Friday, September 19, 2014

Mohatt-Khrushchev Mushroom meeting

What a mysterious title for this blog post. But it is all easily made clear. Our own Kate Mohatt picked fungi with the mushroom-loving Khrushchev family. Yes, Those Khrushchevs. Kate, Valentina and Sergei are the first three on the left side of the photo below.

Her story...

As described in the ADN article published last week (, Sergei was the keynote speaker for the Cold War Conference in Anchorage. This was his second visit to Alaska, and high on his to do list was to go mushroom hunting (scroll down to the end of the article, last sentence). A women in the Lieutenant Governor’s office called me a couple months ago to set this up, since she didn’t know anyone else who could take him on a mushroom hunt.

Since this was the day after the Fungus Festival in Cordova, there were still some visiting mycologists in town including David Arora, author of Mushrooms Demystified, Noah Siegel (currently working on “mushrooms of the Redwood Coast” field guide), and Alissa Allen, a myco-pigments expert (mushroom dyes) and all were eager to meet Sergei. I started reading the biography Sergei wrote about his father, titled “Nikita Khrushchev and the creation of a super power”, and noticed a reoccurring theme of mushrooms (about every 30 pages). Russians are known “mycophiles”, and apparently a favorite pastime for Nikita and his son was to go out into the woods and forage.

Sergei and Valentina have been living in Rhode Island since 1999, and have just in the last few years felt comfortable going out collecting for mushrooms there, since they are very different from the Russian species they are more familiar with. I have heard from Russians that I have met, and mycologists that have traveled to Russia that Russians tend to gravitate towards mushrooms in the genus Russula, even the poisonous ones, as the method in which they prepare these mushrooms is to either salt brine them for several days or boil them for 45 minutes. In this case, the toxins are water soluble, so they are perfectly edible after proper treatment (this does not work for other genera or mushroom toxins). There were quite a few Russulas out on our walk, and Valentina and Sergei filled an entire basket for their hosts, telling them multiple times to “boil them for 45 minutes”, although I’m guessing most of them made it to the compost. The prize edible of the outing was a couple of nice King Bolete buttons that Valentina found. She said in Russia they make an exception for this one, and only sauté, as it does not contain any toxins.

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