Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hunting for Wild Mushrooms

Just raided the chantrelle gold mine

While I enjoy learning various methods of mushroom cultivation, I am much more excited about going into the woods to hunt for wild mushrooms. In 2004, I went on my first mushroom foray workshop led by David Aurora, the author of Mushrooms Demystified and All the Rain Promises and More. In the beginning, I couldn't see much in the woods.

It takes some time to train your eyes to spot the mushrooms, and it takes even longer to spot the delicious ones.It is also important to network with other mushroom hunters and get on their good side for finding out those secret spots. The best way to meet other mushroom enthusiasts is to join a club or a few of them. In the Bay Area, the biggest mushroom club is MSSF (Mycological Society of San Francisco). A little north of San Francisco, there's SOMA (Sonoma County Mycological Association). South of S.F., there's Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz.
Earlier this year I had my biggest harvest ever. I offered to give someone a ride to "his spot" since he didn't have a car. In two hours we picked over 30 pounds of golden chantrelles. We had a very good mushroom season last year with a lot of rain in the Bay Area. In addition to chantrelles, I collected plenty of Black Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa) and Candy Caps (Lactarius rubidus).

Black Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa). I like the texture of it. It's great in Ma Po tofu. It takes on whatever flavor it's cooked in just like tofu.

Every year we hear about a few families that die from eating poisonous mushrooms. Death Caps (Amanita phalloides), one of the deadliest mushrooms are all over the same places where I would find those good edibles. My rule is to stick to the ones I know well and educate myself well before eating the mushrooms I pick in the wild. People outside of my mushroom circle do not understand why I like to go out and pick wild mushrooms when they are available in the stores. I like being out in nature and fresh produce. I am also a big fan of multitasking.I used to just go out and hike until I discovered the good eats I can pick while out hiking. Most people do not like rain and stay home when it's raining. I can't wait for the rain season to start.  My goal for the upcoming season is hunt for porcini. I have tasted it a few times when other hunters were generous enough to share. It tasted like butter. I never forget it.

A basket full of candy caps! (Lactarius rubidus)

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