FAB­U­LOUS FUNGI

CEL­E­BRATE THE MUSH­ROOM AT THE DPNC

The Day - Sound & Country - - Fabulous Fungi - By SU­SAN BAN­NING Day Staff Writer

TThere has never been a for­mal poll, but it’s a good bet most of us can agree that the fall is New Eng­land’s most spe­cial sea­son. What bet­ter place than a na­ture cen­ter to ex­pe­ri­ence it in all its glory? Deni­son Pe­quot­se­pos Na­ture Cen­ter in Mys­tic has your fam­ily fall fun cov­ered with two fa­vorite events, its sig­na­ture Mush­room Fes­ti­val in Septem­ber and the Spooky Na­ture Trail in Oc­to­ber.

The fungi cel­e­bra­tion is Sept. 28 from 2-6 p.m. at the na­ture cen­ter, an ex­panded time frame.

“The event has been grow­ing more and more each year,” said Jen­nifer John­son, di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “We felt the ex­tra hour was war­ranted.”

Mush­rooms are ob­vi­ously the fo­cus of the day, with lo­cal restau­rants on hand cook­ing with the fungi. There are also lec­tures and hikes, as well as an op­por­tu­nity to have mush­rooms iden­ti­fied by ex­perts. Did you ever won­der if that fun­gus grow­ing next to a fallen tree in your yard was ed­i­ble? Now is the time to bag it and bring it in.

“Peo­ple bring their mush­rooms in for the ex­perts to ID,” John­son said. “They will de­ter­mine whether yes, you can eat it, or no, for the love of God, please don’t.”

The big draw is the lo­cal restau­rants, which in­cor­po­rate all kinds of mush­rooms (“in­clud­ing ex­otic… it’s not like they went out back and picked them in the woods,” John­son said) into their recipes.

“Peo­ple are be­com­ing more and more creative with their mush­room dishes, more dar­ing,” John­son said. “What they pre­pare are not en­trees, but sam­ples, so you can have a taste of many dif­fer­ent dishes.”

The event is rain or shine, as tents will be put up if the fore­cast looks ques­tion­able.

Acous­tic mu­sic of the blue­grass va­ri­ety and lo­cal cider, as well as beer and wine and juice, will be served. The co-pro­ducer of the event is the Con­necti­cut My­co­log­i­cal So­ci­ety, a group com­pris­ing mush­room en­thu­si­asts whose knowl­edge of the fungi can fill vol­umes.

“We’ll go for walks, which are ac­tu­ally hunts to find wild mush­rooms on this beau­ti­ful prop­erty,” John­son said. “Fall is when the Con­necti­cut woods come alive with mush­rooms.”

Af­ter that fungi-filled day is wrapped up, the na­ture cen­ter turns its at­ten­tion to get­ting ready for a kid-cen­tric event: The Spooky Na­ture Trail. From Oct. 24-28, vis­i­tors can come for the self-guided tour on one of the trails to ex­pe­ri­ence na­ture-ori­ented Hal­loween fun.

“It’s not gory, and it’s not like a haunted house,” John­son said. “What it en­cap­su­lates is the in­nate hu­man fear of the dark. There are spi­der webs to crawl through and nat­u­ral spooky things along the way.”

Rec­og­niz­ing that what may scare one 7-year-old could to­tally en­thrall an­other, the na­ture cen­ter has no age re­quire­ment in place for the Spooky Na­ture Trail. “It’s a par­ent’s judg­ment call,” John­son said.

Bring your own flash­light for this event, which runs from 5:30-7:30 each night. Back at the na­ture cen­ter, chil­dren can en­joy crafts, games and Hal­loween treats, as well as view the res­i­dent crea­tures up close. Chil­dren need to be ac­com­pa­nied by an adult to take part in the event.

Ticket prices for mem­bers and non-mem­bers vary (see info box on this page), but it’s worth join­ing the Deni­son Pe­quot­se­pos Na­ture Cen­ter for the mush­room fes­ti­val and Spooky Na­ture Trail alone. For a $40 tax-de­ductible fam­ily mem­ber­ship, you get the run of the place and dis­counts for spe­cial events, as well as the good feel­ing that comes from sup­port­ing a long­time lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard.

THIS PAGE, WITH 3,000 VA­RI­ETIES OF MUSH­ROOMS IN NORTH AMER­ICA ALONE, YOU’RE BOUND TO SEE SOME UN­FA­MIL­IAR TYPES AT DENI­SON PE­QUOT­SE­POS NA­TURE CEN­TER. TOP PHOTO DAY FILE; ALL OTH­ERS COUR­TESY OF DPNC.

LEFT, MANY RESTAU­RANTS WILL BE COOK­ING DE­LEC­TA­BLE DISHES WITH MUSH­ROOMS DUR­ING THE FES­TI­VAL; BE­LOW, PORTA­BELLA WILL MOST LIKELY BE PART OF SOME OF THOSE RECIPES. PHO­TOS COUR­TESY DPNC.

LEFT, THE FALL IS FUNGI’S FA­VORITE TIME OF YEAR; MID­DLE, A SCENE FROM THE SPOOKY NA­TURE TRAIL; BOT­TOM, YOU CAN WATCH AS CHEFS CRE­ATE THE DISHES. BOT­TOM PHOTO DAY FILE; ALL OTH­ERS COUR­TESY OF DPNC.

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