This has been a good monsoon season for the Tucson desert regions. Thanks to two hurricanes that brought lots of moisture, our rain gauges show that we’ve received nearly 10 inches of rain this season with even more in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Rain transforms the desert. It turns our washes into rivers, it makes our mountains green, and it creates fruits from the hidden fungi beneath the soils. This year the fruit of the fungi - mushrooms - showed their glory under the pine trees all over the mountains, including a large cluster of boletes at our cabin entry.
Last weekend we joined our friend Dr. Marc Orbach, a distinguished mycologist from the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona in the annual “Fungal Foray” to Mt. Lemmon to seek out the wide variety of fungi (and their fruits) that typically arise after a good monsoon season. We met in Bear Canyon with Marc’s colleagues from the school, Drs. Betsy Arnold and Barry Pryor, and about 2 dozen students, colleagues, and friends interested in searching for fungi in the cool pines.
The variety of fungi was really astounding, and I learned that categorizing mushrooms is a rather complex affair with professors and students often referring to the many guidebooks that were brought to the foray. Marc also acknowledged that they sometimes have to simply refer to some mushrooms as “LBMs” – little brown mushrooms. It reinforced our belief that this was not going to be a hunt for edible mushrooms to sauté later but rather an introduction to another fascinating aspect of the mountains.
That evening when we went back into town, we rehydrated some Trader Joes shiitake mushrooms and sautéed them knowing that someone else knew what they were doing in selecting these mushrooms to eat. It was amazing how good they were having been in our cupboard for the past few years.
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