The coastal Pomo Indians foraged for a variety of wild mushrooms in what is now Mendocino county including chanterelles, hedgehogs, and oysters which they prepared by baking them on hot stones.
Since the late 1860s, when Italian immigrants discovered wild boletus in the area’s forests ( they called them “gamboni” meaning fat leg but relatives back in Italy would likely call them porcini, meaning “little pig”), Mendocino County has been a true Mecca for the Mycophiles.
After the rains, thr coastal woodlands also abound in chanterelles, black trumpets, candy caps, and the much prized matsutake. Surprisingly it was only a few decades ago that wild mushrooms began playing a major roles the menus of local restaurants.
Eric Schramm was one of the first “rain-chasers” (a term often used to describe mushroom foragers) to sell his locally-foraged mushrooms directly to the high-end restaurants popping up in Northern California at the end of the last century. According to Schramm, it wasn’t such an easy sell at first.
“I really had to search thirty years ago to find people who wanted to buy my mushrooms”, recalls the ex-forest ranger.
In 1983 Schramm sourced and sold the very first Matsutake mushroom in the county. Today, his Mendocino Mushroom Company sells a broad variety of North Coast mushrooms to savvy chefs from around the globe. His most popular varieties are Chanterelles, Black Trumpets, Morels, and Matsutakes, but also his indescribably delectable dried Candy Caps with their pronounced maple-syrupy character that lends such depth and earthy character to soups and wild game dishes.
“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 seventy pound pack of mushrooms on their back on a sixty degree slope with trees and brush and slippery footing, and then tried to hike three miles out. Its not an easy thing to do.”