Story & photos by Gretchen Ammerman
For the TODAY
What do you do when you retire from a long career as a scientist specializing in mushrooms? Write a time-traveling supernatural romance novel, of course. At least that’s what David Pilz, a featured speaker at the Yachats Village Mushroom Fest did. Pilz will be signing copies of his novel, “The Bog Maiden,” at the festival, which runs from Friday, Oct. 20, to Sunday, Oct. 22.
“There are at least three different time periods, an ancient curse, a haunted bog and mushrooms of immortality,” said Pilz. “I came up with the basic premise around the campfire one night when I was camping on the coast. So of course, that’s where it takes place.”
You can also catch the imaginative mycologist as part of the series of talks scheduled Friday and Saturday. Topics include forest ecology and identification of wild mushrooms and lichens.
In his presentation, “Mexican Mycophilia and Mycophagy: A travelogue from the 9th International Workshop on Edible Mycorrhizal Mushrooms,” Pilz promises a good visual presentation to accompany his talk.
“I have lots of photos,” he said. “Really pretty ones.”
And on Saturday, Dr. Charles Lefevre will tell not very tall tales about truffles, primarily the native Oregon type, and follow it by what promises to be a real tail-wagger — a half-hour truffle dog demonstration.
Though many fungi are arguably pretty to look at, odds are they wouldn’t get invited to the dance as often as they do if many species also didn’t also taste so darn good. Teaching you how to get the most out of your mycelium will be Lincoln County Mycological Society members Pam McElroy and Anna Russo, who will lead a workshop on Saturday on cooking edible mushrooms.
“Anna and I have done this workshop for a number of years now and cover harvesting, preserving and cooking wild mushrooms,” McElroy said. “We go into detail on various preservation techniques and which are best for which mushrooms, and provide a lot of information on how to bring out the best in the mushrooms you have, including tips on flavor groupings that work well together, seasonal combinations, and what ingredients most mushrooms absolutely love (butter, garlic, and many others).”
As both a seasoned cook and mushroom collector, McElroy uses mushrooms that aren’t the usual fare.
“My favorite mushrooms are Agaricus augustus (The Prince) with their delicate almond-anise scent, and Boletus edulis (King bolete), the grandaddy of wild mushrooms and surely one of the most beloved in the world,” she said. “But I have also recently made the acquaintance of Craterellus cornucopiodes (Black Trumpet) which is rich, earthy and utterly delectable — umami on a plate,”
You can stretch your legs and hone your collecting skills at one of the 20 mushroom walks scheduled. Though free, participation is limited to 12 people per walk, so pre-registration is required. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are permitted on the guided walks although not encouraged. The walks are educational and no foraging will be permitted, but there will be plenty of vendors with a wide array of mushroom types for sale at the Yachats Commons during the weekend.
The roughly half-hour walks are scheduled every half hour between 10 to 2:30 pm on Saturday, and 10 am to 2 pm on Sunday.
If collecting in the wild isn’t your bag, Dr. Steven Carpenter is back this year, joined by Kim Kittredge, to show you how to grow your own oyster mushrooms in a sack. Guests attending the presentation will get to take part in a workshop where they will receive all the materials necessary to grow enough oyster mushrooms for several meals.
If your favorite kind of cooked mushrooms are those that were cooked by other people, Yachats has your back. During the three days of the festival, area restaurants will be joining the fun-gi by adding special mushroom-centric items to their usual menus.
Find out participating restaurants and the special menu items by visiting the festival website.
Yachats Village Mushroom Fest weekend opens Friday evening with a family-style dinner that includes mushroom soups, salad and desserts prepared by local chefs, original acoustic guitar by Yachatian Ian Smith, a silent auction, and a surprise table game with prizes, and no-host wine and beer. Tickets are $15.
Rapidly approaching its 20th year, the festival features many repeat lecturers and workshop leaders.
“Myself and a lot of other mycologists keep coming back because it’s so much fun,” Pilz said. “It’s a great festival; the talks are always good and the guided walks are a gas.”
Another draw, Pilz said, is the type of people that tend to be drawn to things mycological.
“You’ll find that most of the people involved heavily with mushrooms are eccentric,” he said. “And that’s a good thing.”
The Yachats Village Mushroom Fest runs from Friday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct 22. A $5 wristband gives admission to the Speakers Forum and workshops (some workshops also have small fees for materials). Wristbands will be available at the Yachats Visitors Center, 241 Hwy. 101, from 10 am to 4 pm, until Saturday, and then will be sold inside the main entrance of the Yachats Commons, Hwy. 101 & W 4th Street. For more information, including the full schedule of events, go to www.yachats.org/MFest2017.html or call 541-547-3530.