Shroom Out at the Fungus Fair This Sunday

It’s not just things that will kill you, things that will get you high, and things that taste good on the grill — although that’s arguably plenty.

Gymnopilus luteofolius (JR Blair)

Now that cannabis legalization is imminent — more or less — psilocybin might be the next decriminalization frontier. Proponents are gathering signatures to place an initiative on the 2018 ballot, and psychiatrists have demonstrated significant success in treating depression and PTSD with magic mushrooms key chemical component. At least one species of flower disguises itself as a mushroom in order to get gnats to pollinate it. And at the other end of Kingdom Fungi, a number of people became seriously ill this year in Sonoma County after ingesting death cap mushrooms — with at least three individuals requiring liver transplants.

How are we to keep it all straight?

Education is the best remedy, of course, and this Sunday, Dec. 3, the Mycological Society of San Francisco throws its annual Fungus Fair in Golden Gate Park’s County Fair Building. In the 48 years since this fungal fete has happened, there have been all manner of developments, from the cultivation of truffles in the roots of trees on Napa wineries to the propagation of species that can digest certain plastics and help reduce waste. Moreover, we now know that healthy forests rely on mushrooms species to maintain a state of equilibrium in the soil, not unlike the quasi-sentient moon Pandora in Avatar. And the largest organism on earth is a fungus in Oregon.

In other words, mushrooms have never been so cool, and for $15 (or $10 for kids) you can learn all about it with mushroom-dye stations, do-it-yourself mushroom-growing kits, and tables of experts who can help you identify hard-to-differentiate species. Nerd out with discussions of mycoremediation — which is to say, decontamination — the gruesome details of how toxic ’shrooms can cause organ failure, and, of course, psychedelia. See the full lineup of events here.

Culinary applications are the best part, natch. Northern California’s varied climates and topography yields an enormous wealth of mushroom bounty, and there will be at least 300 different locally collection specimens on display, many of them delicious. You can learn how to make a coriander cream with matsutakes and roasted cauliflower or sautee pears with maple-y candy cap mushrooms. Even if you don’t (yet) know an annulus from a universal veil, you’ll leave armed with practical know-how and an urge to forage.

48th Annual San Francisco Fungus Fair, Sunday, Dec. 3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at the SF County Fair Building, Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park. $10-$15; mssf.org

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