Teenaged Mutant Ninja Mushrooms
By Cam Mather
We’ve had three uncharacteristically wet summers here in our part of Ontario, compared to the usual drought we experience during the summer. It’s funny but when I talk to people who don’t garden there is a perception that this was a really rainy summer. While many of the days did experience some rain, the rain was very light and because of my sandy soil it was useless for the garden. I still had to water with irrigation for most of the summer. I can also judge the actual amount of rainfall by the level of our pond, which was the lowest it’s ever been in August.
Our lawns managed to stay remarkably green this summer, which means we got enough rain to keep the roots of the grass moist. The wet days brought a whole new variety of pests into the garden which we’ve never had before, notably slugs. Many other pests like our squash bugs have mysteriously gone away, so I guess you have to take the good with the bad.
This fall our place has erupted with an explosion of mushrooms. We usually get some growing, but not like this. Not in the volume or variety. It’s been like something out of movie, about alien space invaders. In fact we had some that looked like the brains on those Martians from the movie “Mars Attack” that went around vaporizing everyone.
For someone who tries to grow as much of my own food as I possible, this proliferation of mushrooms presents a dilemma. Should I eat them? Our friend Jerry grew up in Europe and whenever he comes here he ventures off into the woods and comes back with a handful of mushrooms. Next thing you know he’s cooking them up and eating them.
I, on the other hand have never eaten “blow fish” or anything else that has the potential to kill me, in short order. I have heard from some of the local people that they eat the “puff balls” that routinely grow on the lawn but I can’t bring myself to taste them. There’s just something that holds me back. I guess it was that obituary I read in Macleans Magazine recently (here) of a woman who loved to eat wild mushrooms. She was considered an expert at their identification, but it turns out there’s a highly coveted wild mushroom that is tasty and edible but looks identical to a poisonous one. Judging by the description of this women’s demise, being poisoned by a mushroom is not a good way to die when you make a mistake.
Right now I have no interest in “astronomy”. I love to stand out on a clear night in our inky blackness and admire the cosmos but I have no idea what I’m looking at. Ignorance can be bliss. I don’t know any constellations. I don’t Orion, or any of the ones you’re supposed to know. I’ve decided for now I’m taking the same stance on wild mushrooms. I’m going to admire them, but I’m not going to try to figure out what they are. I won’t be putting them on my dinner plate for the time being.