By Gus Jarvis
TELLURIDE – Whether you’re an avid mushroom harvester or new to the taste, nutrition and fun of mushrooms, you won’t want to miss the 28th annual Telluride Mushroom Festival, beginning Thursday, Aug. 21. This year’s schedule of events is filled with mushroom hunting hikes, culinary tastings, seminars, identification classes, and, everyone’s favorite, the Mushroom Festival Parade, which will once again be led by Grand Marshal Art Goodtimes.
“I am absolutely delighted that we are going into our 28th season now,” Goodtimes said. “This is really a wild event for anyone interested in mushrooms or doesn’t know much about mushrooms. The speakers, the parade and the tastings are all really great.”
“This year’s mushroom season is pretty good right now,” said festival director John Sir Jesse. “Chantrelles have been popping up in a wide variety of places and are producing. Believe it or not, we are kind of in a dry spell right now and it has been backing off a little, but once we get more moisture, the mushrooms will continue to grow.”
The festival will kick off on Thursday evening with registration and a potluck at Elks Park.
“As usual, a tent will be set up at Elks Park and we encourage pass holders or not to bring mushrooms for identification,” Sir Jesse said. “Everything there will be free to the public as well as our programs that will be held at the library.”
Friday and Saturday will be full of activities with lectures starting at 8:30 a.m. and mushroom hunting forays later in the mornings. This year, the Telluride Institute is providing the colorfully-painted biodiesel bus to transport mushroom hunters to and from forays.
“To go on our forays, you have to be a pass holder,” said Sir Jesse. “We are trying to simplify it this year a little. It has to be a day pass or a weekend pass.” He went on to say that this year’s festival would host a variety of forays. “Some will be around town and some we will have to drive to.”
There will be plenty of opportunities for festival-goers to taste mushrooms and learn different preparation methods.
“People love to pick them for food,” Sir Jesse said. “The thing with many mushrooms is that you need to cook them to make them edible and there are other ways to do that. Lemon juice and the juice from wild berries can cook them as well as steaming them and sautéing them.”
Daniel Winkler, an expert in Tibetan Yartsa Gunbu (Cordycepts Sinensis), will be attending the festival to discuss the Cortocypts mushroom that Chinese athletes have used in the past to increase their oxygen intake.
“They were almost barred from [a past] Olympics,” Sir Jesse said. “It is a totally natural product. It is a mushroom that grows on insect larvae that is growing underground. They are tiny little mushrooms with a stem and a cap that actually grow out of the larvae. Daniel will be doing a presentation on that as well as a slide show presentation. He has been leading mushroom tours of Tibet for many, many years.”
This year’s festival will also include forays for kids, chef cook-offs, a panel discussion titled “Can Mushrooms Help Save the Earth?” and mushroom-related films. The festival may even convert fungophobes to fungophiles.
“I have confidence that we still have a hunter/gatherer instinct inside us,” Sir Jesse said. “I know if you take people out on a mushroom hunt they will be hooked.”
For a complete list of festival guests, updated schedule and ticket information visit the Telluride Institute’s website at www.tellurideinstitute.org.