Late October, when the air is moist, wild mushrooms like the chlorophyllum molybdites “False parasol” or wild Amanita, pop up the most around the island of Kaua‘i.
‘Ele‘ele resident Jennifer Callejo was walking in front of Aloha Delites Bakery in Kaumakani when she found a light-brown or “Kaua‘i red dirt” mushroom popping up from the dewy wet grass on Wednesday.
“I think (mushrooms) are fascinating,” Callejo said. “They pop up when they want to because I don’t normally see them there, but I guess because of the big rain we had, (it) encouraged them to sprout. From childhood until now, we just learned not to touch them.”
Tammy Davis, a mushroom educator of Ancient Spin in Wailua, has been a fascinated educator since 1992 when she attended her first mushroom conference in Colorado.
“We get a lot of polypores or wood conks growing like a self on trees, many lawn and flower-pot species,” Davis said.
While there are poisonous mushrooms around the island, Davis shares what is edible.
“Chicken of the woods, oyster, pepeiau or tree ears, blewit, almond agaricus and, for tea, turkey tails,” Davis said.
Davis echoed Callejo, and said mushrooms would pop up from the ground everywhere on Kaua‘i after it rains.
“Fall is the best time,” Davis said. “Some of them even glow in the dark.”
According to Davis, mushrooms are the “fruit” of a larger organism under the ground called mycelium, which is the spiderweb-like filament structure that does the dissolving and eating.
Mushrooms that flourish are a great sign that the soil around them is healthy, she said.
“Mushrooms are nature’s crucial decomposers of woody plant material,” Davis said. “Almost all organic waste material is recycled by a fungus in nature. This allows the nutrients to be reused in a natural cycle.”
Davis said the mycelium will fruit when there are enough nutrients and the temperature and humidity are in the right range for them.
“Both deadly and edible are found here, and often misidentified,” Davis said.
Although there are many great benefits to edible mushrooms, Davis said mushrooms are a great source of transformation.
“Also, immune-system-boosting reduces cancer, and have protein and other vitamins and minerals,” Davis said. “Many are delicious when prepared well.”
Davis has a brief message for those interested in mushrooms: “Please educate yourself first, and do not ever eat a mushroom that is not positively identified,” Davis said. “Even experts can make mistakes.”
While mushrooms can be fascinating to see, Davis said there are some that are endangered species.
“All the amazing species that only live in old-growth forests are in danger,” Davis said. “Some of them hold power healing properties.”
Davis shares her final thoughts to mushroom finders in Hawai‘i: “Have fun looking for them, photographing them, and touching them is safe,” Davis said. “Just do not ingest any that you don’t know for sure. There are several ID sites on Facebook now but, again, you must learn for yourself.”
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Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.