year . . .
David and I started mushrooming back in, oh, it must have been 1984, '85. We were living in the East Bay, and—I don't even remember—probably started noticing mushrooms on walks in Tilden Park. We soon discovered the San Francisco Mycological Society and began attending their monthly meetings.
Mushroom groups tend to organize mushrooming forays, and we went on a few of those. We were hooked in no time.
Mushrooms have taken me to some exotic places, most notably the Soviet Union: from Karelia, up near Finland, down to Tannu Tuva, down near Mongolia (the latter put on the map by physicist Richard Feynman and bluesman Paul Peña, via the documentary Genghis Blues). I traveled there, and also to New Mexico (which was equally wonderful for mushrooms, surprisingly), with the author of the quintessential Mushrooms Demystified, David Arora, and a few other die-hard fungophiles.
In a large jar in our pantry, we still have some dried yellow morels (Morchella esculenta) that we found near Muscoda, Wisconsin (the state's "morel capital"), in 1988. We'd learned that the fungus associates with a certain deciduous tree (ash, maybe?), and soon we were running through the woods from ash to ash, and beneath each tree we'd find a cluster of beautiful big morels. It was the treasure hunt to beat all treasure hunts. The now almost thirty-year-old mushrooms, stored in glass, are still full of flavor, believe it or not (though we're almost to the end of them, alas).
When we moved to Monterey a year later, we were happy to find clusters of black morels (M. elata) in newly landscaped areas around the Cannery Row parking garages, the spores having hitchhiked in on the woodchips.
Just writing about this makes me eager to go on a mushroom hunt. But as I said above, there are no shrooms this year to speak of. All the more reason to pray for rain here in California in the season ahead. Let the fungi live.