When a mushroom foraging excursion was offered by the Napa Truffle Festival, I quickly booked a spot for a memorable hunting excursion. Besides, mushroom hunting is the one type of hunting that is on my bucket list.
Much like an underground rave, the location was not disclosed until the day before the hunt. On the down low.
We woke in the wee hours of the morning and drove to the town of Angwin, a few miles East of St. Helena. The instructions said to meet at the discreet “dirt parking lot where the road doglegs sharply to the right”. This mushroom foraging site must be on the deep down low.
Three mycologists, fungi gurus, would be leading the wild mushroom hunt.
They started with brief introductions to what fungus may be awaiting in the woods, some edible, some poisonous, some neither.
Though the biggest warning was that the most dangerous thing about mushroom foraging was getting lost, not eating a poisonous one. This is because mushroom foragers should always use the rule, “when in doubt, throw it out.”
With the Wild Mushroom Hunting lesson complete, the guides let us on the loose to forage.
And, at first, we found nothing. Even Rico, the truffle dog, was coming up empty.
But then, deep in the pines, things started to turn around. This is where I spotted my very first mushroom, a Lactarius Xanthogalactus. Huh? In layman’s terms, a really cute brown mushroom.
There may have been a girlish shrill come from my mouth at my fungus find.
Then, it was a mushroom hunting frenzy as we scoured the forest hillsides for the next two hours.
My competitive nature got the best of me as I frantically searched for the biggest, best and most unique. And, I found all of that until…
…Peter hit the mushroom hunting jackpot with this granddaddy, one that even the experts couldn’t identify.
A two foot shroom trumps my dozen one inchers. Size matters.
We walked away from the mushroom adventure with a basketful of bounty.
Even though some of the shrooms could be used to create a delicious meal, I opted to put them on the counter where they could be viewed for the next few days, reminding me of the experience.