One of the treasures I found in the tool shed was the oyster mushroom knife. This is a U-shaped blade with a 5-inch ring below it. Netting that forms a gentle basket is attached to the ring. The knife assembly attached to 10’ poles. This allowed us to pick oyster mushrooms up to 40’ high in the dead eucalyptus trees in our regional park, which did not survive the ‘great freeze’ of my childhood. 1000 miles north of my childhood picking ground, I rarely see oyster mushrooms in the wild, but if I do, I again have the surgical picking instrument my father fabricated.
Mushroom gathering was an academic exercise in my family. One of my mom’s main authors was from Germany, and took us under his wing and taught us how to forage. It was wonderful. We took trips into deep woods carrying out so many pounds of honey mushroom (that do not come to the dance every year), that my folks made and froze enough soup made from these little delights to last years. We hunted chanterelles, bluettes, morelles, bloetus, shaggy manes, classic field mushrooms, and so many more. It was empowering to have my mom and her boss teach me how to tell which one of many identical mushrooms were ok to eat, and which one would upset my stomach, much less which ones would kill me.
We made spoor prints from mushroom when our guide books didn’t have enough detail to make a definitive identification. Mom taught me how to do this: Remove the stem of the mushroom so the cap could rest on paper. Place a vessel of some sort over the mushroom cap to keep any draft from messing up the print. Walk away for 24-hours or so.
The mushroom culture, from learning what was eatable, how to identify mushrooms in the forest, harvesting, drying, cooking, and enjoy eating them in a myriad of way, was something my mom brought into my, and my dad’s life. 🍄 (Ha, but not this mushroom!)
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