HARTFORD, Conn. - Connie Borodenko has spent a lifetime hunting for mushroom treasures and now has the privilege of having a rare species named for her.
"I think, but I'm not positive, that I found it at Salmon River State Forest," Borodenko said of the find that led to a mushroom in her name. The forest, located in Colchester, Conn., is a perfect habitat for a variety of mushrooms, and of the destinations of Borodenko's frequent mushroom-hunting expeditions.
Borodenko brought the new species, dubbed "Amanita borodenkoae," to Rod Tullos, a member of the North American Mycological Association and an expert in the family of mushroom-forming fungi known as Amanitaceae.
"It's a brand new find, which he determines by examining it and through microscopic lenses and all kinds of other ways that he has, which is more scientific than I am," Bordodenko said. She brought the species to Tulloss at a mushroom conference the two attended this year. "He recognized my sort of skill at finding these strange species," Borodenko said.
Growing up in Danbury and Brookfield, Borodenko came from a family where mushrooms were a traditional household commodity and valued for their benefits.
"I'm sort of an advanced, amateur," Borodenko said. "I've been doing this my whole life. ... I found a few new species that hadn't been found before."
Along with other members of the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society, she regularly hunts for mushrooms to learn, collect, identify and exchange mushroom recipes.
"I've been doing this for my whole life, and I'm 80 so, that's a lot of water under the bridge there," Borodenko said. "All of my grandparents were from Eastern Europe, where mushrooms have been a staple for survival over there. We used to go out mushrooming when I was a kid, and I just continued."
Over the years, Gloria Long has been impressed with her friend's commitment to mushrooms.
"She's just so dedicated," Long said. "She was always out in nature, and she always loved mushrooms, as well as everything in nature."
Borodenko looks forward to mushroom hunting every Sunday between May and November. The members of the group help to properly identify different mushroom species and keep a record of their findings.
"We bring our finds back and name them and list them and keep records for Connecticut, for each state park and all that," Borodenko said.
Sometimes the mushrooms are brought to her.
"People come to my door with mushrooms and then I identify them," Borodenko explained. "Usually, they give them to me to keep because a lot of people don't know as much as I know about them."
Borodenko and other mycologists also prepare various exotic meals with some of the mushrooms they find.
"There are hundreds and hundreds of species of mushrooms and I, myself, have eaten 120 different species, so I can't exactly pick one that I would recommend," she said.
Connecticut Valley Mycological Society is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1975. The mushroom club welcomes mycologists seeking the educational and recreational exploration of mushrooms and other fungi. "It's a science and it's a science that is partly like a sport, like birding or any of the other, natural sciences," Borodenko said.
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