I was out checking on this year's mushroom crop at Northampton, a under-appreciated park on the North Coast.
Two years ago I met an elderly woman there as she was harvesting skipjacks under the pine trees. She knew what she was doing, said she'd clean, peel and can the mushrooms she collected, but was not much interested in talking about collecting wild mushrooms.
I would have liked a mentor, someone who could point out which of those mushrooms that grow on the North Coast are safe to eat.
This kid found the record-breaking 'Chicken of the Woods' (Laetiporus sulphureus)growing on a tree near a creek where he was cutting wood.
The 'shroom weighed in at 56 pounds, measuring 30 inches wide and 16 inches high.
He claims an even larger part of it broke off and fell into the creek. He reckoned with both pieces it would have weighed 120 lbs.
I've eaten these and can personally testify they are delicious, up on the taste treat scale with morels and chanterelles. But, 56-pounds?
A U.S. Forest Service fungus expert in Madison, WI said it probably took only two weeks for this mushroom to grow. The previous record is held by a 40 lbs. puff ball.