The Gem Faire is in San Rafael this weekend. It is in the Veteran’s Memorial Theatre behind the blue spaceship that is the Marin Civic Center. It is open Friday through Sunday. For details search: Gem Faire. What is it about the use of an ‘e’ at the end of the word that evokes an event in England? It is in Marin.
Mid-winter mushrooms are up. The cold, rain, cold cycle — more typical for this time of year, is working. For new persons, just go to a nice wooded park near home and start looking down. Like my first mushroom foray all those years ago, they are everywhere, if I had only looked down earlier in life. Do not eat anything, mushrooms are not poisonous to touch but to actually eat one...you are betting your liver. Pick one or several for your basket. When you get home break off the stem and put the cap right side up on a piece of paper. Many mushrooms have a white or nearly white spore, for those use softly colored paper so that you can see the subtle shades. Whilst waiting for the spore to fall onto your paper, look at the cap. Note the color and any variations of color, does it have a button in the middle and is it an ‘innee’ or an ‘outee’? Rub your finger over the cap, dry or sticky? Look under the cap, gills or pores? How are they attached to the stem? Is the stalk very thick or stick like? Is there a ring around the base and how is it shaped? Now give the cap a sniff, note the odor, most smell like earth, many have a distinctive odor. You can skip the bushes and just buy a couple at the grocery store and use your observations to make notes.
After you have collected notes on each mushroom go to, www.mycoweb.com and follow the guides to narrow down your ‘specie’ of mushroom. The site has extensive photos of most mushrooms on those covered. There are over five-thousand individual mushrooms in California, not all are on the site and no one I know has them all committed to memory. Finding your way is known as ‘keying’ your fungi, using your observations to ‘key’ through the guide. Did I mention you should not eat one from the wild? Many mushroom lovers do not eat them, some go for the outdoor sport, some go to take pictures, one lovely lady goes to find mushrooms for dying fabrics. Who knew? One friend loves to foray but refuses to learn any identification, it is easier to just ask Bill. His rule is, “Is it edible?” After 10 years he still picks up the same inedible and asks the same question.
The DeYoung museum exhibit, Teotihuacan City of Fire City of Water, is nearing the end. The material in the exhibits have never before been on display. There is now a site where you can use a video game, ‘Minecraft’, to explore the ancient ruins. If you are a gamer it may be dull, if you are an amateur archaeologist you may be fooled into thinking the stages are historically accurate, they are not. For a deeper look at both Google; Teotihuacan City of Fire, City of Water and click through the hits.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.