Back in the 60’s, (the 1860’s, that is), when Italian immigrants first began living and farming on California’s North Coast, they surely must have noticed the abundance of wild boletus mushrooms (called Porcinis because they resembled little pigs), appearing up in the local woodlands. Yet it took another full century for wild mushrooms to become a popular feature of the regions restaurant menus.
Eric Schramm was one of the first “rain-chasers” (as mushroom-hunters are sometimes called), to begin selling his foraged mushrooms to restaurants in Mendocino county.
“I really had to search thirty years ago to find people who wanted to buy my mushrooms”, recalls Schramm, an ex-forest ranger, who in 1983 discovered the presence of the prized Matsutake mushroom in the county.
Today Schramm’s Mendocino Mushroom Company provides the seasonal bounty of NorthCoast mushrooms to a global community of chefs and mycophiles providing them Chanterelles, Black Trumpets, Morels, Matsutakes, and those delectable dried Candy Caps that lend their magnificent maple-syrupy character to wild game casseroles.
“People still think of mushroom-picking as taking out a little basket and strolling through the forest.” says Schramm, “Well they’ve never put a 70 pound pack of mushrooms on their back on a 70 degree slope with trees and brush and slippery footing and tried to hike three miles out. Its not an easy thing to do.”