Mayne expands mushroom fest

Speakers, tours and tasting on menu

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Mayne mycophiles had an eventful weekend, as the Mayne Island Conservancy held its first ever Maynely Mushroom Extravaganza on Nov. 15 and 16.

The conservancy has had an annual mushroom-based event in the past, but this year program committee chair Deb Foote wanted to bring a bit more to the table. Previously, the event consisted of a mushroom identification event where people can bring in their collections and have them identified by local experts. This year, Foote and her team added a mushroom-tasting event with guest speakers, a guided mushroom walk in the Mount Parke area, as well as a movie screening on the fungi with chaga tea and popcorn.

As she was considering an expansion of the annual event, Foote looked to similar festivals around the area for inspiration. Galiano Island holds a festival earlier in November, and others are held in the Lower Mainland as well as on Vancouver Island.

“I see that there’s all these events that go on around the province in the fall and I thought that we needed to do something more than just opening up the hall for people to throw their mushrooms on a table,” Foote said.

Speakers for the weekend included Sharmin Gamiet from the Fraser Valley, Paul Kroeger from the Vancouver area as well as locally based student Sierra Steele. Gamiet’s experience with fungi goes back three decades, and she has been leading excursions into mushroom habitats around the province. She spoke on the role mushrooms have on the health of the forest. Kroeger was one of the founding members of the Vancouver Mycological Society and has been researching the effects of microdosing psychedelic mushrooms for treatment of mental health disorders. Steele’s research into the health benefits of various mushrooms rounded out the speaker program. Friday’s talk also included mushroom canapés served by different local chefs.

On Saturday morning, amateur and professional mycologists gathered at Mount Parke for a guided walk through the natural habitat of many mushrooms. Experts were on hand to help identify the local varieties and explain how the mushrooms influenced the growth of the forest around them. Saturday’s program continued with the mushroom identification event and a discussion on where to find local varieties.

Mayne has seen a proliferation of mushroom growth this year. Recent years have seen a change in the forest ecosystem due to overgrazing by deer, Foote explained, which has affected the amount of mushrooms available. She said she hoped the new growth would have a regenerative effect on the forest, as well as the network of mycorrhizal fungi that extends beneath the forest floor.

“A little patch that’s the size of your foot contains miles and miles and miles of mycorrhizal fungi,” she said. “Hopefully this mushroom growth that we’ve seen this year will have some regenerative elements for this region as well.”

Saturday’s events ended with a movie entitled Know Your Mushrooms.

She hopes to grow the festival for next year, potentially including an art element and some other ideas like spore printing and children’s activities.

For more on this story, see the Nov. 20, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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