Some of us may be getting sick of the rain, but it’s helping Alberta’s fungi to flourish.
Candice Cullum, Red Deer’s regional co-ordinator with the Alberta Mycological Society, says mushrooms are showing up in abundance and early.
“We’re seeing awesome indications that it’s going to be an amazing (summer for mushrooms),” said Cullum, adding the season hasn’t quite started yet.
“(So far), we have seen some mushrooms that we haven’t seen this early before, ever. We have seen a few mushrooms pop up that are really rare in the province and early.
“We expect to have a bumper crop of mushrooms this year.”
Rainy, moist conditions, along with warm days above 15 C, help mushrooms sprout. The rains in Alberta have been consistent so far this summer, which is unusual, and is helping mushrooms grow, Cullum said.
“We often get large dumps of rain for a week, but we’ve had it go on and on this year.”
Mushroom season begins around mid-July, said Cullum, explaining some species, such as morel and oyster, grow early.
The “pockets of heat” we’ve had this season have also helped the fungi.
“Mushrooms need warmth – more than 15 C – which we haven’t seen lately, but we do see the rare day where it gets up to 20 C. If we have a few days in a row of warm weather, that will trigger a lot of mushroom growth,” the Three Hills resident said.
One rare mushroom spotted in the province is rhodotus. Cullum said the inedible, pretty-looking mushroom doesn’t have a family and stands on its own.
Red cap mushrooms, an edible fungi, have shown up two weeks early and in large numbers across the province, which is unusual for Alberta, said the wild mushroom expert.
“They’re showing up in mass amounts, so that’s an indicator for the future months.”
Mycelium, or the root system of mushrooms, exists under the ground and waits for ideal growth conditions.
“It’s just waiting and lurking for proper conditions to throw up a mushroom. So we never know from one year to the next what the season will be like and what we will see, so Alberta is really exciting that way.”
The number of Alberta mushroom pickers and foragers is growing, she added, pointing to people’s interest in plant-based diets.
The Alberta Mycological Society started a Facebook group for novice mushroom foragers this summer, which has more than 600 members.
“If that page is an indication of the interest out there, I think it’s infinite. We’re adding 10 people every day and the season hasn’t started yet. Our society is growing every year,” she said.
The society has one rule to avoid poisonous mushrooms: when in doubt, throw it out. Members in the group also help each other identify mushrooms and point out the rare finds.
To join the group, find Alberta Mycological Society Group on Facebook.