‘Muse Over Mushrooms’ with the Gore Range Natural Science School | VailDaily.com

‘Muse Over Mushrooms’ with the Gore Range Natural Science School

Carolyn Connolly
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to DailyMushroom instructor Ellen Jacobson (far right) will lead a series of mushroom classes for the Gore Range Natural Science School during the coming week.

EAGLE COUNTY ” If you have hit the hiking trails as of late, you probably noticed the missing mushroom phenomenon. Due to the intense run-off and late start to our growing season, mushrooms will be popping up a bit later than normal.

“Mushrooms in the Vail area can be hit or miss,” said Ellen Jacobson, the mushroom instructor for the Gore Range Natural Science School. “If the rains come too late, the poor things are fighting the frosts that often occur at then end of August.”

Even though the rains came late this year, Jacobson said there were still plenty of mushrooms at the recent Colorado Mycological Society (CMS) Fair at the Denver Botanic Gardens this past week, and she expects the same for the upcoming Science School mushroom classes in Vail.

Jacobson will again teach Musing Over Mushrooms. Participants can choose from any of the following classes: two beginner classroom morning sessions followed with afternoon field sessions will be offered at the Minturn Town Hall on Tuesday and Thursday. Two full days of mushroom hunting will be offered on Saturday and Aug. 29 (limited to people who participated in the classroom session or have other proven mushroom experience). For more information on registering for any of these classes, contact Erin-Rose Schneider at science@gorerange.org or 970-827-9725 ext. 10.

Jacobson has a background in natural science and biology and started hunting mushrooms in the mid-’60s when she first moved to Vail.

“Believe it or not, there was little to do in the summer,” Jacobson said. “One of the ski patrolman used to bring mushrooms to my house and we would eat almost everything after consulting the only book available; a flimsy thing with bad descriptions and worse pictures. Fortunately, we never got sick even though we ate a lot of mushrooms I would not eat now.”

Jacobson’s mushroom knowledge has increased considerably since the ’60s. As a 30-year member of CMS, Jacobson leads forays and teaches classes throughout Colorado. She’s been an instructor at the Buena Vista King Boletus Festival for 12 years, and she also works as the chief recorder for the annual Mushroom Fair at the Denver Botanic Gardens where she is a volunteer in the Mycology Department of the Herbarium.

Jacobson has guided mushroom forays for the Gore Range Natural Science School for the past few years. She first became acquainted with Kim Langmaid, founder of the Gore Range Natural Science School, when Kim was a little girl in the same baby sitting pool as Ellen’s son. Ellen is now a legendary instructor at the Science School.

“Ellen’s passion for mushrooms ” not just the edible ones ” is contagious,” said Ann Stevenson, the Science School’s community programs director. “She is a wealth of knowledge and experience, and her teaching style is very entertaining. Spending a day in the woods hunting mushrooms with Ellen is a mind-broadening experience.”

“I try to impress on all my students the importance of mushrooms to ecology and how very hard they work for us,” Jacobson said. “Without fungi, the entire land mass of the planet would be covered in un-decayed trees, grass, bugs, dung and all kinds of organic detritus.”

Jacobson also stresses the importance of ethical collection of mushrooms. She uses the rule of thirds: “Leave the young ones and the old ones; pick the middle sized ones.” She also emphasizes the importance of picking only what you can eat or process and leaving the natural world as you found it.

What: Musing Over Mushrooms classes with instructor Ellen Jacobson

Where: Minturn Town Hall and field locations.

When: Classes offered Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Aug. 29.

Cost: Call for information.

More information: Contact Erin-Rose Schneider at science@gorerange.org or 970-827-9725 ext. 10.

Support Local Journalism