entertainingFood & Drinkstudio choowe like it wild

we like it wild: fungi love

by StudioChoo

The weather around here has been a bit dry, and we’re not bragging . . . but also nice and warm. (We had temps in the sunny 70s last week!) Beautiful for us, but not the greatest mushroom weather. We went on a “Mushroom Madness” hunt last month when the weather was wetter and have had this centerpiece project in the back of our minds ever since. The lack of rain might make mushrooms in the wild scarce around here, but a great place to always find them is at Far West Fungi in the San Francisco Ferry Building. We picked up a few choice specimens from their booth at the farmer’s market last weekend and filled out our project with a few grocery store purchases. This kind of tablescape would look lovely with a few wildflowers for a woodland wedding . . . or maybe even a valentine with a little card attached that says “you’re my fun-gi” (sorry, bad mushroom humor).

We had a blast on the “Mushroom Madness” identification walk we attended last month in Livermore with Debbie Veiss from The Bay Area Mycological Society. It wasn’t an excursion to seek out specimens to eat, but an educational tour in basic identification. After a quick explanation on how to collect, we were set loose in the woods. A few tips we picked up to make identification easier were to take note of where the mushroom was growing (from the tree bark, is the tree dead or alive, etc.), to bring along a pocketknife to dig up the base and to use a basket to prevent specimens from getting squished. Debbie used a great little divided plastic box to hold the tiniest ones. — Studio Choo

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We were a bit discouraged when we first set out because we did not find a thing! It seemed like everyone else was running back to our guide with awesome specimens, especially the kids . . . maybe they could see them better because they were lower to the ground. But after a while, we got the hang of it and found a few nice little mushrooms (and a rotten one that we thought looked cool but was really stinky, and although it looked like a chanterelle, Debbie told us it was definitely not. It was so stinky, she did not want to touch it!).

We made our mushroom garden with a variety of wood scrap pieces. Find a friend with a saw and cut up some firewood or tree branch trimmings to different heights. Drill a small hole(s) in the wood, put a bit of glue in the hole, and insert a pin with the sharp side up. Layer on moss (if desired) and stick your selected mushroom on to the pin. We played with angles when we drilled some of the holes to make it appear as though the mushrooms were growing in different directions. We stuck to one mushroom variety per wood piece and used some of them in clusters and placed others on their own logs. Some varieties dry out quicker than others — if you are using this for a table centerpiece, it is best to make it just a few hours ahead of time. (Important note: all of the mushrooms we used in our table setting are edible; we purchased them at the market. Please be cautious when collecting mushrooms because there are poisonous varieties. These should definitely not be eaten, and to be on the safe side, do not even put them near food.)

If you happen to be in the Bay Area this weekend, stop by The Point Reyes Fungus Fair! There will be lots of beautiful wild mushrooms on display and several lectures, including one we wish we could go to by Dorothy Beebee on using mushrooms for dyes and color.

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  • This is such an adorable idea!

    Just a note of caution: please make sure never to leave “found” mushrooms unattended around your pets. My dog almost died last spring and required weeks of intensive care after eating a poisonous mushroom from our backyard. (He’s ok now!)

    On a happier note, Studio Choo has the most fantastic ideas–always a lovely inspiration for my Fridays! Thanks!

  • This is so amazing and beautiful!! I love the idea. If my husband saw this, he would want a wedding do-over! We are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year and this is such a perfect idea.

  • oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, OH EM GEE!!! I AM IN HEAVEN LOOKING AT THESE AND I WANT WANT WANT… oh you have no idea of my fanatical mushroom obsession!!!

  • Loooove mushrooms!!! there are so many interesting kinds here. I would love to grow some in my appartment (edibles) but have been worried about the spores in the air. Does anyone grow them indoors here?

  • Those are absolutely gorgeous! Such a great idea. I’m going to look up the mushroom walk– something fun to do now that I’m back in the Bay Area!

  • Oh my gosh, this post has me so inspired! I have a little crush on cute mushrooms, and your photos are gorgeous! Makes me want to go explore the woods for my own specimens. I’ll definitely be making some new faux ones out of clay :)

  • Really lovely arrangements you guys! My favorite one is the tiny white ones in the third photo, so sweet looking. Enjoyed the shots of your mushroom hunt, I can see the different stages of growth it’s really interesting, Thank you, another great post!!!

  • one thing you said in the article, “to bring the pocketknife to dig out the base”…in all my other experiences with edible mushrooms, they actually tell you to just cut the stem because otherwise the mushrooms will not grow at that site anymore and you taking away the possibility for other people to enjoy picking them….also you should never pull them out of the ground, for that reason either.

  • I have to ask: Who went home with the aminita muscara? That is highly hallucinogenic mushroom. I can’t imagine no one in the group realizing that and snatching it for “research” purposes.

  • This is a fabulous idea! I especially enjoyed looking at it since last week I read “Shriek,” a terrific novel with a mushroom subculture. (As in mushroom people, although it all stayed a bit mysterious.) Check out the book cover for a different take on mushroom decoration! ha ha!

  • I have always loved mushrooms, but recently came across some fabulous vintage images of them. These live examples are fab!!!

  • I love Far West Fungi in the ferry building, one of my favorite spots…my affinity for mushrooms has less to do with the culinary arts, but more with their physical beauty – their intricate ruffled edges and undersides invite you to take a closer look. This mushroom display is right up my alley. Simply beautiful.

  • Brilliant!

    How long will this stay fresh-looking for? I.e., how far in advance can you set this up?

  • I was just admiring the lovely mushrooms at the grocery store yesterday, and now you’ve given me great ideas about what to do with them (other than eat them). Thank you for the inspiration!

  • These are so gorgeous. Just awesome and so wild looking!

    I’m so glad you said to only use edible ones for centerpieces… if kids are around, you never know what they will pop in their mouths! A friend of mine is a neurotoxicologist, and she’s dealt with people who have barely lived because of eating a found mushroom.

  • lovely.

    these reminded me of the mushroom log my parents gave to our neighbors one christmas back in the mid-80’s. they were gourmet cooks and we always exchanged really random gifts. i wonder if their mushroom log ever bore fruit… fun if it did.

  • Those centerpieces are stone cold stunning! I can just picture a little gnome or fairy princess under one the mushrooms!

  • Just want to add to the earlier comment about Amanita muscaria being a hallucinogen that its effects are unpredictable, and it can be quite poisonous! Never a good idea to experiment with fungi without an extremely knowledgeable guide!

  • Thinking the Xmas mushroom log may be the Buche de Noel, typically done up in chocolate, marzipan and meringue. I think a spring version could be fantastic with a dollop of purple! Lil acorns in marzipan…meringue mushrooms…

  • Glad you liked this project! A few comments to your comments…
    1.To our knowledge nobody took home mushrooms on our walk…it was for identification/study only!
    2.Far West Fungi has some cool mushroom mini-farms that you can purchase online and grow in your home.
    3.We advise making this a few hours ahead of time- some types of mushrooms dry out quickly. Do a test ahead of time and see which ones hold up best.
    4.From everything we read and learned on our hike it is important for identification purposes to dig around a little bit to get the whole base of the mushroom where it meets the ground. When you “pick” a mushroom it is like taking an apple off a tree- you are picking “the fruit”, not the tree itself. The organism remains underground- sometimes stretching on for miles!

  • very pretty! too bad they can’t grow anymore though. I think i’d go for a terrarium then although this looks reaaaly cute.

  • Hope some of you Frisco mycogremlins come to this year’s NAMA foray, and see what we have in my part of the country.

  • I found this old post while browsing through Pinterest for mushroom ideas…I love it! I didn’t even realize you could harvest mushrooms for arrangements this way.

    I’m hoping for a reply even though this is an old post. Can you tell me how long these arrangements last? Is it best to allow the mushrooms to dry out before arranging them? So many questions & ideas running through my mind!