Springtime is finally upon us and with that come some great opportunities to go mushroom foraging, especially here in Northern California and our neighboring states of Oregon and Washington.
Given some recent rains along the California coast, the next couple of weeks should see some beautiful mushrooms sprouting right out of the ground. At this point you’ll start seeing the highly-priced porcinis, boletus and morels, some of our preferred types of fungi.
During a short hike near Tomales Bay we came across a bountiful treasure of oyster mushrooms, which we spread out on a table as soon as we arrived back to our lodge (this is so the moisture could dissipate).
Tip: Each type of mushroom flourishes in their own specific environment. While chanterelles thrive in dark patches at the base of large oak trees, oyster mushrooms can typically be spotted along the shaded areas of fallen and moist trunks. But, always remember to look up around branches as you might be surprised with what you find.
During a separate excursion to the same location, hoping for more of the same, we came upon a few really large slugs gnawing away at some oyster mushrooms attached to a fallen oak tree’s surface. I wish we had a tripod that day.
Some of our other favorite spots, whether for picking or purely for educational purposes is the Point Reyes National Park and Seashore, in particular the surrounding area near Drake’s Estero. At the very top of the hike lies one of the most breathtaking views of the Pacific, Drake’s Bay and the Point Reyes lighthouse, the western-most point in the US.
Mushroom foraging only gets better with time and experience and while Zara and I have a long way to go still, it is not an activity to be taken lightly as eating the wrong wild mushroom can wreak havoc on your body — if you survive.
Foraging is a really fun and educational activity, but we cannot stress enough the importance of being well-informed about mushroom identification. Plain and simple, if you aren’t 100% sure, don’t eat it. Period. We recommend starting out by loading up your library with a few books to get yourself acquainted, going out with an experienced forager and/or joining a seasoned mushroom hunting group such as the Mycological Society of San Francisco before thinking about heading out on your own.
Tip: Unless they are masters of the mushroom universe, experienced foragers tend to remain local. Picking in areas outside of the range of knowledge and familiarity can cause some very serious repercussions.
Gotta have it: Opinel pocket knife
There are plenty of great tools when it comes to mushrooming, but our favorite as far as knives are concerned has to be the French wooden-handled Opinel knife, with a heritage going as far back as 1890.
Its ergonomic shape, sturdy grip and attached brush at the bottom of the handle makes it an ideal companion.
Mushroom hunting with Connie Green of WineForest. A Selby Film.
Mushroom soup recipe
I finally purchased Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. It is a wonderful book dedicated to his family, while paying homage to the basics of simple home cooking. In it I found a delicious recipe which I’d like to try at some point and perhaps on a future camping trip as soup can be a nice challenge to cross off our list.
This blogger carefully captured Chef Keller’s Mushroom soup with cavolo nero and yukon gold potatoes recipe, step by step.
Find your new favorite tools and books
Opinel mushroom knife
Ad Hoc at Home cookbook by Thomas Keller
All That the Rain Promises and More by David Arora. A great little pocket book when tromping through the woods
Mushrooms Demystified, also by David Arora