A Mushroom Saga (Part 1 of 3)

Agaricus campestris

Midvale Cemetery, Utah 1956 — My grandmother Eleni Kastani Pangos (aka Helen) and my Aunt Sylvia (Mom’s older sister) decide to go mushroom hunting after some fine September rain, and also decide to take me along to carry the basket and trowels. North American Greeks call the month of September, the Rain Month (φεγγάρια της βροχής), a time to go ‘shrooming. Wild mushrooms are thought have been an important component of Greek cuisine for at least 6000 years. Turns out the best place to pick the beautiful Meadow Mushroom (Agaricus campestris) is the local cemetery. I loved mushrooming, and quickly learned the best mushrooms have pink gills (young and tasty, brown gills denote old) and smell earthy and heavenly. The Meadows like to hide behind headstones, but I’m quick and always find them. Mummee (what we all called our grandmother—later, I learned it’s Greek for “midwife,” and she was somewhat famous at it) warned me to always check the gills, as the ones with white gills will make you sick. The Little Brown Mushrooms were never picked as they make you sick too.

At the tender age of five, I was a budding amateur mycologist.

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