Jordan Weiss is Bemushroomed
Jordan Weiss is a 47-year-old self-taught mycologist who lives in Corvallis. He’s been in love with mushrooms since the early 1970s and enjoys sharing his low-tech approaches to mushroom cultivation with anyone interested in raising their own mushroom patches.
This interview is part of the Oregon Mushroom Stories’ Community Reporters Project. Please participate if you have mushroom stories to share or want to interview a mushroom lover you know.
Q. What is your relationship to mushrooms?
A. I enjoy a multi-dimensional relationship with mushrooms: I like to observe them in their natural and human-based habitats. I like to smell them: anise-scented mushroom and matsutake are two prime examples. I like to find them – about thirty different species here in the Pacific Northwest – and make medicinal foods. I like to think about them – about how they have managed to adapt to almost every available ecological niche on earth. I like to teach people what I know about mushrooms: low-tech, permacultural based methods of cultivation. I like to tell stories about mushrooms—my own experiences and others. I like to make art with the spore prints. I have an all-encompassing relationship with mushrooms.
Q. Why do you forage for and cultivate mushrooms?
A. I grow mushrooms because I can barter or sell the fruit bodies or I can eat them. Some mushrooms I can grow and cut the stem-butts off and start new patches. I like to forage for mushrooms because I love the natural habitats where they grow—I still enjoy being in the forest without finding them, out of season, but I spend more time in the forest during mushroom season. I can identify over a hundred different species and I love to eat thirty different species.
I enjoy a multi-dimensional relationship with mushrooms… I like to smell them: anise-scented mushroom and matsutake are two prime examples…. I like to think about them, about how they have managed to adapt to almost every available ecological niche on earth.
I learned about mushrooms from observing them in their habitats—parks, gardens, forests—and reading dozens of books on them. A true, knowledgeable, amateur mycologist. I have worked with a few different cultivators and been affiliated with several different mushroom clubs. The internet has provided a wealth of information about mushrooms from all over the world and most importantly, my eco-region: the Pacific Northwest. I have seen a few videos—amateur and professional—about mushrooms. [He's also made a few, including this chilled-out serenade to the King Stropharia.] My education has been observation-based, mostly from the ground up.
Q. What was your most memorable foraging experience?
A. So many to choose from (Dozens!!) My favorite memory was in May of 1986—I was headed to southern California after spending a few months in Oregon. I had just bought Gary Lincoff’s Audubon Society Mushroom Field Guide and was interested in finding mushrooms. I drove into the mountains outside of San Bernandino, CA and visited a few friends at their campsite. The area had a forest fire the year before. Upon leaving, we were in one of those areas that burned and as far as the eye could see in almost every direction, there were black morels, tens of thousands! One person asked me if I knew what they were and I said I did not. I left a short while later and didn’t find morels again until 1992, when I lived in Kansas City, Missouri.
Q. What are your favorite mushrooms and why? How do you use them?
A. I have so many favorite mushrooms. The Shrimp Russula is my favorite. This mushroom grows in the same habitat as chanterelles and these mushrooms taste like a cross between seafood and mushrooms—in eggs, calzones or with foraged greens. Once tasted, you know immediately why people become bemushroomed. Oregon Truffles do the same exact thing for me, but I have found way more shrimp russulas than truffles.
[Watch another of Jordan's cultivation videos and see his photos, including the ones shown above, at jordansmushrooms.com.
Jordan is teaching a course in Corvallis on spring mushrooms every Thursday, 7 - 9 pm, throughout May, with a field trip for adults on Saturday, May 19 and a family mushroom hunt on May 26. Learn more: corvallisenvironmentalcenter.org]