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Finding the fungus/mushrooms among us

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KENT – For one Kent resident a guided hike to find mushrooms was just what he was looking for Saturday morning.

Brett Hall moved to Kent seven years ago and he has wanted to explore the woods behind his home and forage for mushrooms but he was nervous.

Dave Paton, far left, leads a hike through Pond Mountain Trust June 1 to discover mushrooms. Kent residents Woody and Pixie Brown and Brett Hall in the front were among the 12 participants. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

“I have thought about it but I needed something to push me to learn more,” Hall said.

Dave Paton provided a guided opportunity June 1 at the Pond Mountain Natural Area off Fuller Mountain Road as part of the Connecticut Trails Day 2024 sponsored by Connecticut Forest and Park Association.

The program was called “A Fungus Among Us” and involved a two-hour talk and hike through the preserve.

Paton began by gathering the dozen hikers in front of his car, where he’d spread out books and sample mushrooms. He passed around several different kinds and encouraged the participants to smell and feel the fungi. Self-taught, Paton, who grew up in Sharon but now lives in Lakeville, has been educating himself and foraging since the 1970s.

“Most mushrooms are not poisonous,” he said. The saying of “Eat what you know. If in doubt throw it out,” is a good one to abide by.

While he was told as a child that mushrooms don’t have many nutrients, Patton said that is false. There are a lot of health benefits from eating mushrooms. In fact, he shared one species, turkey tail, that is used frequently in a tea by cancer patients.

He infused humor throughout the hike that went alongside the scenic Fuller Pond. There was even a point when Paton, who is a renowned musician, sang his mushroom song that he wrote and encouraged everyone to join him on the chorus. Paton is part of a group that performs Irish music each Sunday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Bulls Bridge Inn. He invited all of the attendees to stop by.

Starting with oyster mushrooms, Paton said there are many different varieties but they are all edible. The golden oyster mushrooms came from China, he said, and were grown in Pennsylvania and the spores escaped and spread.

“This is an invasive species that I approve of,” Paton said to laughter among the group. “Oysters are very safe. They always tend to grow in clumps of different sizes.”

He did share that it was a good practice to try a small amount of a mushroom because people react differently to mushrooms.

“Just eat a little bit the first day. Your body might say, here’s a protein we’ve never seen before, we want this out,” Paton said.

He recommended eating mushrooms when they are fresh. They will get dried out.

“Anytime I try a new mushroom I cook it in butter, maybe with a little salt,” Paton said.

He discussed the different seasons for specific mushrooms. It was too late in early June for morels and too early for chicken of the woods or hen of the woods, which grow in fall. He encouraged the novices to check fallen logs closely as many are hosts to mushrooms.

At the end, Hall said he found the hike and talk interesting but said there is more to learn. He will be looking for more hikes offered by Patton to become more knowledgeable.

Lynn Worthington
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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    wendy murphy

    June 6, 2024 at 1:12 pm

    Best to check the note about the Irish music get-together for accuracy. Its been on pause for a long time owing to COVID but is starting up again on a once a month basis I think NEXT MONDAY evening June 10.

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