CELEBRATE THE MUSHROOM AT THE DPNC
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.
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.
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, 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.