There's a Fungus Among Us

By Chia Webb-Cazares

When I was six, we bought a house in the Piney Woods of Red Rock, Texas, and saw a lot of mushrooms. Since then, my mom and I have turned into mushroom freaks! We decorate the house with mushrooms, wear mushroom shirts, read mushroom books and look for mushrooms everywhere we go. I am the Queen of Mushrooms at my house!

Did you know that mushrooms help decompose dead plants and animals?

They also reduce erosion by building soil. The part of the mushroom that we can see is called the fruiting body, and the root is called the mycelium. If you dig in the ground, you can find mycelia—they look like white spaghetti.

I once found a mushroom that was more than a foot wide! That type of mushroom is called a reishi. Another mushroom that I have seen is called the turkey tail, because it actually looks like a turkey’s tail. There are a lot of mushrooms that I haven’t seen yet, but want to, like morel, Amanita, parrot, scarlet cup, dog stinkhorn and purple club coral. On our next vacation, I am going to Colorado. I’m so happy because there are a lot of mushrooms there and we will be able to go mushroom hunting.

The weird thing is that, until recently, I’d never eaten a mushroom. At school, my science teacher gave us each two baby bella mushrooms. We cleaned them and cut them into little pieces, then she cooked them in a pot with salt and olive oil. At first I didn’t know if I would like them, but when I tried them, they tasted awesome. Now I can’t wait to try more mushrooms like chicken mushrooms, chanterelles, oyster mushrooms, giant puffballs, black trumpets, hedgehog mushrooms and shaggy mane mushrooms!

When I grow up I want to be a mushroom expert. Here are some things I’ve learned so far:

• Jack o’lantern mushrooms glow in the dark. Boo!

• If you eat an Amanita mushroom, you could die. But it’s been said that Amanita mushrooms may help Santa’s reindeer fly.

• Scientists once found a fossil of a 20-foot-high mushroom.

• Some believe that mushrooms came from outer space.

• If you see mushrooms in a circle, some believe that means fairies have been there.

• Truffles, a kind of mushroom, are delicacies. Pigs are used to dig in the ground for them.

• Some mushrooms grow on other mushrooms.

• Some mushrooms grow in the desert.