SANTA CRUZ — Wild mushrooms can have the sinister mystique of a fairy ring on a moonless night. But these often-feared fungi are suffering from a bad case of publicity.
Just ask India Joze chef Jozseph Schultz. Schultz has been cooking with wild mushrooms for 30 years. He brings an expertise in world cuisine and a love of local ingredients to the kitchen at his Front Street restaurant.
“Saute, smoke, steam, simmer, bake, fry or serve them raw,” Schultz said of the ways to cook wild mushrooms. “The Aztecs called mushrooms the flesh of the gods.'”
From October to Apri, edible fungi are readily available for those brave enough to foray out into the poison-oak filled redwood, oak and madrone forests of Santa Cruz County. Mushrooms thrive in the moist conditions that the local climate produces during winter and spring. Dry months, like the ones the county has just experienced, do reduce the wild crop, but there are still mushrooms to be had.
The thrill of the hunt — and the danger of a head-to-toe case of poison oak — makes mushroom gathering feel like a search for buried treasure. Mushrooms grow in the duff, or top layer of soil and decomposing organic matter.
“You never know what you’re going to find,” Schultz said. “If you’re an artist, mushrooms are like sculptures. Gathering mushrooms is like wandering in a sculpture garden.” Read full article