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What’s Up With Those Weird-Looking Mushrooms?

  • April 07, 2021

Mr. Michelotti’s message is consistent: “The best thing you can do with fungi is accept it, enjoy it and appreciate what it’s doing.” Remember, your soil does.

He is a self-taught mycologist, as was his mentor, Gary Lincoff, who died in 2018. Best known as the author of the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms,” Mr. Lincoff taught at the New York Botanical Garden for more than 40 years. In a project that ran from 2010 until his death, he recorded more than 100 species there, each living otherwise unheralded among that world-class plant collection.

Mr. Michelotti became interested in mushrooms through cooking, and then foraging. It was Mr. Lincoff who led the first event he attended, and Mr. Michelotti urges each of us to go on a guided walk or check out a local club meeting. (The North American Mycological Association website has a club directory.)

If you need more encouragement, The Mushroom Expert website by Michael Kuo is a go-to, as are the classic books “Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World” by Paul Stamets and “Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada” by Timothy J. Baroni. Doug Bierend’s “In Search of Mycotopia: Citizen Science, Fungi Fanatics, and the Untapped Potential of Mushrooms” was recently published. And if you prefer memoir-style mycological inspiration, try Long Litt Woon’s “The Way Through the Woods: On Mushrooms and Mourning.”

As for Mr. Michelotti’s guided walks, they’re less “Is it edible?” than Fungi 101. He covers the interconnection of nature through mushroom morphology, ecological roles, fungi in history and in current medicine and science. And he always finds something to add a dose of the “wow” factor.

A few years ago, he was scheduled to lead a walk in woods he had never visited. “Don’t you want to come early to find the good spots?” the organizer asked him. No, he replied, he didn’t need to plot an advance route.

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