Garden Diary - September 2011


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September


Sunday, 25 September 2011
Fungus Fest Crafts

Fungus Fest is the annual "everything mushroom" of the New Jersey Mycological Association. In my other entry I wandered among the exhibits and sampled delectable mushroom dishes. But there was much more to explore, like mushroom crafts. I confess, I never thought of mushrooms as especially crafty. Wait a minute, I take that back. Long ago (decades, actually, but we're not going to enumerate them) summers were spent at an aunt's bungalow cottage in Brookfield, Connecticut. An elderly lady who lived next door would make line drawings on white bracket fungi we'd find growing on dead birch trees. The underside of the fungus was white, and Alice Knapp would just scratch an image that turned brown. Sadly, today I don't have anything but the memory. That's O.K., because this is Fungus Fest, and there's lots more going on right now.

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For example, dyeing with mushrooms. Natural dyes using plants is very popular. And I remember
collecting fallen Umbellicaria lichen from a rock cliff that a friend used as a source of purple dye.
The display at Fungus Fest showed yarns with a lovely subtle range of earthy colors. Well labeled
with the mushroom and mordant (fixative) for each color. Splendidly informative and educational.

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What really caught my fancy was a demonstration of paper making with mushrooms. Again, a typically
very well done exhibit, complete with examples of the polypore mushrooms used in this craft.

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The bracket fungus / mushrooms are pureed into a mushy, soupy glop.

You need a deckle - that's a simple wooden frame with window screening tacked on.
Stir up the glop and submerge the deckle, trapping a layer of pureed polypore between
deckle and a same-size wooden frame without window screening. Slosh back and forth.

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Pat the underside gently with a sponge then tip the paper-to-be out onto a towel. Allow it to drain.

In the interest of speeding things up at this event the nascent paper, still on its towel, is slipped between
some newspaper and gently ironed. It is quite clear that A) this iron is used for nothing else except ironing
mushroom paper. Also B) the young woman doesn't iron clothing. I asked. A very few minutes later and

A sheet of coarse green paper made from polypore mushrooms is gently peeled free from its towel,
after which it was rolled in a sheet of newspaper and presented to me. How nice! This is a great event.

In the interest of full disclosure let me say that I joined the group. With on-line delivery of the bi-monthly
newsletter it is only $10, a mere pittance. Between commonality of interests, mushroom forays, crafts,
and culinary events there's a lot to enjoy. Have to say though, eating delicious foraged mushrooms is
still the best. At this point I already know four or five, very safe, and very tasty. Now, to learn more.


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