The 18th annual Salmon and Mushroom Festival in Lake Cowichan will be held on Sept. 23-24.
The increasingly popular festival, which will be held this year at the Lake Cowichan Centennial Hall, is the creation of mycologist Ingeborg Woodsworth, who has been holding the event since 1998.
Last year, the festival attracted almost 300 people on both days.
Woodsworth said she organizes the festival to celebrate the large variety of mushrooms that grow in the Cowichan Valley, and the many species of salmon that are also here.
She said she enjoys educating the public about the wild edibles from the forests and the waters of the Valley, and increasing awareness of the potential for food and income from local resources.
“We’re inviting people to come and celebrate the ‘wild eats’ of the Valley — mushrooms and salmon — that are a perfect combination,” she said.
“This year, we will have an actual chef at the festival who will look after the salmon and the side dishes. Sonia Furstenau (MLA for the Cowichan Valley) will officially open the festival on Saturday morning.”
This year, the festival includes mushroom field trips through the surrounding forest on Saturday that will be led by Woodsworth, mushroom identifications, a mushroom slide show, a market of local arts, crafts and baked goods, a hot lunch and a children’s craft table.
Woodsworth said she was first intrigued with the variety of different mushrooms that grow in the Valley during a visit from Germany more than 20 years ago.
She said there are approximately three times as many mushroom varieties in the Valley as in central Europe, and she counted 73 different varieties that were collected during one of the festivals.
Woodsworth said she lives beside Block 33, a provincial forest behind her property, and it’s a perfect location to demonstrate to people what mushrooms to look for and how to harvest them.
“There are a lot of swampy and moist areas here, and that’s perfect habitat for mushrooms,” Woolworth said.
“I decided it would be my dream to retire here, so I moved to the Valley and, since then, I have been teaching courses on mushrooms at Vancouver Island University campuses on the Island. One of my favourite activities during the year is the festival, which I consider my baby.”
The price of admission for the whole weekend is $8, with children 12 and under allowed in free.
The proceeds from the festival will be applied to the education of Cowichan Valley students studying the natural sciences.