At first, the Kitsap Peninsula Mycological Society sounds like a scientific clique of mushroom enthusiasts.
But really, it’s just a group of “fun-guys.”
The society, which includes men and women of all ages, has been hard at work preparing for its annual Wild Mushroom Show on Oct. 27.
“We are promoting interest and knowledge of safe mushrooming,” said Andrew MacMillen of the Kitsap Peninsula Mycological Society.
“You can learn more in one day [at the show] than the rest of the year [in the club],” he said.
The Wild Mushroom Show is on Oct. 27, from 1-5 p.m., in the Silverdale Community Center at 9729 Silverdale Way. The event is free and open to the public, though donations to the society will be accepted.
The event has been organized by the society for nearly two decades. It will have books for sale, presentations, and experts on hand to help visitors identify mushrooms from their home.
“People can bring in their mushrooms from their backyard or their driveway to identify,” MacMillen said. “We need the whole mushroom in good shape.”
He added, “It’s never safe to identify mushroom by a photo or from the Internet. The best way is in hand, from an expert. There are a lot of characteristics that you need to know to identify a mushroom safely.”
Club members will venture out into Kitsap and Olympic Penin-sula forests the day before the show to find and harvest specimens. Then they will organize, label and present them for display. It adds up to 150 to 200 different specimens for the show.
This year is apt to offer a bevy of mushrooms from throughout the region.
“This year has been stupendous as far as the quantity out there,” MacMillen said, noting that the extensive rain combined with warmer weather has laid the foundation for a fruitful season.
The show not only offers an intriguing insight into the variety of mushrooms that surrounds us, but it also serves as a way for the society to introduce itself to the community.
“We’re a club, a nonprofit, that teaches people how to safely identify mushrooms and forage for them,” MacMillen said. “We do classes, have presentations at meetings, and take people out into the woods and show them how to find mushrooms and what they are.”
The club has approximately 190 members, though many memberships include families, so a more accurate number is likely more than 200, MacMillen noted.
MacMillen said that a large part of the club involves foraging, both for seeking out the variety of interesting looking specimens, but also for the range of edible mushrooms growing out in the open.
“Our club is much more about food and fun,” he said, noting that mushrooms have their own distinct taste, like apples or potatoes.
“Sometimes we can go a bit off the wall and describe them like tasting wine,” he said.
Chanterelle mushrooms are quite common in the region, MacMillen said. There are also cauliflower mushrooms, prince mushrooms, and more.
But just as interesting as the many edible mushrooms in Kitsap’s back yard are the many varieties that should be avoided.
“There is no mushroom out there that can poison you by looking at it or handling it,” MacMillen said.
There are those that can cause harm by eating them, however.
“The biggest family that should be avoided, for edibility, is amanita. The most common member is muscaria,” he said. “It’s the typical red mushroom with white dots on it — the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mushroom.”
While pleasing to look at, the red and white mushroom causes gastrointestinal distress if eaten.
“The amanita family, in general, contains some of the more toxic and common mushrooms around here,” MacMillen said.
In addition to the Wild Mushroom Show, the group also leads trips for foraging mushrooms throughout the year. Information can be found at www.kitsapmushrooms.org.