Go Wild Mushroom Hunting in California’s Napa Valley

Mushroom hunting is the one type of hunting that is on my bucket list. So, when a foraging excursion was offered through the Napa Truffle Festival I immediately signed up for a memorable fungi adventure.

Much like an underground rave, the location was not disclosed until the day before the hunt. On the down low.

We woke in the wee hours of the morning and drove to the town of Angwin in Northern California, a few miles East of St. Helena. The instructions said to meet at the discreet “dirt parking lot where the road doglegs sharply to the right”. This mushroom hunting site must be on the deep down low.
mushroom hunting woods

Three mycologists, fungi gurus, would be leading the wild mushroom hunt.

They started with brief introductions to what fungus may be awaiting in the woods, some edible, some poisonous, some neither.

Though the biggest warning was that the most dangerous thing about mushroom hunting was getting lost, not eating a poisonous one. This is because mushroom foragers should always use the rule, “when in doubt, throw it out.”
Wild Mushroom Hunting Lessonmushroom hunting find

With the Wild Mushroom Hunting lesson complete, the guides let us on the loose to forage through the Northern California forest.

And, at first, we found nothing. Even Rico, the truffle dog, was coming up empty.
truffle hunting dog

But then, deep in the pines, things started to turn around. This is where I spotted my very first mushroom, a Lactarius Xanthogalactus. Huh? In layman’s terms, a really cute brown mushroom.

There may have been a girlish shrill come from my mouth at my fungus find.
Wild Mushroom Hunting FindMy first mushroom while foraging

Then, it was a mushroom hunting frenzy as we scoured the forest hillsides for the next two hours.

My competitive nature got the best of me as I frantically searched for the biggest, best and most unique. And, I found all of that until…
Annette White Wild Mushroom Huntinglong white mushroommushroom foraging

…Peter hit the mushroom hunting jackpot with this granddaddy, one that even the experts couldn’t identify.

A two foot shroom trumps my dozen one inchers. Size matters.
mushroom forage findlargest wild mushroommushroom forage find

We walked away from the mushroom adventure with a basketful of bounty.

Even though some of the shrooms could be used to create a delicious meal, I opted to put them on the counter where they could be viewed for the next few days, reminding me of the experience.
wild mushroom hunting bounty

Have you ever been wild mushroom hunting?

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19 Comments

  1. Jenna January 22, 2013 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Fun! I really wanted to participate in the truffle festival in some way but had too many things going on these last couple of weeks. I have never gone mushroom hunting but it is very popular in the Czech Republic, and when I lived there, I always heard people talk about it. Seems like a nice way to spend some quality time outdoors.

    • Annette White January 22, 2013 at 3:57 pm - Reply

      The Mushroom Hunting event was the only thing I participated in this year, but it made we want to attend a lot more of the events next year!

  2. Allison January 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    How funny! I didn't know you could do something like that!sounds like fun 🙂 I would have kept them out too, in stead of cooking them. I like mushrooms but have you read my post about eating black truffles…you would appreciate with your "foodie" background. 
    I also think its so sweet that your husband does so much of you list items with you!

    • Annette White January 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      I want to read your truffle post! I’ll have to head over to your site and check it out.
      I am lucky that my husband will do just about anything with me, even though he sometimes will roll his eyes 🙂
      Though he will NOT do anything related to dancing. He hates it!

  3. Wandergirl January 23, 2013 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Amazing! I would love to do this some day. Apparently when my Mom was a child, my grandfather used to pick their own mushrooms all the time. I'm not sure he stuck with the "when it doubt, throw it out" slogan, though – my Mom recalls eating a few he was "only 90%" sure about. But, she's alive! 🙂

    • Annette White January 23, 2013 at 10:37 am - Reply

      With so many varieties of mushrooms I would be a bit frightened to go mushroom hunting on my own! But, my mom said that she used to go all the time too. And she’s still alive too 🙂

  4. Juliann January 23, 2013 at 11:07 am - Reply

    This sounds like so much fun! I've thought about doing this before, and then forgot about it. I didn't realize there were oranized groups. Makes sense, though. I'm going to have to remember this.

    • Annette White January 23, 2013 at 11:31 am - Reply

      I had a blast! Though, I would also love to go mushroom hunting in Italy specifically for truffles.

  5. Allison The Ultimate Life List January 30, 2013 at 5:54 am - Reply

    oh, I forgot to write something….I think Z started crying…anyhow-here's my post on truffles! I'm probably one of the few who feel this way.

    • Annette White January 30, 2013 at 9:49 am - Reply

      OMG! That was NOT a good truffle adventure for you! But, I did enjoy reading about it 🙂

  6. Ana August 29, 2013 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Wow! Love it! Mushroom hunting -traditional family fun every autumn in Russia, so I get use to it when I was a child. For cooking – fried mushrooms, mushroom stew, salted mushrooms, pickled mushrooms, mushroom soup…. YUMM!!! (But I cant say that basket is full….) I surprised, I see some mushrooms very similar with ones which growing in Russia and some bit different.
    I wish I can go to the mushroom hunting too!
    In Russia it calls “Silent hunting!” and VERY popular!

    • Annette White August 31, 2013 at 12:47 am - Reply

      I didn’t realize that they had mushroom hunting in Russia. But, if I ever come for a visit I will need to try it. I LOVE mushrooms!

  7. Cameron November 26, 2013 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    I must not have seen you. I did dodge out a little early. I’ve been hunting those woods for years with very pleasing results of many edible fungi. It would be great to get you out to write a little something on this fun little hobby. Best,

    Cameron

    • Annette White November 26, 2013 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      I have only been one time…so far. But, it was so much fun because of the challenge involved. Sometimes those mushrooms are tricky to find!

  8. […] not only have you been there for me every time I returned from my travels, you also showed me how to mushroom hunt in Angwin, gave me swag at a swanky San Francisco party and let me eat all-I-could-eat at a crab […]

  9. Kerry July 9, 2014 at 12:36 am - Reply

    Have you tried Puffball? My grandpa loved it when he was alive.

    • Annette White July 9, 2014 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      I had never heard of that, I had to Google it to see what it was! I’ll have to put it on my list of foods to try.

  10. Kerry July 9, 2014 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    The name turns me off without even feeling the thing. HE used to go for walks and find it and bring it home and fry it up.

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