Winter’s Gift

A dozen or so years ago a good friend, Doug, introduced me to the wonderful pastime of hunting wild mushrooms. Here on the Central Coast of California, that means Chanterelle Mushrooms. There are others that grow locally, but not being versed in them I try to identify them and then mostly leave them be. Doug took me out a few times and showed me how to identify Chanterellles, their habitat and what to look for. From that point I was pretty much hooked. I’d go out when the rains came  and search the local hills for the patches that supported the little golden nuggets. It’s taken a while to understand the type of rainfall needed and to predict where they might be based upon the conditions. Really though, the best thing has  been enjoying the fun is in being out in the woods looking for them. The fact that they taste great, they’re free for the effort spent, and I get to gift friends with them makes it one of winter’s true treasures.

When he moved away he gifted me two of his choice spots. It was just a couple of words that shared where to look. Sure enough, they were good places. Since then I have found a dozen or so other spots that produce well most years. It’s always a treat to finish work, change into grubby clothes and head up into the oak forest for a few hours before dinner or dark.

This year has been an epic year for mushrooms. We’ve had rain come early. Storms have been frequent. Not only has it started early, it has been heavy and regular. San Luis Obispo County is a semi-arid area, but this year the rains have been perfect. Before the leaves dry out another rain comes. The ground is moist and the mushrooms are in bliss. Our Chanterelles are getting everything they need to produce mega-poundage! That means that I get to find a lot of them. And I have. To date I’ve harvested well over 100 pounds. That’s a lot of mushrooms!

The question then becomes what to do with them. Really, 100 pounds is a lot of mushrooms.  Saute and freeze them. Dehydrate them! Give them to friends!  And of course, EAT them!. That’s the best use for fresh chanterelles. Mushroom Bisque, Mushroom Stroganoff, Scrambled Eggs and Chanterelles, Mushroom Pizza, and a new recipe I plan on trying, Mushroom turnovers.

Mid winter brings shortened days, gray skies and rain. It also brings bits of sunshine in the form of golden Chanterelles. Oh yeah!

2 Responses to “Winter’s Gift”

  1. Mark Harman Says:

    Enjoyed your posts (and photos) regarding chanterelles. I’ve looked for them but not found any yet in the Buellton area. This past weekend I was lucky enough to find some “bearded tooth” mushrooms which rival the chanterelles in taste.
    Happy New Year and happy “hunting”…

    • Thank you. I’ve never found them far inland from the ocean, but I’d guess that the Santa Ynez Valley must have them. Luckily being in the outdoors is fun on its own, and finding the mushrooms make it even a sweeter proposition. Good luck.

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