I love living in the city. But once in a while, a girl needs a break from her every day usual, and that’s how I found myself scrambling up and down hillsides with Mary – my friend and mushroom mentor – in search of these strange little magical fungi.
Not MAGIC MUSHROOMS, you guys.
I say “magical” because you can’t really guarantee their presence anywhere – they just sort of happen. They need a certain combination of existing flora and weather conditions to grow, and humans have not been able to replicate this in a lab. I say, thank goodness! Expeditions like these wouldn’t be as special. We headed over the Bay Bridge to Joaquin Miller Park, a recreational hiking area in the Oakland Hills. There are a lot of spots like this with a mix of bay laurel trees, oak, and other foliage that mushrooms seem to like.
The Bay Area is kind of awesome for mushroom hunters. There are golden chanterelles, black trumpets, candy caps, hedgehogs and boletus mushrooms out there, if your eyes are keen enough to spot them. On our last outing to a park in Marin county, we didn’t find anything (perhaps it was too early in the season). Mary says that the “season” extends well into late Winter and early Spring, so I have time to get a little more field experience in!
Mushroom foraging may pretty much be my new favorite winter activity. All you need is good shoes, a forest, and a knowledgeable guide (Mary is very experienced in the art of foraging, but she also brings a guide book for field reference). I’m sure I’ll be posting a few more of these over the next couple of months.
|The beautiful sky above the forest.|
This little guy looked like a stone from the top, but because it was sitting just above the forest floor, I looked further. It turned out to be the first find of the day – a member of the Boletus family.
|I’d never seen a mushroom with this kind of underside before – I am used to seeing gills! Very cool.|
|King Boletus, a relative of Porcini|
I found this monstrous mushroom under a log. It was a little bit eaten by some bugs on the outside, but the inside was fine – Mary cut away all the eaten parts and we collected this one. I have to say, I am rather proud of this one because it was hiding pretty well.
|Don’t these remind you of jellyfish?|
|The underside of the King Boletus|
|Unknown fungus, stuck to the underside of a tree root|