In the language of Potawatomi Nation, a Native American tribe of the Great Plains, the word “puhpowee” describes the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight. There is no English word for this, according to Robin Wall Kimmerer, a potawatomi speaker and biologist in her book Braiding Sweetgrass.
But Prince Edward Islanders have been living among an abundance of puhpowee this summer season.
“It’s not often we get a season for mushrooms like this,” said Tyler Weatherall, a chef at the Inn at Bay Fortune. “People have been bringing them in by the basket.”
He attributes the prolific mushroom season to this year’s damp summer weather.
“Usually you have to look in particular spots,” said Mr Weatherall, referring to mossy areas wooded with coniferous trees. “But this year it’s not surprising to find them anywhere.”
Environment Canada meteorologist Ian Hubbard confirmed the Island has seen above normal amounts of precipitation over the past three months: May through July.
The Charlottetown weather station has recorded 308.2 mm of precipitation in this time period compared to the normal 269.7. That’s 115 per cent of the normal precipitation.
Mr Hubbard added July was the most abnormal month.
The Summerside weather station recorded twice as much rain as normal in July. The Charlottetown station’s measurements weren’t far off.
Mr Weatherall suspects, if conditions persist, the restaurant may be on track to buy more pounds of chanterelles than ever.
Chanterelle mushrooms are a series of gourmet mushroom species that have been thriving along with other mushroom types.
The last big mushroom summer in Kings County that Mr Weatherall remembers was in 2018.
That season, the restaurant bought upwards of a hundred pounds of chanterelles. He estimates the restaurant has bought about 30 to 40 pounds this summer already and wouldn’t be surprised if they buy another 100 by the time the chanterelle season comes to an end. The season usually starts in July and stretches into September.
Trained chefs aren’t the only east Islanders enjoying the conditions. Amateur foragers have been appreciating nature’s generosity.
Brenna McIntyre of Flat River started foraging for mushrooms with her younger brother a few years ago in the Gairloch region.
“I remembered older people always knowing what you can and can’t eat in nature and I wanted to learn,” said Ms McIntyre. “I think my brother thought, 'oh this is just another thing my sister is dragging me out to do. We won’t find anything.’ But now he’ll ask me to go out foraging.”
She says this year, her go-to mushroom locations near her house have produced far more than usual. Baskets and baseball caps full of chanterelles, boletes and even some oyster mushrooms have been on the menu at her house.
Wild mushroom pierogies are one of her favourites.
Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic