Stuff You Missed in Botany: Mushrooms and Other Spore Bearing Fungi

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Mushrooms and Other Spore Bearing Fungi

It seems appropriate this week to talk about mushrooms and other spore type critters. On Wednesday I talked about the Mushroom Growing Kit we are doing this spring with Patrick, so it’s fresh on my mind.

Mushrooms are not plants. They are a fungus. The classification has to do with how they reproduce themselves. To be completely accurate, a mushroom is the spongy, fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus. Whether a mushroom is safely edible depends on the type of fungus the mushroom fruits from.

The mushroom has three parts, the stipe (or stem), the pileus (or cap) and the lamella (or gills). There are other fungi that produce spores to reproduce, they are often lumped in as mushrooms. These include Morel and Turkey Tail. Turkey Tail mushroom has been used in Chinese medicine for many years and now is being developed in Western medicine as a possible cure for several types of cancer, HIV, and Malaria.

Magical Mushrooms

One of the things that seems magical about mushrooms is their seemingly instant emergence after a rain or heavy dew. If we could see microscopically, we would know that it is not instant at all. The spores are blown about where they hang out until they get prime exploding conditions, food, water, heat. The fruiting body (mushroom) develops when all of the conditions warrant favorable sprouting conditions. It’s kind of like a seed (but) not in that it can lie dormant until it’s time to get growing, then it does its thing as quickly and efficiently as it is able.

Mushrooms fill with water and this is why they can expand so rapidly. Like a balloon, when it is empty it’s small, as it fills, it expands. Magic. (It’s where the fairies danced)

Other “Magic Mushrooms” made popular by Dr. Leary and other 60’s whack jobs are what most people

Leary Mushrooms

think of when they see “Magic Mushrooms”. There are mushrooms that when ingested either whole, or in a tea of sorts, cause hallucinations, euphoria or other psychiatric disturbances. I’m not advocating you try any “wild” mushrooms. Mushrooms can be dangerous, even fatal, if you don’t know what you’re eating. Even if it doesn’t kill you, you may wish it would because of the excruciating pain, nausea, diarrhea, spasms, rashes…have I made my point? Don’t eat the mushrooms unless you are 100% sure they are safe to eat, i.e. you have purchased them from a reputable source, you have gathered them with a reputable expert, you are an expert yourself. Yard mushrooms? Fun to see, not to eat.

Fun with Mushrooms

I found a couple of things that I thought might be fun to do next time the fairies dance in your yard.

Spore Print Example 1

One thing is Spore Prints. It is basically taking the pileus off of the stipe, waiting overnight until the spores form and then covering it with a glass or a pie pan to keep any air drafts from disturbing it. Even the draft of someone walking past will disturb the spores so you want it completely draft free. The next day you can carefully lift the cap straight up and you will have a perfect print of the spores. Some people use black or other very dark paper, but you could try different shades as the spores are not all white.

As part of the Botany curriculum we had, my kids have done Mushroom journals each spring and again in the fall. Did you know that there are different mushrooms for each season?


I don’t have a ton of books that I recommend. This is certainly not because I don’t read, or because I don’t like the things I read. I just get weary of being blamed for the entire content of any book I might recommend. Once you’ve heard, “She’s a preacher’s wife, and she recommended this”, a few times you get really closed lipped about the recommendation. I think my favorite was the time the deacon’s wife “had me to tea” because I had recommended to her 17 year old Songs of Solomon. It is still in the Bible, right? Evidently not hers.

Lick your wounds, and get on with the recommendations, you dork. First off, Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora.  And my favorite, Mycophilia: Revelations From the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone.

Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone

And one website about studying mushrooms that was super fun and really educational. It’s here

Okay now for the fun stuff…recipes x 2

Mushroom Caps

This is my favorite favorite favorite one! It’s from Guilty Kitchen and I make it at least once a month. It’s also a recipe that I hardly ever change at all. I am notorious for tweaking things to my or my family’s taste, this one is a winner as is. When I give you a recipe it’s the tweaked version, it’s only fair. This one is just how the author wrote it. Check out her blog, it’s good if you’re a foodie.

  • 1 tbsp butter
    16 large brown crimini mushrooms (or regular white mushrooms), stems removed and chopped
    1/2 small onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
    fresh ground salt and pepper
    8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

    Mushroom Caps! Yum!

    1 egg
    300 grams fresh shrimp, chopped
    100 grams mozzarella, grated
    30 grams Parmesan, grated
    1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced fine

  • Directions:
  • After separating the caps from the stems, set the caps aside on a greased baking tray stem side up.
    2. Sauté stems, garlic and onion in butter until softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Mix the cream cheese with the shrimp, grated cheeses, chipotle pepper, egg and more salt and pepper.
    4. Add in the sautéed vegetables and mix well.
    5. Spoon the mixture into the caps (there’s lots, so don’t be shy!), set into a 400°F oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Oh fiddle, I just remembered, I do change this recipe. The Parsnip doesn’t care for shrimp, if I’m feeling magnanimous, or he’s been more Parsy and less Snippy, he gets them without the shrimp. And I have replaced the shrimp with lobster on occasion.

Ultimate Mushroom Omelette

Once a week we have Omelette Night at our house. My nephew has chickens and my in-laws go to church with a chicken keeper, together with ours we have a lot of eggs at our house. A lot of eggs. So, every week (usually Tuesday, I don’t know why) we have omelette night. Early Tuesday afternoon I grate cheese two kinds, Mozzarella and Cheddar, cut onions two kinds, spring and vidalia, and cut up loads of mushrooms, you guessed it, two kinds button and either straw or portabella or some new kind we have found at Fresh or the Farmer’s Market.

I do not fry bacon. I despise frying bacon. If bacon is to be ingested at the Gunz house, the Parsnip or Ryan will fry it usually on Monday afternoon so it’s ready to crumble. Or you can do this without the bacon.

I saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil because my family likes them brown and a little toasty. I get blue cheese for Meghan and the Parsnip, they love blue cheese. I don’t cook the onions with the mushrooms because Paddy and Jonathan love mushrooms, but they don’t care for onions. I get fresh basil and rosemary from the garden and whatever else is ready to come in as well. I love to add tomato to mine.

Then everyone gets an “Order” sheet with a list of all the available ingredients. On Tuesday, you have it your way. Two eggs or three?  You can even suggest an ingredient as long as it’s available or you’re willing to fetch it. We had Omelette night with some friends from our homeschool association for about a year, we had strange requests, which I complied with, somewhat grudgingly, I mean, seriously? Peanut Butter omelettes? Okay, then.

This is a super easy dinner if you have a tight schedule and with all of the fresh veggies it’s pretty nutritional as well. Patrick always chooses fresh baby spinach in his. Yummy.


Have a Paisley Fungus? Fungi? Mushroom day!~KeriAnne

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