One of the things I’d been wanting to do ever since we moved up to this area was go on a mushroom forage with the Sonoma County Mycological Association. They’re free, occur every month, and are both a great education and introduction to the society and the benefits of its membership.
Located in Salt Point State Park, north of Fort Ross State Park (site of a former Russian colony of fur trappers), where my mom and I had enjoyed a wonderful visit once upon a time, the hike was not long, probably under a mile uphill. Then, we were let loose into the forest. It felt like we were transported back to a primeval state of existence, foraging around and digging up anything that looked of interest.
We ended the hike with a picnic in an area adjacent to the parking lot, with picnic tables and cookstoves. Our potluck included all sorts of gourmet goodies, brought by what appeared to be at least 50 people: our deviled eggs, coq au vin, fantastic bleu cheese, Thai salad with cilantro, quinoa salad, fresh-baked pecan bars, and sherry trifle. Several folks (including us) brought wine – some had even made their own!
B. and I do not know how to identify mushrooms, and there were other beginners as well, so we all showed our finds to the resident experts. Foragers found toxic mushrooms, mushrooms for dyeing fabrics, edible ones, and ones that looked like something not of this world.
We came home with chanterelles, black trumpets, and hedgehog mushrooms – more than enough for a feast, sauteed with just a little garlic and caramelized onion, served over pasta. Dinner tasted even more sublime, knowing that we picked the contents ourselves. (CAUTION: Never eat any mushroom you’re not sure of! Poisonous ones can cause total organ failure and death. Be sure to get an expert to identify any that you pick.)