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Written by Jacqueline Weaver   
Friday, August 06, 2010 at 10:31 am

ELLSWORTH — Greg Marley’s first memorable encounter with a mushroom was the summer of his 16th year in a forest in upstate New York.

“The mushrooms really floored me, their beauty and mystery,” he said. “A couple of years later I became interested in foraging wild plants. I ate my first mushroom around 1976.”

“It’s a hobby that grew into a passion and avocation and even a vocation,” added Marley, a mycologist who has written two books on the subject. The first was “Mushrooms for Health: Medicinal Secrets of Northeastern Fungi” (Down East Books, 2009).

He recently taught a mushroom identification workshop at the Woodlawn Museum that began with a two-hour evening talk on “Mushrooms of Summer,” and concluded with a daylong class and field study.

His mantra: When it comes to mushrooms, take no chances.

“The bottom line is that you never eat a mushroom until you know absolutely with confidence what the species is and that it’s edible,” Marley said. “The truth is, there are no shortcuts.”

Mushroom Basics

  • Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of certain fungi, the equivalent of the apple, not the tree.
  • Mushrooms are designed to produce and disseminate spores.
  • Most mushrooms disperse their spores into the wind.
  • Truffles and false truffles rely on insects and mammals to dig them up, eat the mass and move the spores out into the world.
  • Most people think of mushrooms as umbrella-shaped, but they can also look like balls, coral or antlers, cups or saucers or ears, shelf-life growths on trees, logs or stumps, sponges, clusters of icicles and tiny bird’s nests.
  • There is only one way to know whether a mushroom you’ve found is edible: You must identify it.
  • Many species of mushrooms are very difficult to identify correctly, often requiring microscopic study and scientific books; others are quite easy to ID.
  • Spend as much time and effort learning the poisonous mushrooms as you do learning the edible ones.


Learn More About Mushrooms

Visit, and The Maine Mycological Association is based in Gorham consult any of the following books:

  • “Mushrooms for Health; Medicinal Secrets of Northeastern Fungi,” Greg Marley, 2009, Down East Books
  • “Mushrooms of Northeast North America; Midwest to New England,” George Barron, 1999, Lone Pine
  • “Mushrooms of Northeastern North America,” Alan Bessette, Arlene Bessette, & David Fischer, 1997, Syracuse University Press
  • “The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms,” Gary Lincoff, 1981, Alfred Knopf
  • “Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America,” Roger Phillips, 2005, Firefly Books


The Perfect Chanterelle Omelet

Chanterelles are to eggs what basil is to tomatoes; a pairing made by a generous and gastronomic God. For an omelet, there is no need to get too fancy with other additions –– keep it simple and enjoy the blend.


  • 2 cups fresh chanterelles, cleaned and sliced somewhat thinly
  • 1-2 Tbsps. Butter
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature lightly beaten with the water
  • 1Tbsp. Water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ½ cup of a mild-flavored cheese, sliced or grated
  • Chopped parsley as a garnish

In a shallow sauté pan or omelet pan with medium heat, melt the butter and add the sliced chanterelles with a little salt. Chanterelles can hold a large volume of liquid, so if they seem very moist, I often start with a dry sauté in the hot pan and add butter as the moisture is evaporated.

Either way, the mushrooms will begin to release their water as they cook, and you want this to evaporate off. When they are done, remove the mushrooms to a dish and return the pan to the medium-low fire. Add additional butter if needed to coat the pan and pour in the eggs.

Keep the heat low enough to cook the eggs slowly without scorching and as they firm, add back in the warm chanterelles and the cheese and a splash of parsley. Fold over and give it enough time to melt the cheese and ensure that the eggs are fully firm.

From “Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares; The Love Lore and Mystique of Mushrooms,” by Greg A Marley, Chelsea Green Publishers,  to be published in the fall of 2010.


Greg Marley’s Upcoming Classes

Aug. 15. “Identifying Maine Mushrooms: an Introductory Class.” A daylong class focused on building skills to know the common summer and fall mushrooms, with a focus on edible and medicinal mushrooms. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Merryspring Horticultural Park and Nature Center, Camden. 236-2239

Aug. 21. Maine Audubon’s Fields Pond Nature Center in Holden, outside Bangor. “Identifying Maine Mushrooms: an Introductory Class.” A daylong class focused on common summer and fall mushrooms, and mushroom identification skills. Combination of lecture and fieldwork. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For details and registration, call Holly at 989-2591.

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