Several years ago, my wife and I spent a picture-perfect autumn weekend camping and hunting mushrooms in the Ozarks with the Missouri Mycological Society (MoMS). We enjoyed the event so much that we joined the group and attended their annual mushroom-based feast the following January. But most members lived in and around St. Louis, and their events tended to be far from my home in Jefferson City. We never really got in the swing of things.
So, I was really excited a few weeks ago when I learned recently that MoMS is starting a Central Missouri Chapter. They held their first field trip earlier this month at Rock Bridge State Park in Boone County. I went, hoping to find the same relaxed, companionable atmosphere I remembered from the St. Louis group. I wasn’t disappointed. Besides attracting people with a wide range of ages and interests, the inaugural foray was under the direction of bona-fide fungus experts who could teach beginners about mushroom identification and steer us clear of dangerous species.
I arrived after the instructional part of the program, just in time to get to know a few of the people during a potluck lunch. The dishes people brought provided evidence of their interest in wild foods. There was a meatless Hen-of-the-Woods casserole that I would have sworn had meat in it, wild rice with a wild mushroom that I can’t recall right now and acorn-flour muffins. Because I had cleaned out the freezer the night before, I brought a wild-game gumbo.
After lunch, we split up into four small groups to comb different parts of the surrounding woods for any sort of fungus we could find. Each group brought their finds back to the headquarters campground for identification. Normally, an October mushrooms foray would produce dozens of specimens to identify, but the weather had been ridiculously dry, and fungi were scarce. The upside was flawless autumn weather and intoxicating scenery at the peak of fall foliage color. With this kind of fun close to home, I will be back for more.
If this sounds intriguing to you, visit missourimycologicalsociety.org/chapters.html. If you get started now, you will be in the loop when they head out to look for morels next spring!