Located 5 km north of Devon, Alberta, the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens was the perfect setting for the Wild Mushroom Exposition on Sunday, August 13. The weather was perfect, a bright sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky. Wild mushroom enthusiasts and those looking to learn more about the subject were lined up at the ticket counters to get into the grounds and start their mushroom adventures.
Hosted by the Alberta Mycological Society (AMS), the expo consisted of multiple displays of fresh, wild mushrooms, cultivation techniques and projects, a marketplace, and live demonstrations of cooking with wild mushrooms by Chef Elle Wittke with samples for the audience. AMS members and U of A students were on hand to provide information and answer questions. The main pavilion for the expo also hosted a “Wild Mushroom Café” with an assortment of culinary delights showcasing wild mushrooms. One of the main highlights of the show was the guided “mushroom walks,” led by an experienced AMS member, to find and learn about the wild specimens growing within the vast expanse of the gardens.
Guests could find a variety of books, field guides, gathering baskets, t-shirts, and posters at the marketplace. The AMS had a table with information about the organization and its activities, promotional material (including a free poster), and the opportunity to purchase an annual membership.
The “mushroom walks” were a crowd favourite, with roughly 60 people at a time joining an AMS member on a trek through the park that included areas not usually visited by guests. The guide would stop to highlight the species of mushrooms found along the way while providing helpful information about ways to identify them correctly. Guests were cautioned to refrain from attempting to consume any mushroom they could not identify with 100% certainty. The tour took a little less than an hour and uncovered a surprising number of wild specimens.
The expo was a true family event that included children’s activities and a “Fun With Fungi” presentation for the younger attendees.
The Wild Mushroom Expo offered a wealth of information and experiences for seasoned mushroom hunters and the mycologically curious alike. Visit albertamushrooms.ca for more details on the Alberta Mycological Society, resources, and upcoming events.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette