Tag Archives: foraging

Sparassis stir fry!

Living in so cal again has been wonderful except for one main thing missing from my life – mushrooms!! It’s been pretty tough for me living in a place without a distinct mushroom season, so I planned a destination mushroom hunting trip to Portland this last week to get my mushroom fix :) It was so fun to tromp around through the woods in the beautiful and wet conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately I missed out on finding any porcinis or chanterelles or matsutakes, but I did happen upon a relatively rare and special find Sparasiss radicata, commonly known as the cauliflower mushroom.


Sparassis radiata, the cauliflower mushroom

Sparassis radicata  is a wood decay fungus that tends to be found on the ground under dead conifers. I have only found one other Sparassis in my life and they are very tasty and hearty so I was super excited to find it again! It was about 35 degrees F, raining, and hailing, so I definitely worked hard for my find, but looking at the huge smile on my face you can tell it was worth it :)


It was worth it to trek through the rain and hail to find this mushroom!

It was dark and rainy in the understory, which made it difficult to get a good photo, but you can tell that I’m super happy to finally have a giant edible mushroom in my hand.


Cold and wet, but smiling huge with my giant Sparassis radicata mushroom bounty :)

The last time I found one of these was back in in 2013 in Mendocino, CA. I typically think of it as a mushroom that you need a relatively old growth forest to find, so it is not a mushroom you find very often. Again, you can see the huge smile the Sparassis puts on my face :)


2013 -Last time I found a Sparassis – this mushroom sure knows how to put a smile on my face!

Sparassis has a very unique texture and makes a great replacement for egg noodles in a stir fry. Since my friend Zoie who we are staying with is vegan we decided to make a vegan vegetable and tofu stir fry with Sparassis as the base. Sparassis takes a while to clean since it grows on the ground and can accumulate a ton of conifer needles in all of its crevasses. I started by washing the Sparassis very well in the sink and roughly chopping it and storing it in a bowl.


Sparassis washed and chopped and ready to be cooked!

We first washed and chopped up all of the ingredients for the stir fry. We chose onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, red pepper, broccoli, and tofu, but you can be as creative and flexible as you would like with your stir fry ingredients! Once everything was chopped and ready to go, we heated the pan, added olive oil, then placed the roughly chopped onions and the chopped Sparassis to the pan.


Chopped onions and Sparassis mushroom sautéeing in pan

I will warn you this is not a quick stir fry. It takes a while for the mushroom to get rid of all of its water and fully cook. The pan will start filling with water from the mushroom, and you will have to be patient while it evaporates so the mushroom can start to crisp up. The mushroom will have a fairly crunchy texture but it lends a nice meatiness to the dish. After 10-15 minutes, we added a ton of chopped garlic and fresh ginger, which infused into the mushroom and added a lot of flavor. Next, we added chopped broccoli.


Onions, garlic, ginger, Sparassis, and broccoli sautéing in pan

Of course you can add any vegetable you want to your stir fry. We like lots of vegetables and color so we added red peppers next after the broccoli.


Don’t the red peppers at a nice fresh pop of color?

After the broccoli and red pepper cooked for ~10 minutes, we added thinly slivered carrots to the pan. Isn’t the stir fry beautifully colorful? We also had a separate pan for the tofu, which we stir fried in olive oil in its own pan to get a crispier outside.


In the meanwhile, Zoie whipped up a delicious sauce to add to the stir fry. We whisked together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, a little bit of sugar, and a bit of sriracha and chile. Again, this dish is flexible so you can mix any flavors you like for this sauce. The world is your oyster mushroom :)  We added the sauce and let the flavors meld for another few minutes. Finally, we were ready to serve!


We were all super enthusiastic and delighted at how well this dish came out. It was absolutely delicious! If you ever are lucky enough to come across as Sparassis at the farmer’s market or in the woods, go ahead and stir fry it up! Thanks Roo, Zoie, Kim, and Heather for joining me on an awesome Oregon mushroom hunting adventure :)

Morel Madness and Creamy Morel Pasta

Ever since I returned from New Zealand I’ve been hearing tales and seeing pictures of abundant morels popping up all over northern California. We had tons of wildfires in California in the last two years and are having a very rainy spring thanks to El Niño, which means a perfect storm for morels! Morels are known to pop up in recent burn scars, and since I just graduated with my PhD from UC Berkeley May 15, I finally had time to head to the mountains and poke around for these elusive earthen treats myself!


Burn scar from the King Fire

We headed up to the Sierra Nevada mountains in California to check out the burn scars from the giant King Fire that scorched over 97,000 acres of land two years ago. Spring in the Sierras is beautiful and we saw tons of dogwoods blooming.


Dogwoods blooming

We knew we were onto something when we began to see the burned ground carpeted with these cute little orange cups, Geopyxis carbonaria, which are associated with wildfires.


Cute orange cups of Geopyxis fruiting in the burned duff!

Morels are quite elusive, and it took us a while to find what we were looking for, but in the meantime we enjoyed our tromp through the beautiful Sierran conifer forests.


Posing with a giant Jeffrey pine

Before we could find any of the delicious elusive treats, we had to survive some infamous Sierran inclement weather first – it started to hail!


Hailing in the Sierran conifer forests

We were beginning to lose hope, and then finally Vince found the first morel of the day!


Vince grins with delight at the first morel of the day!

It cold and hailing, but that instantly melted away when I found my first morel – so much glee!


Me posing with my first ever California morel!

We were getting so much hail that we considered turning around and heading back to the car, but those thoughts quickly melted away after Brian found the mother lode!


Brian posing with his morel finds!

We were all infected with the morel fever which kept us warm despite the continued hail.


Hail in our hair and we don’t care! We got the crazy mushroom eyes!

At a certain point it began to hail so hard we decided it was indeed prudent to return to the car..


Shivering in the pouring hail

We still found some morels poking out from under the hail as we tromped back to the car!


Can you see the morel poking out from under the hail?

At the end of the day, it was totally worth it!


The morel catch of the day!

Flying high with the morel mushroom fever, we could not wait to prepare a feast to highlight our mushroom bounty. We made a quick stop at Berkeley Bowl on our way home from the mountains to gather ingredients. We decided to cook a creamy morel pasta served with salad, green beans, and fresh baked sourdough toasts (courtesy of Vince) topped with burrata cheese. After admiring our catch of the day, we set off to clean and cut the morels.


Morel bounty!

The first step was to cut and sauté the morels in butter.DSC07537


In the meanwhile, chef Vince prepared the green beans. I just love the morels on his t-shirt peeking out from behind the cupcake apron! It’s a good look, don’t you agree?


My sister and brother-in-law, who are big board game fans, gave me this Morel board game as a gift. The premise is that you are walking through the forest, hunting for morels. We thought it was a perfect activity for fellow hunters Brian and Alex to do while Vince and I prepared the pasta. Here they are deeply involved in the game sitting with the salad, green beans, toast with burrata, and cherries that we got to accompany the creamy morel pasta.


Can’t get enough of hunting for morels! Playing the Morel board game while the morels cook

The next step of the pasta after cooking the morels to golden brown perfection is to chop up two shallots and plenty of garlic and sauté them in butter until they also turn golden brown.


After the shallots and garlic are cooked, add in the heavy cream, then the mushrooms. The mushrooms permeate the cream with their flavor and it is sooo good!


While the mushrooms marinate in the cream, onions, and garlic, cook the pasta and grate the parmesan cheese. Once the pasta is cooked, mix it in with the creamy mushroom sauce.


Creamy morel pasta with shallots, garlic, cream, and morels

Next, add more parmesan to the pasta!


Adding way more parmesan to the pasta

Thanks to my fellow hunters for helping me find this awesome morel bounty!


Cheers to my fellow hunters – Brian, Alex, and Vince – about to enjoy the morel mushroom feast!

Cheers to morels and friends!DSC07562

The salad and green beans complemented the creamy morel pasta perfectly. It was definitely a meal to remember! Now let’s go hunt for some more morels!!!


Salad, green beans with slivered almonds, and creamy morel pasta!

Ingredients for creamy morel pasta:

  • Morels
  • fettucine pasta
  • heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • two shallots
  • lots of garlic! to taste
  • parmesan cheese

The Fungi Forager! AKA my video premier!

Has reading my blog inspired an unknown interest in mushroom foraging? Do you yearn to uncover the secrets of the hunt? Well look no further, as some secrets are about to be revealed in my video premier!

A bit of explanation: I’m currently teaching a class to UC Berkeley undergrads called Environmental Issues, and one of the grad students that I teach with is a Journalism student. Courtney has to make news segments for one of her journalism classes, so when she heard about my blog she asked me if she could do a news segment featuring me, and of course, I gladly accepted :) Courtney visited me in my lab and then we foraged for mushrooms on UC Berkeley’s campus, which is where I found the porcinis that I blogged about in a previous post. Courtney is known for her quirky news segments on off the beaten path topics, so of course we were a natural pairing! Courtney had to cut a 3 minute news segment from the 3-4 hours that she spent with me – what she came up with is a pretty hilarious and dramatic rendition of my mushroom foraging adventure.  This is pretty embarrassing but luckily I’m very good at being made fun of (comes with years of practice from growing up as the youngest with 3 older sisters to tease me) so here you go, enjoy my video premier!

Check out the 3 minute news segment on the Fungi Forager:  http://vimeo.com/89270562

Picking porcinis on UC Berkeley's campus

Picking porcinis on UC Berkeley’s campus

mushroom hunting!!

So it rained tons in the bay area last week and as promised – I went mushroom hunting! There were mushrooms!! Tons of them!!!! Mushroom hunting is analagous to a treasure hunt – you are hiking along and then you spot one and it elicits a primordial joy that shoots adrenaline through your veins.  I took my friend Rachael, who I’ve been friends with since we met at sleepaway camp nearly 2 decades ago, to Point Reyes National Seashore for an epic hike and hunting adventure. Rachael is a line cook at Michael Mina in SF and has been getting more into foraging for greens for her garnishes and Pt Reyes is one of the only places in the bay area where foraging is legal. My advisor told me about a great hike down the bayview trail, which we expected to be about 6 miles, but we ended up going nearly 9 miles overall! We hiked down the bayview trail to the muddy hollow trail to the bucklin trail, which was about 6 miles, and then when we finally got to the top of the ridge we realized we still had 2.6 miles to hike down the inverness ridge trail to get back to our car! Luckily there were gorgeous expansive views of the bay from the ridge. While we didn’t find many choice edibles on the hike, we found tons of beautiful and diverse mushrooms, and Rachael really caught the mushroom hunting spirit :) She kept swearing at the deceptive rocks and leaves that faked her out for mushrooms – the sign of  a true mushroom fanatic :)

super cool Coprinus comatus that came up to my thigh!

super cool Coprinus comatus that came up to my thigh!

Saw a couple of newts crossing the trail on the hike – they are so cute! We also saw a bunny at one point.

Cute newt crossing the trail

Cute newt crossing the trail

First choice edible!

Finally an edible - Coprinus comatus - the shaggy mane!

Finally an edible – Coprinus comatus – the shaggy mane!

Wow there was a lot of uphill on this hike – definitely a good bun workout!

Tons of trekking up hill

Tons of trekking up hill

But the views from the top of the ridge were worth it :)

Gorgeous views on top of inverness ridge

Gorgeous views on top of inverness ridge

How beautiful is our state flower?

California poppies!

California poppies!

Amazing Amanita franchetii

Amazing Amanita franchetii

A man hiking the opposite direction as us was very concerned when he saw us stopping to take pictures of the Amanitas – he said don’t touch! poison! For the record, you cannot get hurt from touching mushrooms! Even poisonous ones!

Tons of Amanita franchetii were out!

Tons of Amanita franchetii were out!

The Lactarius were out in super abundance too!

Lactarius - these ones exude milky latex!

Lactarius – these ones exude milky latex!

These were everywhere!

Cool wavy cap of a Rhodocollybia

Cool wavy cap of a Rhodocollybia

More Amanitas!

More Amanitas!

Amanita pachylcolea

Amanita pachylcolea

There were giant Suillus pugens the size of Rachael's hand everywhere!

There were giant Suillus pugens the size of Rachael’s hand everywhere!




more Amanitas poking their heads out of the duff

more Amanitas poking their heads out of the duff

Most people don’t know that a lot of mycorrhizal mushrooms (mutualistically associated with tree roots) aren’t mushrooms at all – they are more like crusts – like these Thelephoras which are the most abundant symbionts of trees in Pt Reyes!

Bet you didn't know this was a mushroom! Thelephora terrestris - most common ectomycorrhizal fungus in Pt Reyes!

Bet you didn’t know this was a mushroom! Thelephora terrestris – most common ectomycorrhizal fungus in Pt Reyes!

They are easy to pass by without noticing but I think they are rather cute, don’t you?

Thelephora terrestris

Thelephora terrestris

These are actually edible too but I’ve never tried them – I just think they are super pretty to look at!

Gorgeous lilac Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis

Gorgeous lilac Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis


Bet you didn’t know that mushrooms came in this many colors!

Gorgeous red gills of a Dermocybe

Gorgeous red gills of a Dermocybe

How pretty are these?

How pretty are these?

Happy hunting!