Gift books for mushroom hunters
The Sportsman’s Report
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By Bill Hanson  December 6, 2013 12:00 am

All bets were off the table on Dec. 1. A trip to the local grocery store for some bread and milk was sullied by Christmas music.

I’ve come to dislike canned Christmas tunes. They get stuck in my head during the holiday season. More accurately, it’s just a line or two from a sickening Christmas tune repeating over and over for days. If I were to personally ban Christmas from my life, impossible with three grandchildren, and the need to shop for groceries or slog over to the pharmacy on a cold December day, it wouldn’t work. 

Perhaps there is a remedy short of jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge. I don’t really care why or what Billy Joe McAllister was throwing something off the bridge back in the 60s, unless it was a pop song relegated to the deep, murky water never to be heard from again. No such luck.

With that off my chest, here are a few gift ideas for the outdoor person in your life. For the mushroom hunter, three books come to mind. “All That the Rain Promises” is a field guide to mushrooms in our area. At under $20, it is an excellent first book for a new fungaphile. 

The mother book, “Mushrooms Demystified,” my third buy, is a huge tome packing nearly a thousand pages of mushroom information. It is the one book that any North Coast mushroom hunter will need to own at some point in their career. At under $50, it is an investment in massive information. 

The second book on my recommended list is an entertaining read by mushroom guru Dr. Elio Schacter, “In the Company of Mushrooms.” Here you will discover just how deep and wide fungi are in our world and learn how wild mushroom hunting and ID can be an excellent hobby. 

At under $20, it is a good read even for those not interested in mushroom hunting. With Don Bryant as my guide, we entered a secret patch of forest he frequents.

 Ten steps from the truck we were treated to a tall cathedral of coastal Spruce. 

The day was sunny, yet few rays penetrated the thick over-story. Underfoot, we walked on a thick carpet of brilliant green moss covering a bed of soft needles and other debris shed by the majestic, old growth trees. 

Our voices were silenced by the trees and our footsteps on the soft carpet were noiseless. We were in search of mushrooms and were not disappointed. Hedge Hogs (H. repandium), their tell tail color of toasted marshmallow, brought them to my collection basket. I found (new to me) a small, delicate mushroom sporting a velvety dark cap with a marked nipple (Adinate in the mushroom world) growing in some numbers (l. Fallix). As a member of the lactarius family, Fallix expresses a milky juice when the gills are scratched. A sister mushroom, Candy Cap (l. Fragiles), is up now in our coastal forest. The Candy Cap is excellent sautéed fresh. Once dehydrated, it has a heady odor reminiscent of maple syrup. A very popular mushroom, it is used to make cookies and other desserts. I did not pick up a sweet odor in the fresh Fallix. But I left some of my catch in a bowl in the refrigerator, covered with a damp, but not touching, soft dish towel. Two days later, the bowl had the heady odor of maple syrup, similar to its sister. I loaded them into my dehydrator with great anticipation. Next day, the dried caps had no candy odor, just the earthy scent of the mushroom fresh.


Thanksgiving crab

The Thanksgiving table was graced with fresh crab, caught the same morning by Jed Douglas. Our first crabs of the season, unlike last year, were full of sweet, succulent crab flesh. If you can make it, try to get out and catch your 10. 

Drop them in heavily salted water and boil them for 20 minutes, plunge them in ice cold water to separate the flesh from the shell, and add crunchy sourdough. Fresh butter and a crisp white wine will put you very close to heaven.


Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifeling sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week. 

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