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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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The Thrill of the Hunt

Uploaded: Dec 6, 2015
Up in Mendocino last weekend for the Santa Cruz Fungus Federation Mushroom Hunt. Based at Albion Field Station, just south of Mendocino, 95 eager participants split up and head out into the foggy bottoms to find magical and mysterious mushrooms. Hopefully we get to the prime spots before the rest of 'em do!

- Albion Station at sunrise

Hunting is allowed in CA "demonstration" forests with a permit ($20 per year), but never in CA state forests (or national forests I do believe). We focused on Jackson State Demonstration Forest (the dark green below). Rules vary, so contact the forest district office of the area you are headed to inquire if a permit is required.

All ages came on the hunt, carrying all types of collection baskets. Our fearless guide Richard said children are the best at hunting, because of their close proximity to the ground. He was right, darn kids, they found more than me!

Here are some of the wild things we all found.

Boletus edulis / Porcini in Italian or Cepe in French
A prized find this time for year. Not a lot of wow in my perspective, but last night's sauted in butter and garlic came out well. I learned Porcinis are better dried then aged, which deepens the flavor.

- photo by Philip Manela

Leccinum manzanitae / Manzanita Bolete

Edible but not as prized as Boletus edulis (porcini). Some people like them, most don't because they turn slimy and black when cooked. In the forest they look similar to porcini, except for the brown spots on the stem.

Chanterelle. Another prized find this time of year.

Fake Chanterelle (edible but not necessarily good)

Matsutake - edible, delicious, in season right now.

The group forages for edible and non edible mushrooms. After the hunt, all kinds of mushrooms are placed on tables for viewing and identification.

They are marked with tags showing edible and non edible varieties (note the plate).

Here are some interesting non edible ones:

Earth Star


Tremella Mesenterica / Witches Butter (medicinal for Native Americans)


I thought these were rare, but we found a lot on the hunt. Commonly thought as poisonous, but some of the mushroom folks talked about boiling and eating them. Iuliu told me about a class he once took, How to Cook Poisonous Mushrooms.

On Saturday night of these mushrooming weekends, participants bring all kind of dishes made from mushroom hunts of the past...

Turkey Pot Pie with Dried Morel and Oyster Mushrooms by Courtney Krest Roach & Patrick J. Roach.

Candy Cap Shortbread Cookies

Ron Bader's Truffle Walnuts

Want to learn more? Consider becoming a member of the Santa Cruz Fungus Federation ($20 per year) and attending the next hunt in January.

Also the mushroom fest is happening soon. It's a great event! I'll be pairing with Fenestra Winery in Livermore for one of the chef's demos Saturday, 2 PM. Stop by for...hmmm.... Porcini Cricket Gnocchi with Mushroom Beurre Rouge and Kale Bacon? Maybe... chef reserves the right to change her mind.

42nd Annual Fungus Fair
January 8 - 10, 2016
Louden Nelson Community Center, Santa Cruz

Lastly, here's the bible of all books everyone seemed to be carrying:

But I asked for the smaller version for Christmas cuz you can hunt with it.

You know, I was thinking...the more we age, the fewer new experiences we have. This was my first mushroom hunt and it felt like adult Halloween or a game of advanced Hide and Seek. Every turn offered surprises. The experience was thrilling!

So no longer will be it just a walk through the trees.

The forest has come alive for this fun-gi rllll!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Breathing Rocks, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Dec 7, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Did they say anything else, like what happened after they ate the muscaria?
They can be quite hallucinogenic.
Web Link

Also, for would be mushroom hunters, this is the time of year when we (always) hear about the person dieing in the local hosp after eating wild mushrooms. I expect we'll see the first by the end of Jan. Be careful.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Ron, a resident of another community,
on Dec 8, 2015 at 8:12 am

One point I would like to clarify... it is not sufficient to just boil Amanita muscaria one time to remove the Musacaria toxin. David Arora once told me that the muscaria toxin is water soluble and boiling leaches it out of the mushroom but it is necessary to boil Aminita muscaria mushrooms for a very specific amount of time, repeatedly eight times to make them non-toxic. I didn't think to ask him at the time if the detoxification process also removed the hallucinogenic compounds as these mushrooms are both toxic and hallucinogenic and don't know if it does or does not, I have never felt it was worth the effort or risk to eat them with so many other delicious and safe edible mushrooms available.

Did you know that Aminita muscaria is thought by some to be the source of the legend of Santa's flying Reindeer? In Siberia the Reindeer purportedly love to eat them and get very high from doing so which causes them prance and jump around; possibly the source of the legend of Santa's flying Reindeer.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by A Hunter, a resident of another community,
on Dec 8, 2015 at 9:44 am

I dried porcini from Saturday's foray for 36 hours at 100degF in a convection oven, and it did the trick. They smell fabulous!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Dec 9, 2015 at 6:51 am

Santa's reindeer eat Muscaria? I love it! Well, there were lots around the forest, it is December, and hey they are even bright red!

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Minister of Long Distance Forays Fungus Federation of Santa Cruz, a resident of another community,
on Dec 10, 2015 at 9:12 pm

Hunting IS Allowed in National Forests with a Permit, Some cost $, some don't. Nice article & pics.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by dwr, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Jul 25, 2016 at 9:04 pm

I visited several web pages but the audio feature for audio songs existing at this web site is actually wonderful.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sadoiriotas, a resident of Martens-Carmelita,
on Aug 25, 2016 at 7:29 am

Thats a piece of useful information. Thank you so much!

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