Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Experiment Begins

Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I’m trying to decide what to compare this thing to. More than anything it looks like a massive roasted marshmallow that burst into flames, and then dropped off of its roasting stick onto the forest floor where it picked up a considerable coating of duff. It is rather hideous looking, yes. I picked it up today at the Oregon Mycological Society’s annual mushroom show. It cost me only five simoleons and is supposedly going to provide me with no less than 1.5 lb of shiitake mushrooms, so I am treating it with the utmost respect.

I am to keep it outside as long as daytime temperatures don’t fall below 55 degrees. I will also need to spritz it twice a day with water and keep it out of reach of the rasping jaws of slugs. Never fear. If I notice any green mold (ewwwww!) developing on it, I am to scrape off the crud with an old toothbrush. Since I don’t keep old toothbrushes around the house (ewwwww! again), I may have to buy a special green-mold toothbrush, but I’m crossing my fingers that that ghastly possibility won’t present itself.

You can be certain, I am going to be monitoring the mushroom chassis very, very closely for signs that "the bumps" are “breaking out through the brown crust” (how very appetizing), indicating that I will soon have my first crop of shiitakes! This sort of thing is right up my street—I love playing a role in any biological or chemical transformation.

Speaking of biological and/or chemical transformations. B has a huge swarm of bees in his bonnet about fall color and has been doing things like calling a “Fall Color Hotline” he somehow found in an attempt to discover where we should go hiking in order to get maximally dazzled. The leaves are changing early this year, and I have to admit I have been feeling a little pressured in regard to the Columbia River Gorge, where the color may be at its peak at this very moment! Or not—we hiked the Herman Creek Trail in the Gorge last Sunday and the bigleaf maples and vine maples were just starting. But change can happen fast, so maybe we should have gotten our asses out there this weekend! However, today I had to pick up the mushroom chassis (reserved in advance and available this afternoon and this afternoon only), plus I wanted to check out the mushrooms at the show. So--ARGH! What to do? I know it’s silly and insane to fret about this, but I do. B has only recently become a fall color freak, but I am a fall color freak (self-diagnosed) of long standing, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Anyway, my solution was that we should hike at the Hoyt Arboretum—a great place for fall color—located right next to the World Forestry Center where the mushroom show was being held (how convenient). I told B I would just nip in and pick up the chassis and then we could go on our walk. It was hard to tear myself away once inside, but because B had zero interest in paying $4 to be in the same room with a bunch of mushroom geeks, tear myself away I did. We headed off on our walk, which was nice although not terribly taxing. It will be another week or two before the really spectacular trees are blazing away. Still, a walk/hike around the arboretum is always pleasant. FYI: The black tupelo trees look stunning just now.

When we finished, I mentioned that there were still 40 minutes left of the mushroom show and B, like the good sport he almost always is, told me to go on in. There were hundreds of different fungi species displayed on tables that had been lovingly dressed with moss, leaves, bark, ferns, and dirt to make the mushrooms look like they were in their natural setting. Here’s Boletus edulis, a type of porcini mushroom and a highly prized edible. Hard to tell it’s “growing” out of a laminate-topped table, isn’t it?

While there, I had a bit of a chinwag with at guy at a "lookalikes" table, who told me to take a “toke” of a certain mushroom and then told me that it would kill anyone who touched it or smelled it—both of which I'd done. I fell for his little joke, too, and let out a semi-stifled squawk—much to his delight. What a pathetically gullible person, I often am. The mushroom was poisonous, but I would have had to ingest it to get the liver-damage ball rolling. (I did wash my hands really well afterward, though.) At the cooking demo, I ate a (nonpoisonous) mushroom concoction, and I picked up some literature on drying and freezing wild mushrooms. Before I knew it, the 40 minutes were up. Poor B had been wandering around outside the entire time. Oops! Time flies when you’re having fungus!

Fungus Kitsch

I did not buy any of these lovely items. Actually, they may have been from someone's private collection and not for sale.


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