Southeastern Permaculture Gathering: MUSHROOM HUNTING with Ken Crouse

Re: the 26th Annual Southeastern Permaculture Gathering, which Charisse (Rebecca) and I attended August 1-4:

Aside from the unusually warm and caring atmosphere engendered by this decidedly intergenerational tribe that started meeting 26 years ago, I was most impressed by the level of deep grounded knowledge held by the elders there, both those who offered classes, and others, with whom I held or overheard conversations over meals. Especially significant to me, the presence of male elders’ — due to the fact that I’m quite accustomed to empowered older females, crones, and in fact, am planning to attend the 17th annual Crones Counsel September 4-8, to be held this year in Tucson, Arizona.

I was going to lump the three male elders’ offerings that I attended into one post, but on further reflection, have decided to break them up into three different posts, plus add at least one more at the end, since it speaks so much to what we are doing here, in Green Acres Village.

Here’s the first, a walk in the woods, hunting mushrooms, with Ken Crouse, “Mushroom Maven of Miller Creek.”

Crouse Shares Passion for Mushrooms

As we circled up to begin our walk, Ken holds an enormous clustered mushroom that, those with some mushroom knowledge, thought might be another, edible mushroom, but, he says, it’s not. (Hw do you tell the difference? Because this one’s clustered, the other is not.) And, of course, we all know how crucial it is to know the difference!  However, he added, there aren’t many mushrooms that are so poisonous they will kill you, though the poisonous ones will certainly make you sick!


In order to tell if a mushroom is edible or not (and remember, some “edible” ones may not be tasty, or be too hard, etc.), he cautions that we need to check seven different characteristics: the general form or shape; whether or not it grows on wood or in the ground (and some that seem to grow in the ground are actually growing on wood just below the surface: so it’s important, when identifying, to remove the entire mushroom); the color; does it have ridges or gills on the underside of the bloom (gills look more like pieces of paper that you can riffle through), and if gills, then do they descend towards the stalk?); whether or not there’s a ring around the stalk at the top under the ridges or gills; whether or not there’s either a cup or a bulb at the bottom, where the mushroom connects to the wood or the ground; the smell, and finally, the taste! Yes, you can taste a tiny bit of any mushroom, and spit it out. If the taste is bitter, then do not eat! Here he is, in the woods with one of the mushroom offerings someone picked up (mushrooms are everywhere in the woods — tiny, large, some colorful, and even glow in the dark).

And here he is, with a mushroom I carefully excavated from the ground, where it was growing just off the path. We each took a tiny taste of this mushroom, and wow! Extremely bitter, and in fact even stinging, a taste that went on and on. DO NOT EAT.

After about an hour, it started raining, and quickly developed into a downpour, thus bringing the anticipated two hour class to a sudden, sodden end.

Tomorrow’s offering: Insects in the Garden with Dick McDonald, PhD. entymologist, aka Dr. Bug.

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