There’s something unusually fascinating about mushrooms. Perhaps it’s their unique appearance, appearing in different shapes, colors and sizes. Or maybe there’s a bit of mystery behind an organism that seemed to appear overnight. Whichever characteristic attracts you to mushrooms, we’re celebrating National Mushroom Day by sharing some mushroom facts with you and highlighting some edible mushrooms that can be found here in Pennsylvania!
Did you know that the largest living being in the world is actually a honey mushroom? Although it might seem like mushrooms pop up overnight without a trace, they are actually growing underneath the surface through a root-like network called mycelium. This substance looks like cobwebs and can connect underground for miles in some areas! If we think about mushrooms as if they were an apple tree, the mycelium would be the trunk of the tree, while the mushroom itself is the fruiting body of the plant, like the apple on the tree. Mushrooms have an entire network of mycelium beneath them which can be used to communicate with surrounding plants about which nutrients they are in need of.
Pennsylvania is home to the largest number of mushroom farms in the country, generating 9,300 jobs and contributing over $1.2 billion to the local economy! That’s a whole lot of mushrooms if you ask us. In fact, over two-thirds of the country’s mushrooms are sourced from Kennett Square, PA, which has earned itself the title “Mushroom Capital of the World”. It all started in the 1800s when a local florist, William Swayne, wanted to make use of extra space underneath his garden beds, so he began cultivating mushrooms beneath. Before he knew it other farmers had learned of his innovation and wasted no time in adopting the practice. The area has been booming with mushroom farmers ever since.
Another great way to experience mushrooms is through foraging. There is something enchanting about gathering your next meal from the forest. It makes you feel connected to the generations that came before you and walked the same land, looking for the same resources. PA has a great selection when it comes to edible wild mushrooms: chicken of the woods, chanterelles, black trumpets, maitake (hen of the woods), are all choice (preferred) mushrooms that can be found in our state parks and forests. Please remember to always forage responsibly and never to consume a mushroom without proper identification. Consider joining a local mushroom club if you are interested in learning more about proper foraging practices.
Even if you are not interested in bringing mushrooms home with you, it is still fun to carry a field guide with you to try and identify mushrooms along the trail. Over 7,000 species of mushrooms have been identified in PA, keep an eye out for them and see how many you can identify!
As you can see Pennsylvania has a lot to offer when it comes to mushrooms, whether they be cultivated in farms or foraged in the wild, we hope you enjoy them and what our state has to share. Foraging fruiting bodies is permitted at state parks and forests for personal use, and we promise our state parks and forests have mush-room for you! Come out and enjoy yourself today.
Written by: River Missal, River is an AmeriCorps member serving for the PA Parks & Forest Foundation for the 2023-2024 season. He has been brought on board to help recruit volunteers and host trail training days where he will teach volunteers basic trail maintenance skills and techniques. He holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with minors in archaeology and geology from Bloomsburg University and previously served with the PA Outdoor Corps in 2021. Local to Pennsylvania, he is excited to motivate and train others in trail stewardship and keep our vast network of trails beautiful!
National Mushroom Day is every year on October 15