There is evidence that hunter-gatherer humans living in temperate climates have been collecting mushrooms for food for thousands of years. Today, foraging for fungi continues to be an enjoyable family activity in many European and Asiatic countries. Grandparents equipped with basket, knife, cane, and traditional wisdom still instruct their eager children and grandchildren in the techniques and lore of separating edible from non-edible mushrooms. When people migrated to the new world, they brought the excitement and pleasure of this pursuit to America.
The first American mushroom society was formed in Boston in 1895. There now are sixty-seven mycological societies in the United States and Canada. Membership and enthusiasm in these groups continues to grow. In 1950, the Mycological Society of San Francisco was organized to provide an opportunity for interested individuals in the Bay Area to study the fascinating subject of mushrooms and to safely enhance the pleasure of eating. Each year the tempo of our members' lives quickens as the first autumn rains fall and the objects of our devotion lift their multicolored heads from the ground. The Mycena News, MSSF's monthly publication, announces the coming events for the season. Monthly speakers and gourmet dinners are planned. Cultivation and identification classes begin. Field forays and trips local and remote are announced. Dr. Harry Thiers, the mycologist at San Francisco State University, and informed society members identify mushrooms for the public and for medical clinics as a community service. Other members present slide shows for natural science and medical organizations in the area.
But nothing we do approaches the excitement of preparing and participating two or three times each winter in mushroom exhibitions called "fungus fairs." Members gather fungi, then discuss them with people who come to examine the beautifully arranged and labeled mushroom exhibits.
Joining a mushroom society is one of the safest ways to begin the quest for wild mushrooms. A list of mushroom clubs is supplied in the appendix of this book.