one side will make you grow taller
Tags: Alice and the Wonderland mushroom, Amanita muscaria, Christmas cards with poisonous mushrooms, Eastern European culinary culture, eating wild mushrooms, fairy ring, famously hallucinogenic mushrooms, foraging, foraging class, moist weather breeding fungus, mushrooms, mycology, poisonous toadstools, wild foods
I’m not sure which side the little bite was taken from, nor if the creature grew taller or smaller as a result. Or perhaps has died.
This moist weather has been breeding fungus everywhere. We have a fairy ring in our front yard, a hypnotic natural structure. I’d of course read of fairy rings since childhood, and always imagined them as tiny little circles. Not so. I mean, it’s not quite a crop circle, but it is a good five feet in diameter.
And no matter how much I inform myself of its well-documented scientific causes, it still seems supernatural to me. My eyes are riveted to its enormous arc whenever I’m nearby, and my emotions read it as slightly creepy — and yet extremely attractive. Like you want to go and stand in it and feel its power firsthand, in spite of all the dire folk tale warnings to the contrary. And some of them are very dire, like dooming one to an early death, or blinding one to reality, or putting one under the fairies’ sway — and the old-style fairies don’t seem at all related to the benign figures that we moderns picture. (Probably due partly to the influence of Cicely Mary Barker‘s popular paintings of flower fairies in the 1920s.)
Halloween is supposed to be a very powerful night to stand in the midst of the fairy ring. Also, full moon nights. Isn’t it so very strange that it showed up now? I’ll let you take a guess as to whether the negative or positive superstition decided my actions on Halloween night. (I’m sure you know me enough by now to realize science had almost no influence on my behavior, in spite of living with a physicist.)
The ones in the photo are fairytale mushrooms F. and I discovered on a walk in the woods. F. is very frustrated lately, with seven different kinds of mushrooms visible from the front door and tons more springing up everywhere in the forest. In his home country, Romania, he regularly collected wild mushrooms. It was part of the culture, and he misses their delicious tastes, which cannot be replicated by grocery store fare, unfortunately.
We were talking to friends of ours who just got home from the Czech Republic, where this wild mushroom gathering is also part of the culture, and where they so enjoyed the tastes. We Americans lamented that it is not part of our general cultural heritage, and all four of us decided we should locate a wild foods guide in the area and take lessons and split the cost.
Lo & behold, after the other Meredith did a little research (yes, her name is also Meredith), she discovered that Clemson hosts foraging classes on the first Monday of each month, followed by a hike in the woods the weekend after.
So that’s where I’ll be tonight, hopefully. Learning to recognize mushrooms in the local bioregion. Because I’m not quite as adventurous as Alice, and I don’t intend to test out which side might make me smaller or… oops! kill me.
[Author’s note: After drafting this post, I was reading the class syllabus and discovered in the notes about December’s meeting that the pictured toadstools are young Amanita muscaria, famously poisonous and hallucinogenic, used as symbolic Christmas greetings worldwide. We’re going to learn why a poisonous/hallucinogenic fungi would end up as a holiday greeting. F.’s sure he’s sent Christmas cards decorated with it before, so apparently the tradition extends to his culture.
It does seem a little odd as a choice — although the mushroom, itself, is rather pretty. It attracted me enough to photograph it for this blog. I’ll be sure to let you know if there’s any significance to that choice other than the obvious red/white holiday thing. Amanita muscaria apparently gets much redder as it matures and opens out.]
p.s. Very excited about the class now. I’ve already learned something. Also, we’re going to eat at the Mellow Mushroom afterwards. Doesn’t that make you smile? Makes me think the prof has a sense of humor.