It’s spring! Embrace the psychology of mycology

Feel the breeze as you wander among the cottonwoods. To your left, the burble of the great river. To your right, forests busy with rabbit and beaver, where bald eagles build nests in the peaks, the better to keep an eye on the trout-heavy waterways that provide them with food. Ahead you see the Rockies. Behind? Your boss and phone calls from the bank and whatever that thing is that’s growing on your dog.

cripps et. alSuddenly, up ahead, you see it. A young “shaggy mane,” a Coprinus comatus, a most delicious mushroom if cooked up quickly. Basket in hand you spring forward. The bell-shaped delicacy will make you the toast of the campsite and it is time to seize culinary glory.

But wait! C. comatus looks too much like Coprinopsis atramentaria! The latter mixes poorly with alcohol and your camping companions are as soused as an aristocratic bear with the keys to the old Baron’s liquor cabinet.

Or could it be Chlorophyllum molybdites, another lookalike, one with so many human poisonings to its credit that Lucrezia Borgia plans to relocate from Florence to Boulder as soon as Leonardo da Vinci gets the family time machine working again?

It is shrooming season again, and welcome, because spring is now with us. Like many hobbies, mushrooming rewards precision. Unlike many, it punishes carelessness with severe health problems. Walking the line between the two requires the right tools. Where to start?

The Essential Guide to Rocky Mountain Mushrooms by Habitatthe resource for hunting up the Rockies’ most charismatic fungi. Packed with full-color photos, the Guide places each species in the context of its ecosystem, giving you all the information you need to make use of the mushroom while understanding why it grows there in the first place.

KuoS14Don’t feel like trekking to the mountains to practice your mycology? Go to the Midwest instead, where the people are nice, the rooms are cheap, and you are less likely to get mauled by a cougar.

Mushrooms of the Midwest illustrates over five hundred species with colorful photography and in-depth descriptions. It also goes beyond other guides in offering extensive info on using a microscope for IDing the shroom species that, like June, will be bustin’ out all over during the Midwest’s too-short warm weather period.

If you find it hard to decide between the Midwest’s many states, you may as well go to Illinois. It’s a mostly flat place, so it’s easy on your feet, and if you want to concentrate on mycology, there aren’t many distractions except tornadoes, and tornadoes are pretty interesting themselves, if you live.

McFarlandS09Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois and Surrounding States provides extensive detail on each edible species, including photographs of potential look-alikes to help you safely identify (and avoid) fungal poison. Mushroom lovers from Chicago to Cairo will find their favorite local varieties, including morels, chanterelles, boletes, puffballs, and many others. Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois and Surrounding States also offers practical advice on preparing, storing, drying, and cooking with wild mushrooms, presenting more than two dozen tantalizing mushroom recipes, including the highly improbable (yet delectable) Morel Tiramisu.