Telluride Mushroom Fest #33: Fun with Food & Forays

Telluride Mushroom Fest #33: Fun with Food & Forays

The Telluride Mushroom offers multiple food adventures for all tastes and wallets and about five forays per day leaving at 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Check the website for details.

The Telluride Mushroom Festival, Friday, August 15  – Tuesday, August 19, bills itself as the nation’s “oldest mycological conference exploring all things fungal.”

Costume contest winner, Telluride Mushroom Festival 2013

Costume contest winner, Telluride Mushroom Festival 2013

Which is saying a tasty mouthful since fungi have been around for a very long time.

A whole 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.)

The 33rd annual gathering of mycophiles of all stripes (or spores) celebrates the many uses of fungi and all thing mycological. Specifically, this year’s theme is “mushroom science,” because fungi are all-purpose change agents: they can break down plant cellulose in nature to create food and medicine for people. They provide nutrients for plants. The species serves as bio-remediators to filter and break down toxic soils from oil spills and agricultural runoff.

In the foreword to the book, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Save the Planet,” (2005) by Paul Stamets, Dr. Andrew Weill writes: “Mushrooms – ignored by many, reviled by some – may turn out to be important keys to both human health and planetary health…”

In his “The Fungal Pharmacy,” Robert Rogers says: “Medicinal mushrooms have an established history of use in traditional and ancient therapies. Contemporary research has validated and documented much of the ancient knowledge…

foray 3

Beyond the food for thought, however, there are actual food and foraging adventures at the Mushroom Festival #33.

“The noun ‘umami’ means ‘good taste’ in Japanese, but in English it is generally understood as meaty savoriness, the flavor of the nonessential amino acid glutamate, as found in steak and cheese and MSG,” writes Eugenia Bone in her “Mycophilia” about the taste of mushrooms.

Over the long weekend, the lobby of the Palm Theatre is being converted into a Science Center and Vendor Fair, where the public is invited to taste snack foods made of mushrooms.

Attendees can sample culinary delicacies at Saturday’s ever popular cook-off, 1 – 3 p.m., South Pine Street between Smuggler’s and the Library. A joint venture of the Mushroom Festival and the Wilkinson Public Library, chefs compete to win prizes for the most imaginative and delicious fungi-centric dishes.

Street scene at 2013 Cook-off.

Street scene at 2013 Cook-off.

(Cookoff tickets – only $7 – while supplies last at

The Telluride Mushroom Festival is also hosting a a very special gourmet dinner at La Marmotte, strictly a white table cloth event, orchestrated by master chef  Mark Reggiannini of La Marmotte, one of Telluride’s premier restaurants. The dinner is hosted by mycophile, forager and wit Gary Lincoff and is Sold Out.

The patio at La Marmotte, scene of gourmet dinner on Friday night.

The patio at La Marmotte, scene of gourmet dinner on Friday night.


On Saturday, August 16, 5  – 6:45 p.m., festivarians are invited to join forager and wild food advocate Katrina Blair for a very special, totally unique meal prepared from locally procured wild food and wholesome organic farmed items, such as roots, mushrooms, berries, leaves, seeds and needles from evergreen trees, dandelions, amaranth, lamb’s-quarter, high-alpine bistort and plantain. Katrina walked to the Telluride Mushroom Festival from Durango – a week-long hike – collecting much of the fare for the Wild Foods feast en route. This unique dining experience takes place at the Elks Lodge (The price? Just $40.)

Katrina Blair

Katrina Blair

And while we are on the subject of foraging, Katrina leads a foray on Sunday, August 17, a two-hour walking tour in and around town to explore the wild abundance of the region. Bring a collection bag and expect to nibble on wild edible greens, berries and learn about the foods and medicines in your backyard.

Katrina Blair is founder of the Local Wild Food Cafe at Turtle Lake Refuge. Check out her TEDxTalk about “13 Global Plants for Survival.”)

Lincoff also leads several forays. In fact, the man is forager-in-chief of the Telluride Mushroom Fest, which he also co-founded.

Gary Lincoff, scholar, wit, scholar and regular guest at the Telluride Mushroom Festival

Gary Lincoff, scholar, wit, and regular guest at the Telluride Mushroom Festival

Fungi, as many locals know, come in a wondrous variety of shapes, sizes and colors, from tiny cup fungi to puffballs the size of basketballs. Today, the sorts of wild shrooms sold at retail or served in your local restaurants are generally above suspicion. The main health hazard are fungi we collect ourselves. Which is why foraging with an expert like Lincoff makes so much sense.

Lincoff, who chaired the Telluride Mushroom Festival for 25 years (1980-2004), returns again this year as the keynote speaker on Tuesday evening, August 19, 7:15 p.m., at The Palm, where he will talk about Taxonomy/Foraging: Adventures in Foraging…”

On Saturday, August 16, 3:30 – 5 p.m., Lincoff is moderating the Ethnomycology Panel, the Palm.

On Sunday, August 17, 9:30 – 10:15 am, at the Palm, he conducts a Pre-Foray Lecture.

Lincoff will be leading forays Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, August 17, 18 & 19, along with a number of other very fun guys.

Forays are $25 for the general public, or anyone without a festival pass. If you have purchased a festival pass, forays are free/included, but you need to register.

At least five minutes before the scheduled departure time of your scheduled foray, meet just outside of the front door of the Palm Theater, near the Fungi Magazine tent.

“Being on a Gary Lincoff foray is an is exercise in quality over quantity,” explains director Rebecca Fyffe. “Gary raises a mushroom to his nose like the sommelier of  fungi that he is and is known to exclaim variously: ‘This one has a lemony odor’; or ‘This one is too soft on top’; or ‘This one is prime for the pan.’ Gary gave me one of the best explanations ever for evaluating a king bolete: ‘If the top feels like the tip of your nose, it’s perfect. If it feels like your lips, it’s past its prime.”

For and Telluride Mushroom Festival foray, participants will need to bring a bag or container to collect mushrooms, something to wrap specimens in such as waxed paper, a knife, lunch and water, and shoes for the woods. Forays take place rain or shine, so also dress for the changeable mountain weather.

Register for Lincoff’s and other forays here.

A mushroom foray with Gary Lincoff.

A mushroom foray with Gary Lincoff.

About Gary Lincoff:

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. Lincoff has led mushroom study trips and forays around the world and is a past president of the North American Mycological Association. His most recent book is “The Complete Mushroom Guide.”

To learn more, click the play button and listen to my chat with Gary Lincoff.

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