Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mushroom Capital of the World?

I recently came upon a link to a small town newspaper, whose very masthead proudly boasts that Richmond, Missouri is the Mushroom Capital of the World. They host an annual Mushroom Festival, featuring loads and loads of MORELS, which are my favorite ascomycete mushrooms that are not truffles. Okay, so that's not saying much, as there aren't lots of edible ascomycete mushrooms that are not truffles, but morels are REALLY QUITE TASTY.

This year's Miss Missouri hails from Richmond, as well, and was announced as being from the Mushroom Capital of the World.

Unfortunately for me, Ray County, Missouri, appears to be in the northwest corner of the state, about as far from Alabama as it could get. So I'm not sure the mushroom festival will fit in my agenda. But hopefully I'll get there someday, as any place with such myco-braggadocio must be all right.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On portobellos, crimini, and button mushrooms

In an item that recently came into my inbox, the author states that the crimini is the 'little brother' of the portobello. Actually, the relationship is not filial, it's identical. Crimini, portobello, and common button mushrooms as well (the most commonly consumed kind in the US) are all Agaricus bisporus (J.E. Lange) Imbach. Crimini are small portobellos, buttons are immature crimini, and portobellos are the larger, more mature version of buttons and crimini. The difference is in the size.

These saprobic mushrooms do grow in the wilds of Europe and North America, commonly in grassy areas, and while button mushrooms may have gills that appear pinkish or white, they actually have a dark brown spore print at maturity. There are several species of Agaricus that share this niche, and some are edible, even choice (no surprise there), while others are 'poisonous to some individuals', or just plain poisonous. Some have interesting aromas, like anise, almond, phenol, bleach, or 'fungal', and the staining reaction (color changes when cut or bruised) and skirt (partial veil) characteristics are also important for identification. As always, don't eat anything if you're not SURE you know what it is.

The species epithet 'bisporus' comes from the two-spored basidia. Four is the most common number of spores/basidium in the holobasidiomycetes including most mushrooms.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Good gravy, people.

I don't mean to prattle on about this, but really. Death cap mushrooms? Yes, there are edible and choice Amanitas, but I'm a professional mycologist and I don't feel like I've missed out on anything by staying away from these easily confused species. Especially when it's a choice between haute cuisine and the Pearly Gates.

I'm hesitant to say that any mushrooms are easy to identify and unlikely to be confused with anything else, because easy and difficult are relative terms. I've known people who've mistaken jack o'lanterns for chanterelles, which could have been a fatal mistake if they hadn't decided against picking them at the last minute. I don't think these mushrooms look much alike. I also don't think Gyromitras look much like morels if you look closely, but mistakes get made and people end up in the hospital or cemetary.

There are mushrooms that are great delicacies, and I enjoy eating beyond the regular button mushroom very much. But there's no reason to risk your life for a good meal. Mushrooms are much maligned in our culture, out of misunderstanding and ignorance. I shouldn't chastise those who at least try to broaden their palates, although it rankles me that people don't exercise more caution.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jack Teagarden sings Stars Fell On Alabama and some notes on license tags

Here's another YouTube post, featuring the song that graces our basic license tags. Some folks prefer to cover the "Stars Fell On..." part with a "Heart of Dixie" sticker, and as of 2009 you can get the new Sweet Home Alabama tag. I, for one, love the song Stars Fell On Alabama, though I think I'm in a minority, there. This rendition of Stars Fell on Alabama is performed by Jack Teagarden, a trombonist who played with many of the luminaries of jazz including Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, Bix Beiderbecke, "Fatha" Hines, and Paul Whiteman.

I have yet to see the Nuked Vet tag, but I'll let you know when I do.

Not Alabama, but next door

Would you get your girlfriend a chainsaw for Valentine's Day? You might could...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Not much going on in the mushroom news...

The mushroom news has been rather dull of late. So I thought I'd amble over to see what's on YouTube if you search for mushrooms.
Here's what I thought was the pick of the bunch.

As usual, you can expect a lot of good fungal love from Japan. This is Shonen Knife with a song called "Brown Mushrooms", which isn't particularly descriptive. Lots of found mushrooms are often immediately shunted into Arora's "LBJ's" (Little Brown Jobs). But hey, at least I'm posting something.

Really, most of the mushroom news hasn't been too exciting of late.