My GRANDMOTHER LORNA JEAN DUFTY was the person who got me interested in foraging for edible mushrooms. When I was a small girl, I would tag along behind her as she headed out into the woods or fields around her farm in Oxford county to collect the most delicious wild things, ever.

We would fry them up in a cast iron pan in the kitchen as soon as we got home. I have been looking for mushrooms ever since, with increasing success every year. And, of course, being a mushroomer entails bringing others along, showing how to gently walk, and find, and celebrate. My grandson, Lu, is in the picture, reaching his small arm around behind a clump of lilacs along a chain link fence natty with last year's maple leaf humous to pick a golden morel.

Mushroomers have a reputation for being stingy with information aboutwherethey find these gems. Since we are mushroomers, people askus for information: Where should I look for morels? chanterelles? black trumpet? Whenisit morel season? Is it time for me to set out from downtown Toronto to that field outside of Owen Sound where I found some growing once when I was a newt?

We 'shroom people typically won't tell just anyone the exact location

because unlike other parts of nature, mushrooms don't typically happen by the zillions.

The patches we harvest fromare small to begin with, and when we bring someone along to that place, with reverence, we always show how to leave some so that they will always be there. If every Tom Dick and Harry set their GPS to the places we know to look, it's highly likely, given what greedy assholes we humans are, that all the mushrooms would go missing, and not return the next year.But do not despair. We are willing to share an even more important secret that will increase the likelihood of your finding patches of your own...It's this: if you ever do chance upon what you think might be a morel, or a chanterelle, or a black trumpet... pay close attention to it (we mean: every single possible detail about it your eyes, ears and nose can gather up) AND pay equal attention to what is around it . Don't worry about remembering exactly where it is. In a sense, mushrooms are everywhere. Mushrooms are the most brilliant teachers of ecology, but sometimes we're so dialed into the goal --getting that mushroom into the pan --or, naming that species and ticking it off in a sciency-well-ordered nerd journal, that we fail to open up our apertures and receive the radical sustainable and holistic teaching that it is offering us.

Mushtoom post image

Here's what we mean: mushrooms are coll these days. Lots of people are reading lots, learning lots. Yay. One of the fun facts you can read is this: basic fungal physiology reveals that what we take to be an individual --a single button mushroom for instance in a baseball field--is the fruiting body of a vast underground symbiotic web that makes up "the fungi".... there really is no "individual" until you take your mushrooming knife out and slice it free of that mass of vitality it is being oozed up from at a shocking rate after rains. There are Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not type rumours of "the biggest single organism" in the world being a single "honey mushroom organism" (Armellaria) that basically runs underneath the entire state of Oregon. An organism....But more to the point of successful hunting, and an even bigger mind fuck is this: even that ooze of fungal webby acentric vitality that we call "an organism" is not "an individual." fungi are always a part of a chunk of nature interstitial connectivity with dozens of others beings... beings of weather, bird life, forest life, water flow .... so entwined and in tune that it's likely more accurate to talk about mushrooms as 'osmotic becomings.' No beginning, no end and no purity of type: everything is crossing the species "barrier" and the biological-physical system barrier: spilling and burping and decomposing and hijacking and farting and flowing matter, energy, colour, singing.

To know that is to start to be able to "find" your dinner. all mushrooms are embedded chunk of livingness. And that chunk of nature is very very precise to each sort of mushroom. We could say it is a living signature. The ongoing relationalities of a given type of mushroom is its signature. If you can learn to read an ecological signature, you can find mushrooms anytime, anywhere.Mushrooms always "happen" on or in or near or with clusters of other natural phenomena with an incredible regularity of patterns of relations. This is the second truth. In a mushroom guidebook, you'll read something like this: "X are found on standing sugar maple." "Y are found on newly downed sugar maple". "Z are found on decomposing sugar maple." That's not incidental information, padding the book with useless nods to beloved sugar maples: it's actually information about X, Y and Z. So the first rule of'shroom club: If you want to find mushrooms, learn your trees. The tree that a certain fungi is found on turns out to be a key identifier. If you want to know: is that sexy little orange bonnet thingy growing on that stump an X!!!!? The answer will be a definitive yes or no if you know what kind of stump that is. Better study up on bark in its standing state and its newly cut state and its highly decomposed state. You're going to need to use your hands and your nose. Be a forensic examiner! Get close to the forest. That's just how it works with mushrooms.

Same thing with soil types. Same thing with the timing of entirely different plants that might live, oh, a hundred meters away. You asked: When is it time to get in your car and drive to that spot from your happy mushroom childhood in Owen Sound? We answer: not a calendar date. It's not as though we mushroom people say to ourselves: "May 24th is International Morel Day" May 24th one year might be balmy and the next year we are still wearing Sorels. Whenis it time to look for morels? When the Lilacs are in bloom. When the manitoba maple keys that have inundated your lawn are at the 2-leaf stage. That is true. We are simply passing along true and important lessons.


 Imagine if your high school biology classes weren't about naming the parts of a thing within the boundaries of its cell wall or flesh or bark (oh gawd, those pithed frogs!) but were about naming the parts of the world around that particular thing, when it was alive? What are the main features of wild pigs? Apples! Cold water! Clay soils! What are the main features of nebullae? Elephants! Black ant hills! Salt. What if you learned from your old man that the best time to buy a new car or microwave was not Black Friday but when the moon was waning?Imagine if, when crossing the US border at Fort Erie and the customs agent asks you your name, where you are headed & the purpose of your visit? you answer by describing the purpose of cantilevers in the Peace Bridge you are driving across + the reasons given by your parents as to why they named you what you are named + the angle of the polarizing light due east along the Niagara River?

Absurd, nutty, the theatrical ravings of a hallucinating mind?Well, no. Not with mushrooms. Those are the sorts of answers to the questions you stop and ask us about mushrooms. Mushroomsareaboutother things. Otherthingsareaboutmushrooms.If we get up reallyreally close to that weirdo thought and squint even harder maybe we can glimpse and start to absorb the deep bedrock ecological insight that "mushrooms"are these other things. Mushrooms teach us what "collective" is, means, sounds like, smells like. "Where" collectivity happens.Is this what the incredible Lauren Hill is singing when she sings out with her immense pounding joyful fury: Everything is everything.

"In the next sixty years, the range of one songbird, the scarlet tanager, will likely move north almost a thousand miles, into central Canada. All on its own, the bird could make that adjustment fairly swiftly—but there is no such thing in nature as a species all on its own. The tanager thrives in mature hardwood forests, and those cannot simply pick up their roots and walk to cooler climates." Dear Jeff Rubin: sorry but you are dead wrong. You are wildly entertaining and fun to read to, but no. Canadians should not "get excited about being the next bread basket of the world" i.e. seeing climate chaos as a giant positive opportunity for riches just around the next carbon corner. You are still thinking like a banker or an armchair mushroomer: counting things in piles piled high rather than in chunks of life interwoven, underground and into the osmoticsphere in all directions. Don't count the tanagers before they are hatched: let's replant 10,0000000 square kilometers of hardwood forest first, then go counting.

Buy The Carbon Bubble: What Happens When it Bursts


Project links

My BF is a Mushroom