Every mushroom has a stem or stalk, a cap and gills on the underside of the cap. And there the similarities end. It's been estimated that there may be 5,000 or more different species of mushrooms in B.C., according to UBC's Electronic Atlas of Plants.
Some 574 species have been located in Whistler alone, with many of those findings coming from the Whistler Naturalists' annual Fungus Among Us Mushroom Festival. This is the eighth year for the event, which includes nature walks with experts to discover and identify mushrooms, a mushroom cooking demonstration by Chef Owen Foster of the Nita Lake Lodge and mushroom displays to show off the varieties discovered in the field.
"I'm always amazed at how the list from each Fungus Among Us differs so much year to year," said organizer Bob Brett. "We average 80 to 100 species each year, but often less than half of them are found in consecutive years."
This year all the events are based out of Spring Creek Community School.
At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 15 there will be three talks on the subject. Fungus guru Andy McKinnon will give a presentation titled "Cool Plants and their Fungal Friends." Kent Brothers will provide a summary of the 574 species found in Whistler in his presentation, "Trends and Surprises in Whistler Fungi." Last, but not least, Paul Kroeger will give a presentation on "Magic Mushrooms Past and Present."
Admission is $8 for members of the Whistler Naturalists club, and $10 for non-members.
For Saturday, Oct. 16, the Whistler Naturalists have lined up 12 mushroom experts to guide walks into the woods to search for mushrooms. Meet outside of Spring Creek at 8:45 a.m. to take part. The cost is $10 for members and $15 for non-members.
The groups return at noon to get everyone back for the 12:30 cooking demonstration. Admission to that event is $20 for members and $25 for non-members. All participants will get to sample what B.C. mushrooms are all about. The Nita Lake Lodge is sponsoring the event, with wild mushrooms donated by Nesters Market.
During the tasting, participants will be able to visit a display of mushrooms collected that day, and discuss findings with experts. That display will run from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
You can buy multi-event tickets for all three events for $30 (members) or $40 (non-members), and passes to all the Saturday events for $20 (members) and $30 (non-members). Kids under 18 are free.
The mushroom cooking demonstration has sold out in the past, so early registration is recommended. Send your ticket requests to Bob Brett at firstname.lastname@example.org.