Fungi Fear.

More than a year ago, I

inoculated logs with shiitake plugs


And nothing happened.

Well, something happened. But it didn't look like a shiitake.

I was too afraid to feed it to my family. (Which really means, I feared poisoning Peter and me. Our kids would never let a mushroom pass their lips.)

I tried doing a spore print, but then was too freaked out that I wasn't reading the print correctly. So, I tossed the volunteer mushroom.

Two hours later, I learned from a mushroom expert that it was an oyster.

Oysters are perfectly safe. And delicious.

I'm such a coward.

I must admit, I pretty much gave up on the logs.

But then yesterday, I saw this:

It looks like a shiitake.

It's growing where the shiitakes should emerge.

It looks delicious.

Now, though—can I overcome my fears? Do I harvest it and serve it to Peter? Is his life insurance policy up to date? Will our children become orphans if this isn't a shiitake?

It's ridiculous, really.

I've participated in two workshops about growing mushrooms. I own several guides to identify mushrooms, including the National Audubon Society's

Field Guide to Mushrooms

. People often forage for mushrooms. In fact, there's a


in our area that regularly meets to mushroom-hunt.

Yet, I can't get past my fear of fungi. Perhaps it's the skull and crossbones I keep finding in my guides.

If I found a sudden flush of uniform looking mushrooms on the logs, I'd be more likely to harvest and eat them. But instead of a flush of shiitakes produced from plugs, nature invades and produces a variety:

I'm fairly certain that these are Turkey Tail, a mushroom used medicinally.

And what's this? It doesn't look like the other mushroom that I think is a shiitake.

So, it's daunting. I really, really want to grow mushrooms—but I also want to EAT them.

And live.

I've realized it's time.

I need to suck it up and enroll in a full-blown class.

The brilliant Tradd Cotter at

Mushroom Mountain

offers classes and workshops onsite. I've realized that I can't do this on my own. I need an expert. I need to fork over the cash and learn how to safely produce and identify mushrooms.

Peter is safe. No mushrooms for dinner tonight.

What's your experience with mushrooms? Have you ever foraged for wild mushrooms, or do you only dare to eat packaged mushrooms from the supermarket?

Stay tuned...I'll let you know what I learn from my hands-on class!