Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (4/14/09)

Rachel Edelstein of The Aboretum is a bit of a foodie as well as being a fungivore. As a fungivore, she's an herbivore, and, maybe, a carnivore, too. However, when she goes hunting, it's not with a gun, but a paring knife, stalking fungus, edible mushrooms in particular.

This coming August she will even help throw a sumptuous feast of crepes with mushrooms and chicken in a cream sauce at the Wild Mushroom Retreat at the Hart Prairie Lodge. Sponsored by The Arboretum and the Nature Conservancy, the Retreat features fine cuisine prepared by French chefs Nicole Bauge and Rachel while another chef, Gay Chanler, offers appetizers of sautéed mushrooms, shallots, and herbs served with cream cheese on crackers.

In addition to fine dining, the Retreat also offers a program led by two local wild mushroom experts, Mary Lou Fairweather of the Forest Service and Ed Smith of The Nature Conservancy. The program will consist of finding, identifying, cooking, and eating wild mushrooms. Hart Prairie is thought by many to be the wild mushroom capitol of Arizona. Beginning on Friday evening and ending on Sunday at noon, the Retreat is a weekend of forays into the forest, education about mushrooms, cooking demonstrations, and culinary adventures for budding fungivores.

Neither haute cuisine nor nouvelle cuisine come immediately to mind when thinking about The Arboretum, but the fact is that The Arboretum also offers another gustatory event. It's the elegant Summer Soirée on July 11 which celebrates the life and food of the Southwest.

The Wild Mushroom Retreat and the Summer Soirée are but two of the many programs offered by The Arboretum. Tucked southwest of Flagstaff down Woody Mountain Road, The Arboretum is a cornucopia for those who want to know more about the land on which they live so that they may enjoy it all the more.

With attractions not only to the palate, it also offers something for the ear as well with a series on concerts sponsored jointly with Flagstaff Cultural Partners during the summer on the first Saturday of the month.

Beginning with the simple pleasure of walking, The Arboretum offers programs for those who want to look while they walk. In addition to treats for the palate and ear, The Arboretum's offers treats for the eye with guided bird walks and wildflower walks, teaching walkers when and where to look. This means that The Arboretum needs volunteers and docents so that it may offer many of its programs.

One of the most exciting programs is the Live Birds of Prey Demonstrations every day from April to October. It's an up close and personal experience of raptors, not an everyday experience.

The gardens expand the consciousness of gardeners in Flagstaff by demonstrating plants that work. The Arboretum offers classes in gardening as well as offering the experience of working in the gardens. For beginners, these classes and experiences are some of the best ways to learn how to garden successfully in the High Country.

With its birds, wildflowers, mushrooms, raptors, gardens, haute cuisine, music, and walks, there's no better place to have classes in painting en plein air than The Arboretum. Happily, it has them.

Two of the events at The Arboretum which gardeners in Flagstaff anticipate are the Plant Sale and the Penstemon Festival in July. It's a time to open the pocket book to get real bargains while learning about the varieties of a plant that does well in Flagstaff.

Behind all of these programs is the heart of The Arboretum, research. It is a first-class horticultural research institution.

But back to Rachel, the fungivore's favorite foodie. Her day job is the Director of Public Programs at the Arboretum. Raised in Quebec, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, and a school teacher on the Hopi Reservation, she's a graduate of Northeastern University and has an M.A. from NAU. For old-timers and newcomers in Flagstaff who want to know more about life on the Colorado Plateau, The Arboretum's the place to go and Rachel's the person to see. Her telephone number is (928) 774-1442, ext. 110 and
email address is rachel.edelstein@nau.edu.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2009

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