Updated: Feb 7
I'm sure I've overstated my love of spring and summer and my reluctance towards leaning into fall and winter. Over the past few years (thanks again to a pandemic) I have picked up on some new habits which made the adjustment to fall much easier.
Even if you don't enjoy them as a food, they are undeniably a curiosity of nature. I could go on and on about the benefits nutritionally and ecologically of fungi, but I'll leave that to the experts. *You should definitely check out Fantastic Fungi on Netflix.*
The simple appreciation of their beauty is enough for me. Enough for me, as a fully grown adult, to scamper giddily through the wet woods on hands and knees in search of any mushroom.
This one is called an aborted entoloma...but I like its other name better: Shrimp of the Woods
I am fascinated with all things fungi. I guess that doesn't come as surprising since I was that tomboy who was obsessed with slime and Gak. During the time we quarantined in 2020 I developed a new hobby of throwing on my coveralls (do you have these!?! Best thing EVER!) and traipsing through the forest looking for and identifying mushrooms. I planned on taking a picture of each one, IDing it with mushroom apps, spore prints, and a few mushrooming books, and storing the labeled picture in a folder in my Google account.
At this time of year I feel myself pulled to the woods again. Sometimes I look up - lately for paw paws- but mostly now I'm looking down. Way down. Downer than an herbalist usually looks.
Mushrooms are hard, man. For me they are much harder to find than herbs. I like to think that it's because I'm so far away from the ground, being a tall woman. But in truth, they require a stillness. A patience. A discerning eye to find a beige or white hiding under fallen leaves and branches of similar colors.
This is my medicine.
I am not the stillness type. I like my coffee- lots- and the jitters I get. I like the go go go feeling throughout the day. Meditation is challenging for me- which is why I need it. Mushrooming is hard for me- which is why I need it.
Searching for mushrooms forces me to get low, ground myself, and look deeply. I have to allow my eyes to acclimate to the area and the colors. It is a very intentional practice when you are foraging for something specific. I notice my breathing slows and gets deeper. I spend more time in one spot, taking time to scour the area with my eyes, and sometimes my hands as I lightly remove the top layer of leaves, decaying nuts, and soft mushy wood to reveal the dark loamy earth beneath. I let my senses connect by laying my fingertips in the cool wet dirt and taste the musty earthiness though my nose. You can't rush this experience. After a day of hurrying around doing many things, I need this time and space to balance me out.
Part of it feels like a treasure hunt, which brings back that youthful giddiness again. You need a childlike curiosity with nature, I've found. To remain too cold is reminiscent of the Enlightenment philosophy, and I will forever remain a Romanticism kind of gal. There goes the English teacher in me...
I keep saying it- mushrooms will rule the world. They're the answer. The studies being done are truly mind-blowing. And, from the psychological perspective, the healing properties of psilocybin on people struggling with addiction, depression, and OCD are incredible.
Here's a link to one article among many about using psilocybin for alcohol addiction
Now, I know a lot of people get uncomfortable when talking about wild mushrooms. A lot of people react with a natural "Woah! POISON!" which I think it entirely reasonable. There is good reason to use caution and to respect a thing which carries within it so much power. But unless you're planning on eating them, there's nothing to fear about going out to ID mushrooms. Who knows- maybe you'll discover a new species. New ones are being identified all the time. And you don't really need any experience to go out and appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of the mushrooms you find. They're just so cool to look at! The variety is astonishing- much more varied in appearance than trees or other plants, in my opinion.
I encourage you to go outside this half of the year and open your eyes to some shrooms. You don't have to eat them- in fact maybe you should NOT eat them and just appreciate them in their natural state. It's easy to stay inside and ground down with a fire and a hot mug. Try wrapping yourself up in something cozy and go outside to get low and connect with the earth. Find some cool fungi and figure out what it is. Or just chill with it and see what it has to teach you. I'm telling you... mushrooms are the answer.
Here are some fun mushroomy links:
Zombie Ants from Fungi!?
Fungi that breaks down plastic!
Mycelia is so cool- the internet of the forest
And, if you're interested in learning about incorporating medicinal mushrooms into your daily life, sign up to work with me!