There’s a fungus among us.
Due to an unusually rainy past few months, this fall’s mushroom season is one of the most bountiful in decades — and mycophiles are having a sporing good time.
“I can’t remember any season that’s been better,” said “Wildman” Steve Brill, who’s been leading foraging tours in Prospect Park and other city greenspaces for 29 years. “I’m having trouble cooking and cleaning all the mushrooms I’ve gotten.”
On Brill’s most recent gathering, he and a group of 37 stumbled upon trove after trove of blewit mushrooms, a “Eureka!”-worthy bounty that had some people walking away with armfuls.
The violet-hued blewit is prized for its flavor and is said to sauté beautifully — but it can be confused for other blue-tinged mushrooms that are decidedly less-delectable: the Cortinarius Violaceous, for example, which is poisonous.
Speaking of poison, one needs to look no further than the Poison Control Center for proof of mushrooming intoxification.
The city fielded 48 calls for mushroom-ingestion issues in August and September — double the amount of calls during the same period in 2010, according to the Health Department.
Brill is dismissive of these numbers.
“That just means there’s twice as many idiots,” he said.
The mushroom boom is a direct result of a rainy summer, particularly an August with just shy of 19 inches of rain — the wettest month in city history.
In addition to blewits, you can find hen-of-the-woods, wine-cap stropharia, and giant puff-ball mushrooms the size of beachballs in Prospect Park. Legend holds that hallucinogenic mushrooms can also be found around the city (but you didn’t hear that from us).
Mushroom foraging may be a walk in the park — but it’s not easy.
More than two hours passed on Brill’s tour on Saturday before the group finally found some fungi: even in a banner year, you have to know where to look for ’shrooms.
“It’s not a supermarket,” Brill said. “It has a crapshoot quality to it.”
Even those who are new to foraging are jumping aboard the bandwagon this year — though it takes some time to get used to the speed of the bandwagon.
“This is why people started hunting,” said Christopher Jones-Marino, who eventually found the first patch of blewits. “You could spend all week looking for two meals.”
They may have not gathered more calories than they burnt hiking around, but people were pleased to be able to find things to spruce up their dinner plates, nonetheless.
Still, Brill cautions first-timers against looking too hard for mushrooms, which will be around until the first frost.
“The best place to find mushrooms is where no one else is looking,” he said. “And don’t go eating them until you have a good handle on them.”Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg
©2011 Community News Group
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