Have you ever looked at a mushroom? I mean really looked at it? Have you ever wondered how mushrooms grow, live, and survive? Before last weekend, I had seen them on the forest floor and admired their colors from afar. But a mushroom was a mushroom, was a mushroom; they all kind of looked the same to me. I simply knew that they were a type of fungus, and never cared to ask more about how they live.
Last Sunday morning Abigail, one of our beloved farmers, asked if anyone would like to go on a mushroom walk that afternoon. Abigail led us into the woods to walk, look, and stop frequently to examine the beautiful, almost alien, shapes, textures, and colors of the forest mushrooms. I have hardly ever been with a group of adults so enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and easy to talk to.
The air was warm and sunshine dappled. We gathered to look at each other’s finds and collected particularly interesting specimens. Mushrooms, I learned, are not individual organisms at all. They are the fruit of a vast and tangled web of fungi that can stretch for miles underground. Imagine what lives beneath your feet! A mushroom emerges often when there is a stress to the fungi like moisture. Mushrooms come in practically every color of the rainbow. They can be stout or elegant and solitary. They can look like ocean coral or the scraggly beard of an old man.
When we had gathered enough to fill a bin and several paper bags, we took the mushrooms back to the Wallace Center porch and spent the rest of the day identifying them. We looked in guidebooks, drew pictures, and set up a beautiful display for the dinner crowd.
What a lovely day.
– Kate McNally, Deep River CT