Way back in the 60’s, (that’s the 1860’s), when Italian immigrants first came to California’s North Coast, they must have noticed that the wild boletus mushrooms they called Porcinis (because they resembled little pigs), were abundant in area woodlands. Strangely, however, it took another century for wild mushrooms to become a popular commodity in the local culinary culture.
Eric Schramm, was one of the first “rain-chasers” as mushroom hunters are sometimes called, to forage for mushrooms commercially in Mendocino county.
“I really had to search thirty years ago to find people who wanted 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 serves a global community of chefs and mycophiles, and the only uphill battle he faces are actual uphill battles to gather a seasonal bounty of Chanterelles, Black Trumpets, Morels, Matsutakes, and the prized Candy Caps with their wonderful maple-syrupy flavor.
“People still think of mushroom-picking as taking out a little basket and strolling through the forest. 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.”