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by Kate Middleton
by Kate Middleton

Life-long organic gardener and composter. Created media relations and public education strategy on climate change for David Phillips at Canada’s Weather Service in 1982. Media relations for The United Church of Canada, Canadian Council of Churches, South African Council of Churches and World Council of Churches mid 1980s. Toronto Backyard and Community Composting Program 1990-97 Officer and Advisor. Garden coach Council Fire, Regent Park. Founder and contact Almaguin Highlands Seedy Saturdays. Columnist Great North Arrow. Blog

Horticulture society executive. Resident high risk crime area.

May 19, 2019

Being in the second April of 2019 (yes, I know it is May but pretty April-like), cool, rainy and just a hint of black flies, I decided to do some indoor reorganizing and found an excellent book I’d meant to review last year “Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada” by Timothy J. Baroni (Timber Press). With fungi popping up all over the place last year, even growing on my tool handles, turkey-tails which have no real taste/edible, grow on hardwood (like my tools and a lot of pin cherries) and apparently make lovely earrings.

Now this is a serious book, over 500 varieties and 550 photos, but facts like that really draw me in. The author is a distinguished professor and from his photo and some texts also has a great sense of humour.

Some years back I was deep in the woods, close to the wolf den, when there was a sudden hush. It’s not like birds stop singing, or anything like that, but the trees weren’t moving. I do have one spot where this happens regularly, but this area was new. I turned around and did a 360 and just above my head I was surrounded by what looked like angel wings, huge white oyster mushrooms, the size of dinner plates. On a lot of trees. Naturally I picked one, as I needed my other arm free to walk the treacherous forest floor. I took it to my neighbour, who was overjoyed.

The next day his wife admonished me for bringing it to him without eating it myself first, “You could have killed him!” Big or small, I know my oyster mushrooms and ate mine the next day. But, I decided it was time to hunt for a really good book on mushrooms as I can’t keep up with the varieties that I see from day to day.

This is the book. It groups mushrooms by their spore prints, the family name and a bit of a description. All this info runs across the top of the page in a specific colour for each section. If the spore print info doesn’t help, the name, like Boletes, on the right hand top of the page should make it easy for anyone to find the mushroom they’re looking for. Generally, spore prints are something I would do if I had any question about origin.

And, even if the mushroom doesn’t taste remarkable, Baroni mentions this which is great because why haul them back if they will add nothing to your meal. The photos are stunning and there is a lot of information for each. To prevent hours of talking with friends about the same mushroom with different names, each mushroom description starts with the common name and synonyms and a clear description. Then it’s caps, flesh, gills, stem, spore print, odour and taste; habit and habitat, range and spores. Each section ends with a comment, where I found out about the earring suggestion.

Even more interesting is the comment about the jack o’lantern mushroom which you do not want to eat (poisonous) but should take to your bedroom (that got me wondering) and put on your dresser or somewhere you can see them in the middle of the night when you awake and glow with a soft greenish light! Whoo! And don’t confuse these with golden chanterelle which is edible.

See, much amazing information in a book rich with many facets of mushrooms most of us have never experienced before.

We’re due for a lot more clouds and rain, so get this book, because these are also great conditions for healthy flushes of mushrooms.

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