Is there anything more ephemeral or fanciful than a seasonal bouquet of flowers in full bloom? If you ask florist Yasmine Khatib, she would assure you there is. She’s found flora’s rival in the magical world of fungi. “I am often more taken by things that I know won’t last,” she says, speaking wistfully of her longtime love affair with the mushroom kingdom.
It’s a tiny miracle to happen upon a wild mushroom in its prime. Dazzling in hue and infinitely varied in texture, a mushroom is the fruiting body of extensive networks of veiny mycelium that run a web within the soil. These showy outcroppings can appear for just hours at a time before decomposing and enriching the earth from whence they came. It was these mystical appearances that first captured Khatib’s eye as a child. “I marveled at any I encountered,” she says. “I noticed them in fairy-tale illustrations and every time a mushroom would pop up on the lawn.” So as a much-sought-after floral designer some 15 years later, she began incorporating mushrooms into her pieces, weaving these wonder buttons into everything from bridal bouquets and wreaths to crowns and tablescapes. It’s an eccentric signature move, but one that is ultimately quite accessible to the lay florist—and it’s just the thing that can spruce up your holiday decor.
While Khatib gravitates toward the fancier varieties like lion’s mane and lobster, your basic supermarket will stock pillowy oyster mushrooms, feathery hen of the woods, or the chubby king trumpet. The best part? While traditional flowers are tossed in the compost at the end of a party, mushrooms, even if bruised, have a second life in the kitchen—dry them for a soup base or do like Khatib, a vegetarian, and venture into mushroom jerky. Rough chop and marinate in tamari, lime, honey, black pepper, cayenne, shallots, and garlic. Sauté them with olive oil until cooked, then pop them in a food dehydrator until they reach that leathery jerk-y state.
Here, Khatib shares her tips for incorporating fungi into all your seasonal decor.
If you’re hosting a dinner party, use fresh mushrooms in their prime for a centerpiece. “This way, you can enjoy the beauty of mushrooms and eat them the next day,” Khatib says. She aims for variable height and texture, pairing scruffy lion’s mane with groupings of sculptural oysters. Choose varieties that can sit easily on their own, directly on the table’s surface.
Khatib creates miniature wreaths that are meant to last, made with dried flowers, the hearty tops of winter persimmon, and, yes, mushrooms. They can be kept on display for years at a time, as long as they are hung indoors away from moisture. She dries the mushrooms in a dehydrator and affixes them with hot glue to a simple knotted grapevine ring, sourced from her local craft store. She works with a mix of small mushrooms, such as enoki and beech, to keep the scale in the palm of her hand.
When incorporating mushrooms into a flower arrangement, Khatib prefers to work with dried flowers and foliage. Mushrooms, fresh or dried, are spongy and absorb moisture greedily, so keeping water out of the equation is a good precaution. If you do decide to add mushrooms to a fresh flower arrangement, just be sure that they do not come into contact with the water in your vase.
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