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Do you know the mushroom man?

Walk in the woods with Kevyn Fowler and you can't help but learn a thing or two about mushrooms.

NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine — Many places across the state recorded the rainiest July on record—that was great news for Kevyn Fowler. 

Kevyn describes himself as an avid mushroom hunter and spends just about every minute he can outdoors in the woods, foraging. If you tag along with him, you will never look at a mushroom in quite the same way again. There are few people who get this enthusiastic when they happen upon a particular type of mushroom in the woods.

"Oh! I see a coral! I just get excited I was like YES we see a coral! I can see that a mile away this is a coral mushroom. These are really extraordinary, really neat. You can catch ‘em in the sunlight, you can catch ’em in the shade. They come in all shapes and … coral mushrooms are a beautiful group of mushrooms," Kevyn said with great excitement. 

While most of us see a forest full of trees, Kevyn is far more mesmerized by what is going on on the forest floor.

He puts it this way: "There’s a lot of different layers to it for me. First of all, ever since I was a kid I loved being in the woods. I got into this hobby because I bought a camera, a phone camera, that had a macro lens. And I started taking pictures of mushrooms because they didn’t go anywhere." 

He got curious, learning more and more about the different kinds of mushrooms he was finding in the woods.

"I, personally, I wanted to learn about the poisonous ones … because the 12-year-old boy in me was like ‘oooh, poisonous mushrooms… oooh that’s so cool,’ you know? So I learned those first, so that I could rule those out," he said. "Then when I sort of started learning that you could eat some of them—those were the ones I went, 'OK, I’m learning all the ones you can eat.' The more that I learned, the more that I saw, the more that I realized that this is gonna last my whole life—this learning, this curiosity, this exploration is an unending pursuit. And it just makes me happy! And taking pictures of the mushrooms makes me even happier."

Mushrooms are everywhere in the woods. And there’s a good reason for that.

"The mushroom itself is simply the fruiting body of the mycelium, of the fungus. Mycelium coats every single inch of the forest floor, underneath the forest floor, there’s mycelium. Everywhere. All the different species, and they reach out, and they have relationships with trees, the fungi, and so when you see a mushroom that’s literally the apple on the apple tree," Kevyn explained.

That means it’s OK to pick a mushroom. In fact, it’s essential in order to identify it. He has tens of thousands of photos of mushrooms on his phone, taken during countless trips to the woods, while he built up his ever-expanding encyclopedic knowledge of mushrooms.

"I would advise an amateur to try and learn one, two, or three if they want to—to forage. Learn one or two, maybe three species a season. Learn them very well so that there’s no question about what you’re harvesting, keep your list light, go with the easy ones."

We stumble on what Kevyn calls his "favorite fungus." Not many people have a favorite fungus. I asked him if there was a way to tell poisonous or dangerous mushrooms from ones that are safe to eat. 

"There are no rules of thumb for mushrooms. There’s no set rule. What you do is – you learn each mushroom individually, you buy guidebooks and you can Google your image," he said.

This time of year, one of his favorite ones to forage—and eat—are black trumpets. "These are incredible mushrooms, they’re so tasty and delicious. They’re just extraordinary-looking mushrooms."

They blend in with the leaves, but once you know what you are looking for, you can find them everywhere. He dries them, uses them in sauces, in soups, or on pizza. After years of studying mushrooms, he reels off the Latin name just as easily as the common name.

Credit: NCM

"People send me pictures of mushrooms, 'Kev, what’s this, what’s this,' I LOVE that! I get to be a little detective and I’m like 'Oh, that’s Amanita Amerirubescens …' you know? Maybe we should have a website where people pronounce the actual true pronunciation, in the meantime, in the meantime, I just say ‘em like Harry Potter – Hypomyses Lactoflorum!" he said with a laugh. 

And as he drops to his knees to photograph yet another mushroomit is safe to say the Kevyn Fowler will never tire of the magic of mushrooms. "There’s always something around the next corner under the next tree. So, it’s an endless source of joy."

Kevyn takes pictures for a living. When he is not in the forest, he is a seasoned videographer with WMTW news. 

He said you can mushroom all year long. The season is generally April until late November but in the winter, there are perennial mushrooms that grow on trees and lichen to find.

If you would like to learn more about identifying and foraging for mushrooms, Kevyn suggests you join the 'Maine Mushrooms' page on Facebook or the Maine Foragers page on Facebook. There are many pages on Facebook about mushrooms, if you just use the search word "mushroom" you will find many resources for learning. Also, the Maine Mycological Association hosts forays and lectures - click here to learn more about joining

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