Fun with fungi: Mushroom expert to speak to Garten Club

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Marita King, holding a container full of chanterelles, will speak about mushrooms at the next German Village Garten Club meeting, slated for Monday, May 20, in the German Village Meeting Haus.

An academic, world traveler and former full-time sailboat resident, Marita King has spent the last decade devoted to all things mushroom.

"It is a passion and it is kind of nice to have something to do in the woods other than walking," said King, a member of the Ohio Mushroom Society.

King will share her knowledge about the subject with the German Village Garten Club, which will meet 7 p.m. Monday, May 20, in the Meeting Haus, 588 S. Third St. The event is free and open to the public.

An auxiliary professor of chemistry at Ohio State University, King said she will speak about a broad variety of issues, from foraging to the health benefits of mushrooms.

In Ohio, her top three choices are maitake, or hen of the woods; oyster; and sulphur shelf, also known as chicken of the woods. There's only about a week left to unearth coveted morels, she said.

People can purchase kits to grow mushrooms in their basements or in bored tree stumps, although, it is not easy to grow the fungi in those conditions King said.

Because mushrooms tend to soak up pollutants, both in the soil and air, she advises against eating those found in backyards and other urban areas.

The Buckeye State has a multitude of good foraging areas but she's partial to Hocking Hills State Park.

Some of the best regional mushroom hunting is in Michigan, Wisconsin and Canada.

King of Reynoldsburg said she'll advise audience members to be mindful of where they're harvesting mushrooms. It's OK in state and national parks, but prohibited in Metro Parks.

She also will talk about toxic mushrooms, such as the destroying angel and the death cap, consumption of which can be fatal.

Many health benefits have been attributed to mushrooms. Depending on the variety, mushrooms are high in antioxidants, vitamins C and D, potassium, riboflavin and other nutrients, and are believed to help lower cholesterol.

An amateur photographer, King said she also sees a different side of the mushroom.

"I don't think people realize how absolutely gorgeous these things really are," she said.

Bob Mullinax, president of the Garten Club, said the discussion will be unique to the group.

"The Garten Club has never entertained a mushroom lecture in all the years we have been organized," he said. "This is a very special program to close our program year."