Meandering through Rolater Park in Cave Spring Saturday, one could overhear an unusual range of conversations, ranging from the microbiology of mushrooms to which species is the most pleasing to the palate. Just another day at the Georgia Mushroom Festival!
Trey Richards flew down from Minneapolis to attend.
“What interests me the most is how little we know about them,” Richards said. He called the Georgia Mushroom Festival a really unique opportunity for “civilian scientists” to get involved in what’s happening in the world of mushrooms.
“The mushroom community is so open and a lot of people are willing to share their knowledge and information. It’s like a treasure hunt,” said Richards.
Victor Rozeboom drove up from Warner Robins with his wife Beth and children Alex and Mia just to see what was going on.
“I’ve been growing culinary mushrooms for abut five years and have interacted with a lot of these people. There are a tremendous amount of professionals here,” Rozeboom said.”They’re doing microscopy and advanced biology and I want to get my family involved and see what was going on.”
Rozeboom stood back from his wife as she sprayed some distilled essence of mushroom onto her wrist and took a deep sniff. He’s more familiar with the aroma of Oyster mushrooms, or Shiitake or Lion’s Mane mushrooms from the kitchen.
Ed Harris, originally from St. Lucia but now a resident of Atlanta, is a private chef and culinary consultant. He’s also a “Chopped” champion from the Food Network. He was chopping away at mushrooms as he explained the key to cooking the fungi is knowledge of the type of mushroom one is working with. Without giving away any secrets, he told visitors to the booth that his favorite recipe with mushrooms is an Asian fare with a lot of ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil.
“You just sort of saute that and deglaze them with some Chinese cooking wine and then finish them off with fresh herbs.”
A friend sent Harris an e-mail asking if he was aware of the Georgia Mushroom Festival which prompted him to contact organizer Claudia Littrell and make arrangements right away to be in Cave Spring for the weekend.
Littrell was extremely happy with the growth of the festival this year.
“This is just going to grow every year,” she said. Littrell pointed to the Alabama Mushroom Society and Florida Mushroom Society booths, and was overjoyed at the buy-in from the mushroom community all over the Southeast.
Sunday, participants will be out on the Pinhoti Trail south of Cave Spring at 9:30 a.m. They’ll walk the trail from Old Jackson Chapel Road, and undoubtedly stray off trail a little in search of mushrooms.
“We are creating a network where people get to know each other other than just from Facebook. Mushrooms are so misunderstood and the science behind mushrooms is just amazing,” Littrell said.