Matsutake Memories

Fungi is a fickle kingdom. Predicting where and when a particular mushroom will grow is like betting on the stock market.

Willa with amanita coccora — the only edible mushroom in a family of deadly beauties

Willa with amanita coccora — the only edible mushroom in a family of deadly beauties

Some mushrooms appear only in years with late soaking rain, others only when there is an early rain followed by a dry spell followed by another rain. Some mushrooms only grow where there is something dead under the dirt, while others cannibalize nearby poisonous mushrooms, transforming them into prized edibles. More

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New Year’s Eve Dinner 2012

Another year come and gone. And with it, another of my New Year’s Eve dinners — a tradition that’s been going on for as long as I can remember.

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Each year I push myself a little further, and this may have been the best meal yet. Even the strange inspiration to accent vodka-cured ivory salmon and caviar with a black licorice reduction was delicious. More

Skinny Girls Roadshow from Sonoma — Hunting the Pine Mushroom

I like the thrill of the hunt. But not one for killing animals or dealing with blood, I mostly limit my hunting to wild mushrooms in the woods and groovy cowboy shirts at thrift stores. It was the former that had my wife and I up to our ears in Sonoma pine duff, hunting the elusive matsutake.

Orange jelly fungus

Orange jelly fungus

“Matsutake” translates as “pine mushroom,” since they often grow in symbiotic relationship with pines. “Take” is Japanese for mushroom, while “matsu” means pine — I have a friend named Kazue Matsunaga. I’m not sure what the “naga” part is, but she’s got something to do with pine trees. She’s a “Pine naga-er,” I guess. More