Fog blanketed the Napa Valley vineyards on the early morning drive that took participants in the 2016 Napa Truffle Festival to Howell Mountain in the northern reaches of the county for a Sunday morning of mushroom foraging in Las Posadas State Forest.
Led by expert mycologist David Campbell, the group braved raindrops and puddles to seek out the many varieties of mushroom hiding among the fallen leaves in the forest. This year’s festival included two such forays, so when the Sunday group arrived they had the advantage of learning from the large array of stunning specimens the Saturday group had found and left on display.
Campbell took the group through the many varieties to be found in the forest, and explained how mushroom hunters use odor, color, shape, gill formation and other clues to identify the variety and determine if the mushrooms are edible.
The group then fanned out into the woods in search of their own discoveries. Several truffle-hunting dogs and their handlers were also part of the group, hoping to sniff out wild native truffles. Alas, not a mushroom was found, but the Italian water dogs enjoyed splashing in puddles as the foragers poked through the underbrush.
As with the Saturday group, the mushroom hunters found dozens of varieties, though few were edible specimens. Some brave souls carried home the ones that Campbell confirmed to be of culinary value, but for most participants, the fun was in the hunt itself, and the time spent appreciating nature.