Lincoff keynote speaker at 30th Telluride Mushroom Festival

Lincoff keynote speaker at 30th Telluride Mushroom Festival

[click “Play” for Susan’s interview with Gary Lincoff]

2010HarvestAug14Hollinbeck The Telluride Mushroom Festival, Thursday, August 26  – Sunday, August 29, bills itself as the nation’s “oldest mycological conference exploring all things fungal.” Which is saying a tasty mouthful since fungi have been around for a very long time. A lot longer than people, perhaps 500 million years. (The earliest known picture of a mushroom was found on a wall painting in the ruins of Pompeii.)

Fungi used to be classified as part of the plant kingdom. They become a kingdom of their own because fungi differ in biochemistry and structure from plants and cannot synthesize their own food. The mushrooms people collect are just the fruiting bodies of mycelium, a sentient cobweb-like web of cells. These “fruits” are created in order to manufacture spores for reproduction. Because so much shroom activity occurs underground in the fungal version of the world wide web, mushrooms themselves appear to pop up quite suddenly over night.

Fungi come in a wondrous variety of shapes, sizes and colors, from tiny cup fungi to puffballs the size of basketballs. (Just picked a few puffballs this morning in our own backyard. Plan to cook them up later in puffball and eggplant parmesan.) Today, the sorts of wild shrooms sold at retail or served in your local restaurants are generally above suspicion. The main health hazards are fungi we collect ourselves.

One way to avoid risk (though minimal in this part of the world) is to go on a foray with someone like Gary Lincoff. Lincoff chaired the Telluride Mushroom Festival for 25 years (1980-2004). He returns this year as the keynote speaker.

Lincoff’s permanent professional home is the New York Botanical Garden, where he has taught plant and mushroom studies since the 1970s. He is author or co-author on a wide variety of books about mushrooms, including “The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms” and more to the point about which shrooms to avoid, “Toxic and Hallucinogenic Mushroom Poisoning.”

At the Telluride Mushroom Festival Lincoff is exploring the topic, “”A Mushwomb with a View: How the Marginalized became the Matrix.” He is also leading identification slide shows and ID workshops. Lincoff’s new book, “The Complete Mushroom Hunter,” is available at the Festival.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to Gary Lincoff’s interview.

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