Marvelous mushrooms

If you don’t plan to eat it, please let it grow and disperse its spores and multiply.

Mushroom 521 (photo credit: Itsik Marom)
Mushroom 521
(photo credit: Itsik Marom)
Despite all long-range seasonal weather forecasts, luckily we are having a good winter with a lot of rain and snow. As nature enthusiasts know, after the rain is the time for mushrooms in Israel. There are 400 species of mushrooms here. Although that seems like a large variety, the total number has been falling in the last few years, due to extensive picking.
If you are picking mushrooms you should be very careful. It is essential that you know what you are doing. If you are not familiar with the species, mistaken identification can come at a price. You and your unsuspecting dinner partners could pay with your lives. There is no safe way in the field to know which mushroom is edible and which is poisonous. So unless you or someone in your group knows for sure which is which, do not touch any of them. That said, once the safe mushrooms are picked, it is better to cook them on the same day and enjoy their rich mineral quality and low calorie count.
The mushroom starts its life in rich organic soil such as that of an old garden or forest. A mushroom spore that drifts with the wind lands in that habitat germinates underground and spreads threads to make mycelium. This body of threads has a large surface area that enables it to absorb its food. As long as weather conditions stay calm, the mycelium keeps growing. But if something changes, like a good rain, for example, the water puts the mushroom in a state of emergency and this starts a survival process.
The next step results in a sight with which we are familiar. The mycelium grows a stem with a cap at its top, sending it above ground. In the bottom of that umbrella-shaped structure there are pores or lines and within them grow thousands of spores, waiting for the winter wind to drive them away to new ground. In this way the stressed mother mycelium is saved. This is how the mushroom reproduces.
All species of mushrooms become scarce due to human behavior. When people pick mushrooms, whether for food or just for fun, they uproot their reproductive organs. So if you don’t plan to eat the mushroom, please let it grow and disperse its spores and multiply to produce many more marvelous mushrooms. After all, this is what nature intended.