Saturday, March 30, 2013

Last of the Mushroom Harvest

“I used to dread the rain. Now I can’t wait for it to fall so I can get out mushroom hunting!”-Justin Smith----

I hadn't seen my brother in a few months and I was really looking forward to hanging out with him and his girlfriend Karen. I was supposed to enter a downhill skateboard race, but once I heard that Justin and Karen were planning a late season mushroom hunt, my priorities changed. After all, I had plenty of opportunities to be on concrete in southern California, but very few to get out in the woods. Now up here in northern California I was really craving crawling around on the forest floor looking for the gifts that a good rain brings.

We headed to a spot my brother had found a while back that had a decent population of black trumpets through most of the winter. The ground was fairly dry as there had been no rain for a few weeks, and it was pretty clear that we were nearing the end of yet another great mushroom season. My dog, Abalone, was having a good old time running around through tunnels in the thick huckleberry and fern covered slopes that make up the coastal coniferous forest floor. I even saw her climbing trees a few times; Jack Russell’s are a truly remarkable breed.

After a little searching we began spotting a few mushrooms here and there in the more shaded areas on north facing slopes. I called out when I found a couple of black trumpets as my eyes went into black trumpet locator mode. This entails standing at the foot of the mushroom you just cut and very slowly scanning the area surrounding it without taking another step. As usual, their grayish black color began to slowly stand out from the dark forest floor all around me. In a matter of minutes Justin, Karen and I had all raked in with these black chanterelles. Next Karen located a nice patch of hedgehogs while Justin worked on a cluster of winter chanterelles.

Eventually we moved on to another area where I go frequently to gather hedgehogs and winter Chanterelles, which during wet months seem to carpet the forest floor here. This time we found again that the ground was relatively dry, but on hands and knees and sometimes belly’s we found plenty of hedgehogs and yellow foots to fill our baskets.

Once back home, Karen cleaned the fungi as Justin began assembling our wild mushroom pizza. It was so simple, just dough, sauce, cheese, caramelized onion, and mushrooms, but man was it good! Each type of mushroom has its own distinct flavor and texture, and with every bite we were filled with contentment. Sharing this pizza and the joys of an every-day adventure was a great end to a very fun mushroom season.

The fruiting bodies of the mushrooms are leaving now that it is warming up, but the spring greens are abundant, so get out there away from the road and off the trail, tread lightly, harvest ethically and joyfully, and always strive to keep the old ways alive!

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