Yesterday, I hiked into the hills to enjoy the bounty of all this rain! Everything was green and glowing with life; the air felt clean. The earth smelled delicious. As we found our way through the fields of grass, miner’s lettuce, and cleavers, we entered the tree canopy. Treading as lightly as we could, we could not help but to turn up bits of black earth, the yummiest, most humus rich soil I have seen in a long time. Once your eyes get trained, then you begin to see them. We only took a portion of what we found, but even then, we made off with quite the bounty of the flesh of forest, the Chanterelle. Bay Area, California style.
Chanterelle foraging competition can be quite fierce, driven by high prices and an increasing demand. Much of this concerns me. Do I think eating local foraged food is the best choice for mind, body, and spirit — yes. It reconnects to the natural world in a way that we were meant to be connected. The food is healthier for your body, and theoretically is more sustainable. The problem is, in many areas, such as the Bay Area, California, the human population is waaaaaay to big to sustainably eat local foraged food. That is, if the demand were to continue to grow. Foraging is getting more and more popular, and this concerns me when either greedy people who don’t care about preserving life and diversity jump in to make a buck. Or that many people get into foraging with good intentions and for the right reasons, but they don’t have enough knowledge to do so in a sustainable manner. What we need to do as foragers is actually serve as regenerators of the land, so that we will have more wild things to forage for generations to come.
Chanterelle hunters have their secret spots, that they never reveal. For good reason. What I’m finding is that although the habitat for Chanterelles is very similar (they grow mostly with Live Oak), only a small percentage of the preferred habitat actually fruits the mushrooms. Why is this? Has this always been so? Can simple methods like spore slurries from leftover bits of mushrooms and/or the wash water be used to spread them to other Live Oak trees? I know this has been done, but can it be done on a watershed scale?
The rains have not only brought what I call the flesh of the forest, the Chanterelle, but they have turned the often desert like hillsides into a glowing green pasture. Full of my favorite wild salad green — miner’s lettuce. I recently attended a wild food dinner in San Francisco, in which miner’s lettuce was served as it should be, as the base of a delicious salad. Miner’s lettuce is amazing, crisp, and mild even when it’s going to flower. Great thirst quencher, too. There was a ridiculous amount of it in the hills, enough for thousands of people. Why don’t we grow this in our gardens this time of year?