Where the Horn of Plenty Grows

Salt Point State Park is known all around California as one of the best mushroom hunting spots in the state. Its damp coastal climate and rich soft soil create the perfect breeding ground for numerous fungi both fascinating and fit for the table. The Boy and I spent all day meandering up the coast making various stops along the way to admire the locales, but eventually found our way to Salt Point. We’d only just arrived, and were paying our day-use fee when I had already spotted the first handful of woodland delectables.

Cantharellus Tubiformae -- Winter Chanterelles

After having lunch and watching a pair of ravens snack on the crumbs left by other visitors, we gathered or shrooming gear and water bottles and headed up the trail to try our luck. On the way up the hill, we ran into a generous hiker who pointed us towards some hunting grounds he’d noticed.  After that bolstering chat we were all revved up and marched double time up the hill while scanning the woods along the trail. The Boy made our first score: Black Trumpets!

Black Trumpets also known as the Horn of Plenty Mushroom

This choice edible grows in clusters on the ground and prefers heavy pine and oak duff over sandy soil. As a result of the conical shape and its habitat, this is often a messy mushroom and cleaning is necessary. In order to remove any sand and dirt, I cut open the trumpet lengthwise and used the tip of my paring knife to carefully scrape out all the grit, then rinsed gently under cool water. These mushrooms have an incredible flavor when fresh, but it improves when it is dried (some say it resembles that of black truffles), so they all went into the dehydrator at home. I’m looking forward to several risottos and pasta sauces with these delectable finds!

Another great find was the plentitude of hedgehog mushrooms I collected by scrambling through brambles and bushes. They seem to prefer the duff under huckleberry bushes above all and I got pretty scraped up, but the haul was well worth it.

Our Hedgehog Haul (Hydnum Repandum)

We saw many other beautiful shroomies. Check out the gallery to take a peak at what we saw.

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Check out whats going on over on my Etsy!

As promised, I posted four new hats for sale today! I hope you love them. I’m also taking custom orders and have already filled two orders that the clients have been positively thrilled with! Click images to go straight to the listings.

Meer is inspired by the spirit of the sea and was created with intention to invoke the spirits of the west, of fluidity, memory and emotion.

Silvan hearkens to the spirits of the wood and was created with intention to invoke the spirits of the north, of earth, stability, fertility and growth.

For more listings go to peculiarpurls.etsy.com

An Important Comparison

I’ve mentioned before that mushrooming can be tricky business. Knowing what you’re picking and the key differences between look-alikes can spare you a lot of grief and sometimes even save your life. A little while ago I went mushrooming and found both Chanterelles and Jack O’ Lanterns, a frequently mistaken look-alike.

Note the color difference between Chanterelles(left) and Jack O' Lanterns(Right)

One differentiator between Chanterelle and Jack O’ Lantern is the color. Jacks have an olive-y tinge to the cap and more so on the gills. It isn’t always as obvious as it is here, especially when you’re only holding one of the other, not both. However, when cut, Chanterelle flesh is always white, while Jack O’ Lantern flesh is never white and usually a brown or grey tone though very fresh specimens sometimes lean towards golden brown flesh.

The gills on Chanterelles(left) and Jack O' Lanterns(right) are very different

Though at first glance the gills on both kinds of mushrooms don’t appear to be a great distinguishing characteristic, second inspection shows that Chanterelles (left) have dull, shallow gills which sometimes crisscross or end short. On the other hand, Jack O’ Lanterns have blade-like gills which run deep and while they do branch, they don’t cross.

Another difference between these two mushrooms is that Chanterelles grow in duff while Jacks grow on dead wood. This is not to be relied upon as a key difference however, since dead wood can often be buried and may not be visible despite still being the host for the Jack O’ Lantern’s mycelium.

I am not a mushroom expert and I don’t pretend to be, but these two indicators of a look-alike can go a long way to save you several days of serious misery when it comes to hunting for and consuming wild Chanterelles. Both sets of mushrooms pictured here were collected on the same day on Mount Tamalpais. They grow in very similar areas, and both smell sweet and mushroomy, but they are distinguishable with practice and careful attention.

*Please note that I am not an expert at mushroom foraging. Please refer to the links in the text along with the book Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora  for more comprehensive information on mushroom identification and collection. Thank you.

Gone Fishing… Or Rather Birding

I’ve been joining Kitty Sharkey for fishing at Lake Temescal a few days in the past month. The last time, we were ambitious and opted to try our hand at crabbing on the Pacifica pier. We got out there and were immediately amazed by the local wildlife.

I felt so blessed getting to see this bird up close.

This gorgeous Grey Pelican was accepting herring and mackerel from the men on the pier and was even alright with being pet, though like any curious critter, just kept looking for another treat. I later found out from one of my classmates that this friendly pelican’s name is Harry and he spends almost every day on the pier begging for spare bait and small catches from the fishers there. Such a spoiled bird! I’m sure he gets more fish in 5 minutes on the pier than he would all day out on the water hunting.

Harry the pelican

Kitty and I settled in after Harry took off, but didn’t have long to wait until another bird came our way. No one saw just what happened, but suddenly a gull came plummeting to the ground. The big bird got its footing but when it tried to take off again it was clear that it had a badly broken wing. Kitty and I, animal lovers that we are, immediately grabbed the fishing net, wrangled the bird and used my hat to hood it and calm it down.

We nicknamed him Crabby

We called around and finally found an animal rescue that would take our injured gull. We drove south to the Peninsula Humane Society in Burlingame where they determined that our injured friend would not be able to recover.  Unfortunate, but I think the peaceful end he found in the hands of the vet tech was much more comfortable than the drawn out one he would have suffered on the pier.