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Recently the Continuing Studies department at the University of Northern British Columbia held a contest and gave away a free seat in their Outdoor Adventure Writing and Blogging Workshop, which was held in February. Participants in the contest submitted a photo and a short (100 word) paragraph to describe an outdoor recreational experience.
Below is Jennifer Côté's winning submission which she has expanded to provide a better overview of her mushroom picking experience.
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“Look up”. “Don’t forget to look up once and awhile” I mutter to myself. I am foraging for puffball mushrooms. The forest floor around Prince George offers so many potential goodies. Problem is, while looking down so much, you don’t see what is front of you; possible bears, branches, etc. As I bust my way through the underbrush I come to a painful halt. A thorn from the hawthorn bush jammed itself into my forehead just above my eye. Wow, I’m lucky that it’s my forehead and not my eye. My glasses saved that one inch thorn from impaling my right eye. I hardly ever wear my glasses. I’m so happy I did today. I rather like my gift of sight. Close call! Ouch! I curse and mutter again...”look up will ya!” It’s merely a flesh wound and I continue on looking down at the forest floor.
A few steps ahead, I see what I came here for: Pear Shaped Puffballs. They are all jutting out of an old rotting birch log. I kneel down and examine them; they are firm and white on the inside. Perfect! As I collect them off the log, I remember to look up and examine my surroundings. No bears. Good. However, I do see something else a few meters in front of me. My mind whispers to me “Could it be?” I crawl over to the large mushroom and take a closer look. The cap is reddish brown and measures around seven inches in diameter. The stem is thick and club shaped. I pick the cap off its stem and look at the underside. There are no gills; rather, small white pores are present. I break the cap apart and see if the flesh ‘stains or bruises’. I observe none. This means that I have a Boletus Edulis Mushroom. In layman's terms, a Porcini mushroom or the King Bolete. These are extremely meaty mushrooms as the flesh is thick and dense.
I call my friend over, another avid forager, and show her my find. We scout around and find the area is abundant with the King Boletes. As I start to pick, I notice some of these mushrooms are soft and the pores underneath and starting to turn a yellowish-green. I break a few of the caps open and I get my confirmation, there are maggots infesting these King Boletes. Now if you are a mushroom hunter, you know you will have competition with the maggots that feast on these and other edible mushrooms. I will simply cut the infested parts out and keep the unblemished flesh.
My friend and I gather 20 pounds worth of these mushrooms and go home with our bounty. We are going to eat like Kings tonight! As we start to cut them up we notice that they are too heavily infested. The disappointment sets in; we only have a mere handful of untainted mushrooms out of the baskets we so heavily loaded.
I set the maggot infested mushrooms aside in a bucket. Tomorrow, I will take it the forest and spread them back along the forest floor. The spores of the mushrooms will spread and make more for next mushroom season. Next year, I will come earlier in the season (the mushrooms shouldn’t be so profoundly bug-ridden) and I will bring more bags, buckets and baskets.
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Thanks for reading Jennifer's submission and thanks to UNBC Continuing Studies for hosting this contest and providing a local resident with the opportunity to learn more about travel writing and blogging! Find UNBC Continuing Studies on the web, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to learn about all the incredible trips and courses they offer throughout the year.
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