As a very young child, I remember foraging for summer mushrooms in the Quebec woods. My parents, having come from Poland after the war, would get together with friends and look for edible mushrooms. Then, they would have a communal cookout of their wild mushrooms, with lots of sausages and good solid rye breads. My youthful memories include being told to “look for the mushrooms with the holes underneath”, i.e. not the gilled ones. I also remember my father specifically stating he did not like ‘rydzy’, which I now know is the Polish word for ‘Lactarius deliciosus’. It’s obvious my father did not find that particular mushroom very delicious as the name would imply. Then, when I was barely 10 years old, due to family circumstances, foraging for mushrooms stopped. My education in edible mushrooms had gone no further than “don’t pick the gilled mushrooms”.

Fast forward 50 years later; I decided to re-discover my ‘Polish’ mushroom heritage. I did a website search, and, ‘lo and behold’, there was an ‘Alberta Mycological Society’ and they had a branch in Calgary. So, in 2012, I decided to join.

At that point in time, my only mushroom knowledge was from my grocery shopping experience; i.e. white button mushrooms, brown button mushrooms and large brown mushrooms. On my first spring AMS foray, I found some morels. Wow! I was hooked!, these are amazing!

In the ensuing years, I have made many more intriguing discoveries in the world of mushrooms. Early summer brings oyster mushrooms growing on dead or dying aspen. Often, these oysters require some rather ingenious methods of removing them from their elevated tree positions. Another spring foray in the foothills of Alberta showed promise of morels. Unfortunately, only a few morels were found. However, many, many many verpas were found…and, in fact, our baskets became too full to pick them all.

As I continued to attend forays and events, my knowledge increased. I learned about ‘Red Tops’ or Leccinum, puffballs, hericeum, russula, and honey mushrooms. My knowledge and confidence with foraging increased to the point where people were now asking me questions! I also now know a few ‘gilled’ mushrooms that can be eaten. With that knowledge, I picked some ‘rydzy’ or Lactarius deliciosus. Hmmm, perhaps my father was right…the ‘rydzy’ are edible, but perhaps not as delicious as other mushrooms. Another exciting first was finding my first large King bolete in the southern foothills of Alberta. That mushroom made it’s way into some very tasty risotto.

I’ve always been a hiker, a walker in the woods. I’ve loved smelling the forest and looking at the flowers. Now, I can’t seem to go for a walk without noticing if there are also any interesting fungi growing in the woods.