All-Out Celebration at the Mushroom Festival, Pennsylvania

Where I live, the places where wild morel mushrooms grow remain closely guarded secrets.

But at the annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, located in far southeastern Pennsylvania, no one keeps you in the dark. This fest is an all-out celebration of all things mushroom in the "Mushroom Capital of the World"!

My husband and I arrived just in time for the festival's parade. We found Main Street abuzz with crafters and food vendors selling fried mushrooms, grilled portabella mushrooms and even mushroom ice cream. I know that may not sound too great, but don't knock it until you've tried it -- it's actually quite delicious.

We learned that Kennett Square was the first place in the United States to cultivate mushrooms, way back in 1896. Area farms now produce 46% of the U.S. mushroom crop, including morel, shiitake, Crimini, white, portabella, oyster and enoki. I never knew there were so many kinds of mushrooms!

We learned all about growing and harvesting mushrooms. We also enjoyed cooking demonstrations and contests where we got to taste entries.

Local mushroom farms open for tours during the festival, so we visited one that produces 45 million pounds of button mushrooms annually. Hairnets in place, we entered the mushroom house to learn how mushroom beds, stacked four high, get picked clean.

Primed for more morels, we headed to the Kennett Steak and Mushroom Restaurant for dinner. Every diner here gets free marinated mushrooms as an appetizer. The wild mushroom soup was wonderful, and our pork chops came smothered in creamy mushroom sauce. We learned that folks who stay in the restaurant's 13-room motel during the festival receive a free 3-pound box of fresh portabella mushrooms!

Yes, anyone who's ever hunted mushrooms--or wanted to--will find easy pickings in Kennett Square come early September.

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