People were just as psyched about fungi in Cordova as they were in Girdwood. This week’s Cordova Fungus Festival was delightful. People are fungus fanatics, and this festival was the perfect venue for them to fly their fungal flag high. Forays, a recipe swap, a mushroomer’s wine and cheese mixer with hand-painted wine glasses, a kid’s activity corner, a dazzling mushroom display, a Japanese movie dubbed in English where people turn into mushrooms, a photo booth with the mascots of the festival, and mushroom-dyeing workshops! Locals and out-of-towners benefited from the knowledge that guest mycologists and foray leaders had to impart. A lot of people were mostly excited about knowing what’s edible and what is not, but there is a lot more to the mycological universe than that. Noah Seigel gave an incredibly informative lecture on the fungi of the redwood coast, and touched on the importance of fungi to the health of our ecosystem. There is a popular book that recently debuted called Salmon in the Trees by Amy Gulick, in which the author illustrates the vital connection between salmon and the health of trees in the Tongass National Forest. Noah took it a step further to point out that those salmon would not be able to give nutrients to those trees as readily without the presence of fungi. The fungi that live symbiotically with trees help with the uptake of nutrients and protection for their roots. The fungi break down organic matter and absorb vital nutrients such as phosphates and nitrogen. The fungi, in turn, help trees absorb those nutrients. Noah gave props to the Forest Service here in the Chugach for celebrating and recognizing fungi’s place in our earth’s ecosystem because, as Noah put it, “some don’t even acknowledge their existence.”
At the Kids’ Corner, where I spent most of the festival, various children passing through learned that fungi are also very cute when you put googly eyes on them, which is equally if not more important than their connection to sustaining the earth’s ecosystems. Either way you spin it, fungi are an integral part of our existence and it’s festivals like the ones in Girdwood and Cordova that help make that known.