Telluride Mushroom Festival: Hip Hip Foray!

Telluride Mushroom Festival: Hip Hip Foray!

Since 1981, fungophiles of all sorts have come to our mining-camp-turned-resort-mecca to talk about identification, growing methods, medicinal uses, forest remediation, drug scapegoating, culinary recipes, biological theory, entheogenic practice, and the way of the psychonaut. The Telluride Mushroom Festival just completed its 42nd year celebrating all things fungal. The mold- and spore-worshipping mycelium fanatics have left the house. But fond memories linger on.

Funga, as we know, come in a wondrous variety of shapes, sizes and colors, from tiny cup fungi to puffballs the size of basketballs. Funga used to be classified as part of the plant kingdom, but became a kingdom of their own because they 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 activity occurs underground in the fungal version of the World Wide Web, mushrooms themselves appear to pop up suddenly over night.

And that’s where the Mushroom Festival’s forays come into play.

And Telluride Inside… and Out’s talented photojournalist, Lisa Barlow, who documented her outings in words and pictures (as follows).

And go here and here for more on Telluride Mushroom Festivals past.


If you don’t live by a calendar in Telluride, you can reliably discern the date by checking to see if local supermarket shelves are stocked with Arborio rice. This year, along with the rice, even shallots and heavy cream were impossible to find during the glorious few weeks when the San Juans were carpeted with porcini, chanterelles and other edibles, and everyone I knew was making mushroom risotto.

When the Telluride Mushroom Festival came to town, and after I had had my fill of an extravagant number of mushrooms, I decided to join two of the forays led by fungi experts into our neighborhood mountains. What I learned was that the familiar can look more exotic than any foreign land when seen through somebody else’s eyes. It was a deep pleasure to watch the giddy glee of seasoned professionals encountering elusive fungal species, as well as newly minted mushroomers finding their first bolete.

Here are a few of the photographs I took on these forays. What they show, is something many of us know and feel deeply, that these mountains are a joy to hike, with myriad discoveries beckoning at every step. As I do every year, I understand that I know less about fungi than I did the year before. Like mushrooms themselves, the study of fungi is a prolific and inexhaustible pursuit. It can also be remarkably delicious. One of the greatest pleasures this year, was eating fresh porcini and hawks’ wings cooked in the field. Mushroom scientists, it turns out, make very inventive chefs. Forget the arborio. Nothing beats a “field dressed” bolete, hot out of sizzling Lodge pan, hungrily eaten a few feet from where it grew.

Telluride Mushroom Festival’s fearless (peerless?) leader Dr. Britt Bunyard rousing the crowd.



The incomparable Giuliana Furci of the Fungi Foundation made incomparably happy with her find.















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