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Fungus among us II:

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Pine Mushrooms

Whistler Naturalists

The Pemberton Valley is renowned for its high quality potatoes and also for its high quality wild mushrooms, including the elusive pine mushroom ( Tricholoma magnivelare ). Also known as white matsutake, it appears in the autumn after the first rainy spells and draws many people into the forest for the hunt. It is a large, robust, white to pale brown mushroom with white flesh and a distinctly pungent, aromatic odour.

The pine mushroom is distributed along the Coast and Interior mountain ranges of western North America from northern California to Alaska, as well as some sites in the prairies and the Maritimes. In the Pacific Northwest they usually occur in stands of trees 60 to 200 years old with lodgepole pine, Douglas-fir or western hemlock as the overstorey, and prince’s pine, falsebox, huckleberry and kinnikinnick in the understorey vegetation. The mushroom is typically found under a thick layer of moss or leaf litter.

Mushroom pickers usually sell their mushrooms to buyers at roadside stands where they are sorted into six different grades. The most valuable is grade one, the "button" stage, with the veil intact. The least valuable grade is six, a fully expanded, over-mature mushroom. The pickers are paid in cash, based on the daily price set by mushroom companies at each grade.

Pine mushrooms are a delicacy in Japan where many of the B.C. mushrooms are shipped. Try this recipe for a delicious introduction to the pine mushroom.

Fresh Pasta with pine mushrooms

Extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 small chopped onion

2 lb pine mushrooms

1/2 glass white wine

1 1/4 cup tomato fillets

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Salt & pepper

Fresh pasta

Wash and strain the mushrooms well. Heat the oil, garlic and onion together in pan. Add the mushrooms and sauté for five minutes, then wet with the white wine, let it evaporate and incorporate the tomato fillets and chopped parsley. Cook for another 10 minutes, adjust for salt and pepper, then use to dress the cooked fresh pasta.

And here’s some news from last week’s Fungus Among Us event regarding pine mushrooms. That mushroom you’re sure is a pine——complete with delectable aroma——may not be a pine. But rest easy, the brown matsutake ( Tricholoma caligatum ) is edible too, though more likely to be bitter. On the other hand, don’t rest easy about its relative, man on horseback ( Tricholoma flavovirens ). In the guide books this mushroom is listed as a choice edible, but Paul Kroeger reports it was recently implicated in 12 deaths in Europe. We found all three mushrooms on our walk last week, so be careful out there.

Last week’s Fungus Among Us event was blessed with great presenters and a perfect year for mushrooms. The only downside was that the walks didn’t move too quickly because there was a new mushroom every few metres, 88 species in all. Thanks to our three great mushroom guides: Paul Kroeger, Andy MacKinnon, and Sharmin Gamiet, and to chef extraordinaire, Ophra Buckman. Also to Whistler Resort and Club for accommodating our guests.

Upcoming Events:

Saturday, November 6th — Monthly Bird Walk — The next bird walk shifts to the later fall/winter time of 8 a.m. Join Whistler experts in the monthly update of our feathered locals and migrants. For details, contact Michael Thompson at 604-932-5010.

Wednesday, November 10th, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., MY Place — Whistler Naturalists Annual General Meeting . Whistler Naturalists encourage all current members and anyone interested in getting more involved to join us for our sixth AGM. The AGM will include elections to the board; new board members welcome. For information contact Tracy Howlett 604-935-9745.

Wednesday, November 10th, 7:30 p.m., MY Place — Bob Brett, "Whistler’s Old Trees: A Story of Fires, Floods, Pathology, and Patience". Local ecologist Bob Brett will present his study of over 500 Whistler-area trees in which he used tree rings to determine the age of trees and forests all over the valley. Find out where to find Whistler’s oldest tree and the age of some well-known locals like the big spruce at Meadow Park and the swinging tree at Nita Lake. There will be a social and tree ring display before and after the show. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission at the door is $5 with a 2004 Whistler Naturalists membership or $7 for non-members (children under 12 free).

Calling all Aspiring Nature Writers and Photographers — Have an interest in natural history? Want to educate others about your favourite flora and/or fauna? Write your very own Naturespeak article or send us your photos to accompany our articles. For more information contact Sorcha Masterson at 604-894-1759 or sorc_m@hotmail.com

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