Mushrooms popping up all over

Fun with fungi

It's been a stellar year for mushrooms. Even as waterlogged tomatoes and squishy zucchini took over our region's gardens, the noble fungi thrived. But don't go picking just any old mushrooms — learn from the best at the Asheville Mushroom Club's Fungi Fest on Saturday, Sept. 7.

Curious about the mushrooms blossoming in your yard? Stop by the festival's wild mushroom display to find out if your fungi is safe to eat or better off left undisturbed. Club members will be on hand to answer questions throughout the day and they love talking about mushrooms just as much as you do.

Mushroom walks (with a special focus on the dos and don'ts of fungi hunting) and classes about everything from cooking to cultivation will entice beginner enthusiasts and experienced shroomers alike. An array of wild mushrooms will be on display all day, so even if you don't make it to a class, there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with mushrooms.

The festival also offers the chance to connect with fellow fungi lovers. The Asheville Mushroom Club was founded in 1983 by four intrepid souls who wanted to share the joys of mushrooms. They came together to investigate why some mushrooms are deadly while others offer numerous health benefits. Through monthly meetings, potlucks and field trips, the group uncovers the truth about mushrooms, both common and rare.

Fungi Fest will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission to the North Carolina Arboretum, located at 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, requires an $8 parking fee (or free for Arboretum members). There are additional fees for classes, ranging from $15-$25. Advanced registration for classes is recommended and available at http://avl.mx/z2. General information about Fungi Fest and the Asheville Mushroom Club can be found at http://avl.mx/z3.

Cultivate your own

If you want to add mushrooms to your diet, but aren’t able to venture out into the woods, consider growing your own. Asheville Fungi: Mushroom Central, located at 16 Allen St., offers basic mushroom cultivation classes on the first Sunday of each month. The next class is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 8.

This hands-on class will cover many aspects of growing mushrooms, such as agar work, grain masters and bulk substrates. A six-week advanced class offers 20 hours of working in Mushroom Central's sterile lab, which includes a boiler room and growing space.

If you're ready to dabble in shrooms, forge your own path with Mushroom Central's logs, plugs and sawdust spawn, which include varieties like Lions Mane, Blue Oyster and Black Poplar. The store encourages the public to "take [spawn bags] home, cut them open and enjoy some delicious mushrooms." Registration for both classes is highly recommended: http://www.shroomcentral.com.

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