A while back, I was in the hardware store waiting in line to pay. A man came in panicking.
“There’s mushrooms in my lawn! What do you have to kill them?” he wanted to know.
Why in the ever living fuck would you want to kill the mushrooms in your lawn, mr. yuppie? Too much variety in your life?
The clerk had the same question.
“They, they… they’re ruining the lawn. And…my kids, they might eat them!”
The mushrooms might eat your kids? Doubtful. Oh, the kids might eat the mushrooms. True, they could die. So, I guess you gotta decide where you need to stop childproofing, and start being vigilant. In any case…
“There’s really not much you can do. I mean we sell fungicide, but it won’t kill the fungus under the soil. You might as well just pick them. They’ll grow back, and then you can pick them again.”
Or, or, or… I have an idea. You could show your kids the mushrooms and say, “See these, kids? They might be poisonous. Daddy doesn’t really know everything, and doesn’t know what you might be getting into at any given point in time, so please don’t eat things that I haven’t given you permission to eat, because you could die. And I really don’t want you to die because I love you kids more than I ever knew I could love anything.”
“So, you’re saying there’s nothing at all I can do? I mean, these things are ruining my lawn.”
“Well, some people say that lime will get rid of them. But I don’t know if that really works. You could try.”
“Okay, I’ll try that.”
Isn’t it great to be able to purchase something to alleviate every “problem” you imagine you might have, no matter how asinine the concern, and how unenthusiastically it’s recommended?
Now I have a gastronomically fearless toddler, so I kind of sympathize (that’s actually a pretty strong word) with mr. yuppie. I’ve been taking my kid foraging since she was fresh out the womb, so she went through a phase where every green herb was here for her delectation. We got poisonous plants in the landscape: azaleas, daffodils, iris, arum, euphorbia and on and on. Everybody around here lets pokeweed grow in their yard, dropping big, juicy, purple berries, but this guy is worried about mushrooms.
This othering of fungi (kingdomism?) really makes no sense at all when you consider that we’re more closely related to fungi than plants, but maybe that’s inevitable. We hate those most fiercely in whom we can see ourselves most clearly. Certainly, the “difference” between us and our fungal kin is more a social construction than an empirical truth. While there are certainly a few lawn mushrooms that would wage a holy war on your liver and kidneys, most are (probably) harmless. Mycologists don’t really know if most mushrooms are edible or not, because they’re too small to have ever interested anyone in their value as food.
So I thought I would do an interview with a mycologist or two and get at the truth about the risks of Pacific Northwestern lawn mushrooms, make up a little mini-guide for a sidebar, and turn that into a story. They have a few pieces rife with misinformation and useless blathering on the local daily’s website about lawn mushrooms, so I thought I could write something more accurate, clear, and informative for their venerable pages. The media contact at the Oregon Mycological Society, however, directed my request for interview subjects not to a taxonomist, but to a toxicologist, who immediately shot down my idea as almost criminally reprehensible.
Her reply began thus: “I am sorry but I don’t have time either to deal with this kind of question now. I am not in favor of letting mushrooms grow in lawns where children and dogs have access to them.” Whoa lady! So like, if I see a demon mushroom, what should I do about it?” Set the ground aflame? Hire an excavator to remove the topsoil?
So until next year, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned. But look!: the (hilariously quirky) mycologist Michael Kuo already wrote the fucking thing for me! So, organize that backyard foray/keying session, bourgeois masses! Mycophilia is as dirty as it sounds.