When Italian immigrants first began living and farming on California’s North Coast they must have quickly noticed the bounty of wild boletus mushrooms (called Porcinis in Italian because they resembled little pigs), appearing in the local woods each Autumn. Surprisingly, it took another century for wild mushrooms become popular fare at the regions local restaurant.
Eric Schramm was one of the first “rain-chasers” (a self-styled moniker for mushroom-hunters) to begin selling 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 the ex-forest ranger who in 1983 also sourced and sold the first Matsutake mushroom in the county. Today, Schramm’s Mendocino Mushroom Company sells California’s wild North Coast mushroom varieties to chefs from around the globe, including Chanterelles, Black Trumpets, Morels, Matsutakes, and delectable dried Candy Caps with their maple-syrupy character that lends such depth and 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.”