Even a shade-loving species like the mushroom sometimes gets a day in the sun. And thanks to an increased interest in locavorism, "More people are interested in foraging for mushrooms," says Barbara DeRiso, a "mushroom enthusiast" who serves as treasurer for the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club. "The woods are a little more picked over than they used to be."
The humble fungus will truly be in the spotlight on Sept. 13, when the club hosts its 14th annual Gary Lincoff Mushroom Foray. The foray is a day-long series of events — including talks, mushroom-identification hikes and a cooking demonstration by Johnstown chef Tom Chulick — from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at North Park. Among the experts on hand will be Gary Lincoff himself, who wrote the book on mushroom identification for the Audubon Society.
The event is a highlight for the 400-member club, which sponsors regular mushroom hikes from April to October. Even if you don't attend the session on identifying mushrooms by using DNA techniques — an area of special interest to local members — DeRiso says participating in the guided walks will "start you on the road" to identifying some distinctive edible mushrooms. Events feature "a nice mix of science and more utilitarian interest," says DeRiso, with much to offer any would-be foragers with "a practical interest in learning how not to poison themselves."