What’s with the title that sounds like a grade school textbook cover, you ask? Well, this post is about mushrooms — including the magical kind — which brings us to mushroom identification. Very important when you’re walking through the woods and lean down to pick some mushrooms and wonder if they’re edible or not. These little things can be deadly, or tasty, or good for you, or not. Food or foe, wouldn’t you want to know?
Paulo and I went to a mushroom workshop in Vila do Conde on Saturday, which first took place at the Centro Ciência Viva (Living Science Centre), before moving to the nearby woods for a field trip.
The Science Centre in Vila do Conde has a photogenic ceiling. The building used to be a jail, and the place where the ceiling currently is was the patio, around which they built this tower.
From there everyone in the workshop carpooled to a wooded area by a residential neighbourhood about five minutes away. Our guide, Carlos Venade, with the help of some eagle-eyed spotters in the group, found some varieties and he explained each mushroom type as we encountered them. My Portuguese isn’t enough to follow the explanations, but Paulo stepped in to translate for me from time to time.
I think everyone’s favourite thing was to squeeze the mushrooms that spewed spores through their “blowholes”:
If you think you know mushrooms, you should really talk to Carlos Venade. It doesn’t take a grasp of Portuguese to see the guy can identify plants at twenty paces. And when you begin to find out how many different species of plants are in the average forest, it is truly mind-boggling. Paulo’s attended workshops led by him before, about aromatic and edible plants, and that was a motivation to see this one.
To have a sense of wonder about the planet means we should also be more conscious of how to preserve the ecosystems, through understanding nature. For example, how mushrooms and trees have a mutually-beneficial relationship (hint: mushrooms hold a lot of water).
After a couple of hours in the field we were down to the last bit of light. The workshop continued once the group made our way back to the science centre, with a screen presentation and a couple of baskets of mushrooms for demonstration. There was even tea and very edible mushrooms in olive oil served with bread and butter (with tiny mushrooms mixed in) afterwards, which made me thankful I’m not allergic to mushrooms because they are very tasty… I even bought a jar of marinated mushrooms to take home and gave it to my in-laws.