Once again The 31st Annual Mushroom Festival provided a fantastic opportunity for people to mingle over mushrooms, music, community and fall traditions at the Mt. Pisgah Arboretum.
Freshly-pressed hot apple cider was available for purchase by the quart or cup as festival goers entered the fairgrounds. All the proceeds went directly to the funding of Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, which has been the purpose of the festival since its inception 31-years ago. The cider was perfectly spiced and the taste was superb. Cider drinkers could linger and watch volunteers make the delicious-fall nectar or continue exploring the festival.
Live music filled the air, a new band playing every hour, and people found their way to the leafy dance floor near the stage. The Huckleberries, which is the only band I was able to watch perform, played their unique and folksy old-time country music; they were perfect.
Eating mushrooms is an integral part of the mushroom festival and the food was fantastic. The Rain Forest Mushroom Company was on hand again giving sauteed mushroom samples including butter cap, lions mane, blue oyster, and yellow chanterelle’s. Ritta’s Burritos was a hit, and sold out of mushroom burritos. Holy Cow Cafe made a delicious soup with over 6-different kinds of mushroom. It was creamy soup with the fine savory flavor that only mushrooms can produce.
Plant, mushroom, t-shirt, and art vendors were also there selling a wide variety of great products (I bought some pink oyster mushrooms).
The scarecrow contest displayed a wide array of talent and creativity. Some scarecrows were quite gruesome while others were comedic and clever. The scarecrows were a great contribution to the festival.
Jeremy Mixon who attended the festival was beaming, “It’s been great. Got to check out a lot of varieties of mushrooms, and buy some mushrooms, and see some good people.”
I sat down with Toby Este, who helped pick mushrooms for the festival’s display, to talk about mushrooms, and he was impressed with this festival.
“This show is amazing compared to a lot of shows I’ve been too, just based on the size of it and the public participation. The species list on any given year cracks 350 species and that’s phenomenal in and of itself.”
Este has been collecting mushrooms for over 20 years, but he didn’t start collecting mushrooms to make a delicious meal. “I was initiated into the world of mycology (the study and collection of fungi) by psychadelic mushrooms,” Este said. “I was eating my first chanterelles at age 17, becuase I was finding them in the woodlands around the cowfields where I was going to seek pscyhodelic mushrooms.”
He learned how learned how to cook with the mushrooms he found and he was hooked for life, “I’ve probably eaten in excess of 250 species. every year I add a few species to that list. At the same time I thoroughly enjoy sitting there identifying inedible mushrooms, gross mushrooms, mushrooms that stink, I love doing it. This week, before the show I get to pick anything and everything. I’m on the lookout for the most unusual things things that I can’t identify.”
It’s people like Toby Este who made this festival possible. Members of the Cascade Mycological Society and LCC put their time and talent into one of the very best mushroom displays in the country.
If you haven’t come to a mushroom festival yet you are missing out on a genuinely unique opportunity to see (and eat) a strange and beautiful group of organisms.