Why Join a Mushroom Club?

One day Minnesota mushroom hunter John Mikesh read something in the newspaper about a local club where people like him went out hunting for all kinds of mushrooms together on properly organized, scientific forays. One of the best parts: People got to keep and cook some of the prized edible ones if they wanted. So Mikesh joined the Minnesota Mycological Society and soon found himself walking through the woods side by side with mushroom experts known as mycologists--scientists who study fungi.

Learning to identify mushrooms with the guidance of experts enabled Mikesh to recognize which local mushrooms were safe to eat and which ones were toxic.

But there was more. Suddenly a universe he never recognized surrounded him. All of those mushrooms growing everywhere had names--and predictable habitats. And while some of those mushrooms were toxic, some were delicious edibles he never knew existed. So happy was Mikesh to expand his discovery of nature and mushrooms, he joined the North American Mycological Association--the official club for amateur mushroom hunters in North America. One thing led to another until one summer day in 2008 he found himself hiking near the mountains in McCall, Idaho where the annual foray for the North American Mycological Association was being held.

In the tall grass near a mountainside he spotted a mushroom that would astonish everyone back in camp. Mikesh had found a huge King Bolete, officially known as Boletus edulis--one of the most prized edible mushrooms in the world. In camp it was passed around. Pictures were taken. Mushroom hunters Mikesh didn’t even know took pictures of themselves holding the giant mushroom. Since there were no scales in camp, men who claimed authority stepped forward to hold it, then estimate its weight. Most agreed it weighed at least three pounds. Estimates as high as five pounds were not dismissed.

It was a King Bolete of rare size.

Of course, everybody knew the mushroom was far too old to eat--a week earlier it might have been fine, but now it was close to being rotten. Yet none of the mushroom hunters cared. It was still a beautiful mushroom, every bit as important as any of the hundreds of different mushrooms spread out on the collection tables in camp, each specimen with a tag written by a mycologist explaining the  name of the mushroom, its habitat, and the name of the person who collected it.

At the North American Mycological Association’s 2008 foray held in McCall, Idaho, John Mikesh was king for the day, finder of the largest King Bolete in camp. The thing is, anyone could have found it.

It honestly could have been you.


Boletus edulis

John Mikesh

                           Reach out.


Why Amateur Mushroom Hunters Matter 
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