mycological Society's 2010 Wild Mushroom Show
What: Experts examine, explain mushrooms
When: Noon-4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 17
Where: Sequim Elks Lodge, 143 Port Williams Road
More information: See www.olymushrooms.org.
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.