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The great hunt

Each year my family awaits the December holidays for a number of reasons. One of the major ones involves tramping around hillsides like this one:


Searching the forest floor, which looks like this:


for a certain sort of gold, otherwise known as chanterelles. Here are a few that we found today:


They don’t look like much, but they taste like heaven. They are also the only mushroom that I am willing to identify and eat, which makes them ultra-special to me.

Protect your “spot”

I will never forget my introduction to chanterelle-hunting in California. Living in a condo complex, my neighbor on one side, a French narcolepsy researcher, told me that my neighbor on the other side, a retired professor, took him chanterelle-hunting. The professor drove the researcher up in to the mountains to his “spot,” where they found masses of enormous chanterelles.

This was before the age of digital photos and the Internet. The Frenchman had his photo taken with the mushrooms, had it developed and printed, and mailed photos to France.

He said that none of his relatives would have believed him otherwise.

Here’s the catch in this story: The Frenchman had to do all of this—aside from the actual hunting for mushrooms—blindfolded. Yep, even though the two were great friends, the prof didn’t trust the scientist not to blab about his “spot” to others.

Enter the thieves!

My mom and I have a “spot.” I’m not going to tell you where it is. However, one day a couple of years ago we emerged from the forest to see a neighbor on his tractor. He noted what a haul we’d got (we’d run out of bags and were porting some of the mushrooms in our jackets!).

Oddly, every time we’ve been to our spot since then, someone else has been there first. Hmph. How dare they poach our spot?

Even though it is, ahem, on their property.

Join the hunt!

Mushroom-hunting isn’t for the lazy, the short-tempered, or those who need immediate satisfaction.

Oddly, children love it.

Our kids always did, at least, and all the kids I ever took on a hunt. You don’t even have to eat what you find—draw it, make spore prints, try to identify it. Most of all, make sure to learn about the world’s biggest organism.

If you live near Santa Cruz, make sure to check out our favorite event: The Fungus Fair. Mushroomers haul in specimens of the hundreds of types of mushrooms you can find in this area. Local chefs serve mushroom lasagne and ice cream. Artists display their pictures. And of course you can buy mushrooms. We always get some fresh, some dried, and a cultivation box to grow in our house.

Amanita Muscaria: Take pictures of it, laugh at it, but don't eat it!

Amanita Muscaria: Take pictures of it, laugh at it, but don’t eat it!

Posted in Culture, Homeschooling.

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