christopher's curiosity

how i pass my time

Mushroom hunting at Salt Point

Mushroom Hunting at Salt point

Forage SF offers guided mushroom foraging lessons in Salt Point State Park and for Christmas my brother signed us up to spend a morning on one of these trips. It was an amazing time with a very knowledgeable teacher, Patrick Hamilton, and I learned quite a bit about mushrooms available along the coast.

Patrick Hamilton strikes a very interesting balance between a kind wise old man and the mycological equivalent of Pai Mei. He is a wealth of information and very willing to share what he has learned to the curious, and fully paid, for student. Cost of the morning was $90 and there were 18 students, I would have preferred a smaller class but I suppose you have to get used to over crowding and high prices everywhere in the Bay Area, even mushroom foraging classes.

We learned about a ton of different mushrooms, in 10 minutes we put together a beautiful collection of about 20 different species of mushrooms, but the three most common edibles that we found that day were the Midnight Blues, aka Entoloma medianox, Shrimp Russula, aka Russula xerampelina, and Matsutake, aka Tricholoma murrillianum.

The Midnight blues varied from nearly black, to purple, to dark blue. I haven't tasted them yet, they took a long time to dry and were still slightly spongy even after 36 hours of drying.

Shrimp russulas, so-called due to a faint shellfish odor, ranged from small to gigantic, and were rather plain in taste. Lot's of bulk, easy to harvest and dry but nothing out of this world.

I only managed to find one matsutake which I've had before and quite like. I followed a recipe that Patrick had suggested to one of our fellow students, the whole kitchen team from Salt House came out that morning, marinating the matsutake in soy sauce and mirin then roasting at 400 degrees for around 15 minutes. The result was okay, it tasted fine I suppose but to me it covered up the the taste of the mushroom too much, I was hoping to taste matsutake and I only tasted soy and mirin with a hint of mushroom.

It was an amazing morning, sometimes you have to be reminded how pleasant nature's silence is. Walking through the brush, using your nose, your eyes, your mouth, your hands, everything to learn about the world around you is such a pleasant experience it almost makes me want to deal with the headaches of car ownership just to make trips like this easier in the future. If Salt Point gets 1/2 inch of rain, expect mushrooms to start popping up about 10 days later, need to add Salt Point's weather station to my phone...