Love for the Locals: Alberta Mycological Society

Today, P and I visited the "City of Champignons" Wild Mushroom Exposition hosted by the Alberta Mycological Society at the Devonian Botanic Garden. (For those of you who are not Edmontonians, "City of Champions" became the city's slogan after the tornado of 1987.)

Many who know me well, know how much I love mushrooms. 

Things I learned today about mushrooms (courtesy of the Alberta Mycological Society):
- You won't be harmed by touching or smelling toxic mushrooms - only if you ingest them.
- There are 3 main types of mushrooms: edible, medicinal, and toxic.
- Some mushrooms look very similar, but have characteristics like stains or smells that distinguish them. Some differ almost only just by where they are found.
- There is a mushroom that will literally make you laugh to death. 
- Fairy ring mushrooms, commonly found on your lawn are actually edible!
- It's actually better to cook mushrooms before eating them, even if they're from the grocery stores. They contain natural carcinogens, which can be broken down by being cooked.
- While mushrooms in their younger stages can sometimes be identified by being sliced in half, if they are too young, some distinct characteristics may not have developed yet and make "buttons" difficult to identify.
- There are at least 20 common varieties of mushrooms that can be found in Alberta!

A fabulous spread of mushrooms that the Alberta Mycological Society gathered yesterday!
One of the mycology enthusiasts picked up the big white one and said, "this one is edible, but it tastes like wet newspaper".
My favourite table for identifying mushrooms - the edible ones!
They even had a cooking station set up where you could sample two dishes by donation, or pay to order an item on their menu, which offered strawberry enoki soup, mushroom veloute, and corn on the cob smothered in mushroom butter. Having just come from lunch, we opted for the samples, but will definitely consider coming for lunch at next year's expo!
Mushrooms on toast. A lot of garlicky, buttery mushrooms on toast. 
Mushroom risotto topped with a mixture of wild mushrooms and some parmesan!
AMS Director-at-Large, Robert Simpson was our guide on the Mushroom Walk in the Garden, and taught us how to examine and identify different mushrooms found in the Devonian Botanic Garden, particularly the edibles, which I was definitely a fan of! Unfortunately, P and I had to duck out a little early because I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes in the woods...
I did leave with this beautiful Shaggy Parasol mushroom cap, which I cooked for my dinner tonight! It was bigger than my hand!
Shaggy parasols are very fragile when mature, so you need to take care when washing and preparing it, but it will probably crumble at least a bit anyways.
The mushroom actually shrinks down quite a bit, but the flavour is quite intense. I sauteed the mushrooms in some olive oil with chopped garlic and dried thyme, and later tossed it together with some parsley, parmesan, and fusilli. Simple, but delicious!
It was my first time cooking with a mushroom from a foraging trip (also my first foraging trip, period), and it was probably the freshest mushroom I've ever eaten! I will be sure to keep an eye out for edibles upon future walks, so that I can indulge in more of this earthy goodness! :)


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