Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Weekly MUSE: Mushrooms

Bright orange mushrooms growing at the base of a tree.
Photo by: Skakerman

The other day I fried some mushrooms. And while I was eating them, I thought about my creative writers! Wouldn't mushrooms make a wonderful MUSE?

Let’s take a look at this fungus among us and see what we can uncover.

Mushrooms are a type of fungi, which means that they are NOT a plant. They are a member of the fungi kingdom along with yeasts and molds.

Mushrooms grow on organisms that are dead or dying. In fact, they help things decay or rot. Take a look at this video to see it happen in real life.

Wow! Did you see the mushrooms growing on the dead insects? I had never seen anything like that before.

You are probably wondering how mushrooms reproduce. Since they are not plants, they do NOT reproduce by seeds. Instead, they reproduce by SPORES. Take a look at this diagram of a mushroom.

The spores are released from the gills of the mushroom. These spores blow away on the wind in hopes of finding dead or dying matter to help rot.

I’m sure all this has made you hungry, huh? I can just hear your stomachs growling (wink).

The mushrooms we eat do not come from decaying insects. Most of them are farmed. Take a look at this video and tour a mushroom farm in England.

While most people get their mushrooms from the grocery store, some people hunt for them in the wild.

In the Pacific Northwest, people hunt for the tasty and colorful CHANTERELLE. Very yummy, especially in soup!

Chanterelle Mushroom
Photo by: Charles De Mille-Isles

In the Midwest, people hunt for the tasty and odd looking MOREL! Also very yummy, especially fried!

Morel Mushroom
Photo by: Michael Hodge

BEWARE! While some wild mushrooms are edible, most are NOT! In fact, some mushrooms are poisonous and deadly. YIKES!

The Death Cap Mushroom is one of these DEADLY mushrooms.

The poisonous Death Cap Mushroom
Photo by: Mik Hartwell

On a brighter note, take a look at how the creators of the popular 1980’s cartoon used mushrooms as their MUSE.

The next time you are walking through your yard, try not to step on the mushrooms. You don’t want to smash a Smurf, do you?

With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these what if questions will help you get started.

WHAT IF your main character grew magic mushrooms. What can these magic mushrooms do?

WHAT IF your main character lived inside a mushroom kind of like the Smurfs? How would you make character different? How would you make the setting different?

WHAT IF your main character went mushroom hunting and got lost?

The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

So, grab a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,

Professor Watermelon

The word of the week is “decay”. Here is the definition: to become decomposed or to rot.

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