Every Thursday for the last five weeks or so, I've been taking a mushroom class at the Harris Center in New Hampshire. The class began with some ... well ... classwork, where we learned about mushroom evolution (the first mushrooms appeared about 425 million years ago), how many different species there are (over 110,000), how they reproduce and how they make their living (either mycorrhizally, saprotrophically or necrotrophically).
While all this is very interesting, what everyone in the class really wanted was to just go outside and actually start identifying some mushrooms!
Our instructor, Rick Van de Poll, was quite animated in the field - walking quickly and stopping abruptly when he spotted an interesting mushroom for us to identify.
Here he holds up a couple of lactarius...
...and here, he points out the identifying features of the Suillus americanus - the Chicken Fat mushroom.
And here, the class watches with suspicion as he pops a bit of another mushroom into his mouth after saying "I think this is the poison variety, let me taste it". One thing we learn is that, even a poisonous mushroom is safe to taste AS LONG AS YOU DON'T SWALLOW!
After every class, Jude and I spent the next weekend looking for mushrooms. They aren't hard to find.
Some are quite easy to identify like this Bondarzewia berkeleyi.
However, others languish on the desk, becoming more un-identifiable each day as they slowly deliquesce into goo or wither into little mushroom sticks.