The Mushroom Man

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Published Jul 29, 2021, 7:02 PM

Meet Ian Vair. Ian is a mushroom forager, and a maker of medicinal tinctures. He’s also a fun person to walk with through the woods. That’s what we did one hot June morning in Rutland’s Pine Hill Park.

Before Ian made mushrooms his life, he was a chef. He went to culinary school, studied French cuisine, and worked in fast-paced kitchens. When he first started looking for mushrooms, he wouldn’t even eat them. He thought they were kind of gross. Then, in his twenties, Ian started having seizures. He ignored them for a little while, but they kept getting worse. They got so bad, he couldn’t even work; he stopped driving. So, he started walking in the woods more, looking for mushrooms. He learned to identify a dozen, then two, and soon he knew hundreds of different species. It’s spiritual for him, the connection to nature, to a higher power. He calls the mushrooms his children, and in a sense they are, because he watches them grow, and talks to them, and believes in them with his whole being. Now, he transforms reishi and chaga and turkey tail and lion’s mane mushrooms into healing teas and extracts. Together, we looked for chanterelles and chicken-of-the-woods, got on our hands and knees to study mushrooms, to smell them, to taste them. 

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