Everywhere: Mushrooming, a Verb

Mushrooming: to emerge from the earth; to increase very quickly; to appear out of nowhere, in abundance; 

OR: to collect mushrooms with great enthusiasm and the intent of eating them. 

It's all about the mushrooms right now. Everyone's sharing photos on Facebook, they're talking about the joys of mushrooming on Forum, and on the FOJMP listerv there's the question going around: is it legal to pick mushrooms from a city park?

I've been dropping jaw over mushrooms since November, when I walked with a friend who knows many of them by name. Turkey tail, wood ear, candy cap. We text each other photos when we spot bright colors or big beauties. A month ago I took my mom on a walk n' roll, and all my elders dropped to their knees to investigate a fairy ring. 

I grew up mushrooming. My dad was a busy doctor, and my mom, a nature sprite, could get him out playing when he had a scientific inquiry to inspire him. They’d send each kid in a different direction with a pillowcase in hand. We’d bring them back and dump them on a picnic table, then sort them out and start the science! Gills or not? Veils or not? Veil and a cup—throw them out, they're poison! We'd take them home and make spore prints to identify them, the closest Dad got to arts & crafts. My parents would cook the varieties they were sure about. 

Inky caps were their favorites, and the ones we didn‘t eat in time made great paint for our arts & crafts. Then one night mom cooked them in sherry. “I went to put my key in the lock,” Dad reported, “and suddenly became three inches tall!” Some things should never be mixed with alcohol! We learned to stick to puffballs, and once after there was a flood, we found some the size of our heads! Later that day, mom waltzed into a meeting of the Colorado Mycological Society with a puffball the size of a watermelon!

I don't pick mushrooms anymore. I smell them and photograph them and text them to Gail. 

It‘s weird, isn‘t it, how suddenly mushrooms appear after a rain? It's amazing to think of the mycelia underground that shove up their fruit all at once. It‘s just as weird when all of a sudden the topic of mushrooming mushrooms to the surface as if it‘s a new sport. I think of all the generations of humans who have searched, cultivated, cooked, healed—and suddenly turned very small—with fungus.

In the email thread about mushroom collecting, a naturalist shared several articles:

 “Mushroom lovers enjoy East Bay’s fungal offerings”  “The Fungus Among Us.” On Facebook a friend posts arm loads after a guided explore with Mycoventures.

No one in the articles seems to have looked up the city guidelines, which are clear:  NO COLLECTING - Do not remove trees, plants, fungi or animals from parks. (Of course, they also say keep off the grass, to which Oaklanders will surely say, well then what's the point of a park?)

Mushrooms are weird in literature, too. Underrepresented. Although they are infinitely as varied as flowers, people write so much more about floral beauty. There’s no cute quote like "Don't forget to stop and smell the mushrooms!" Nobody gives bouquets of mushrooms; I guess it's the gross factor. Mushrooms are as weird and disgusting as they are beautiful. You can’t describe a mushroom without words like “bulbous” or “pithy,” or evoking rubber, slime, and rot. (Please prove me wrong!)

No definition of mushrooming includes the fact they are so quickly gone: nibbled, decayed, desiccated, collected, consumed. Mushroom season at its peak lasts just a month or more, though some are here to stay. 

So, while they last, feast your eyes on these potentially delicious forest gubbins!


  1. "Shrooming" is still a different thing. Interesting that your father is now collecting nature and painting it.

  2. FYI This group from your post, collected in JM park because back then it was legal: https://eastbayexpress.com/the-fungus-among-us-1/?amp The ordinance for no collecting was passed about 2011; perhaps take out your phrase that no one bothered to look up the rules?


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