'Only a select few' mushrooms 'are really choice,' workshop participants told

The fog veil lifted Saturday as the mushroom hunters, led by Bob Burch, passed through Hiouchi and headed toward South Fork Road.

At Craigs Beach, they got out of their cars and fanned out, sifting through spent vine maple leaves for the hidden treasures.

Burch, an amateur mycologist from Jacksonville, Ore., encouraged his students to bring back a collection of mushrooms for him to identify. Due to the dry conditions, finding good specimens was difficult, but workshop participants brought back a bounty of fungi including several in the bolete family, a handful of russulas and even an old lobster mushroom.

"There are lots of mushrooms out there," Burch said. "Thousands. But only a select few are really choice. With mushrooms and food it's all a matter of choice."

Burch's mushroom workshop was one of five offered during the final day of last week's Food Day celebration. Nearly 60 people attended the workshops, mostly at the Family Resource Center, said Angela Glore, a Building Healthy Communities food systems analyst. The workshops focused on do-it-yourself activities such as canning and preserving foods, cooking with wild foods, raising backyard chickens and planning a winter garden.

Other public events for Food Day included a trivia night at Tomasini's Enoteca, a recycling and composting workshop at the Family Resource Center and a local foods showcase at Wild Rivers Market. Most of those events were led by locals, according to Glore.

"Saturday was a great success," she said. "We had really nice numbers for the workshops. Everybody seemed happy with them."

They also prompted requests for more workshops, Glore said.

"Some people are wanting permaculture workshops," she said. "We had a number of requests for more canning and preservation and smoking, including meat and fish."

Burch said even though he doesn't have formal training, he can put mycology in terms most people can use. He spoke about those who hunt mushrooms for commercial purposes, saying that some places make you get a permit to pick mushrooms. Burch encouraged people to know whose jurisdiction they're in and to be familiar with the rules.

Crescent City resident Erik Wouter Roorda, who attended the mushroom workshop, said he used to collect mushrooms in his native Holland. But even though many species are similar to those in Holland they have their differences, he said.

"In Holland, I know the distinguishing features, but here it's a little different," Roorda said. "This is something I've wanted to do for a long time."

Laura Lyons, another Crescent City resident, said she saw a flyer about the workshop at Wild Rivers Market.

"I always wanted to take a mushroom class," she said. "I saw they were having one in Crescent City and I thought, how wonderful!"

Burch will be hosting another mushroom workshop in Del Norte County through College of the Redwoods' Community Education program. The workshop includes a class on identifying mushrooms, a field trip to pick wild mushrooms and then some time in the kitchen to prepare them.

CR's mushroom workshop costs $40 and takes place Nov. 8-9. For more information, call CR at 464-7457.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com.