The humble mushroom may not seem worthy of an entire trip at first glance. “But once you slow down and move off the beaten trail, you find all these jewels,” says Daniel Winkler, who combines nature and culture on his MushRoaming tours. “It’s like Alice in Wonderland over and over again, and I see how much people love it.” Winkler leads expeditions around the world but favors Tibet, where he’s returned every year for the past two decades in search of Caesar’s mushroom, a vibrant orange variety that can grow up to eight inches in diameter.
Post-forage, participants cook their bounty under the guidance of Tibetan hosts. “We have this shared interest with locals who are otherwise not in touch with tourists,” he says. “It just opens doors.” Whether you’re a novice or mushroom aficionado, here are eight tour providers that can get you in at the ground level of fungus forays.
In 2015, Winkler, who was born in Bavaria, organized his first tour to the Tyrolean Alps, where he grew up foraging in the woods with his family. Hunt for dotted-stem boletes and chanterelles by morning, then go hiking and swimming or visit historic towns in the afternoon. Winkler’s next Tibet trip will be in July 2016.
425-822-5080, mushroaming.com. Email preferable: email@example.com
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From Indiana to Italy, mushroom evangelist Chris Matherly leads multiday domestic and international treks that often sell out. Depending on the excursion, you may see lion’s mane, chicken of the woods, and shaggy parasol varieties—all of them as picturesque as their names imply. Learn how to identify different species, then refuel with wild mushroom soup and steak with mushroom sauce.
David Campbell, former president of the Mycological Society of San Francisco, organizes nine-day trips to Croatia and Italy in search of fungus nobility: truffles. In addition to ferreting out this delicacy, you might take a boat cruise on the Adriatic Sea, attend a truffle festival in Umbria, or forage for mushrooms in the Alps. No matter which tour you choose, you can count on fine dining and top-notch wines throughout.
During a three-day fall mushroom-hunting spree in Spain, you’ll go on private foraging excursions with a local expert and learn to identify different types of boletus mushroom. As you drive yourself through the Catalonian countryside, you’ll also dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant, visit specialty mushroom markets, and take a fungi-centric cooking class.
In southwest China, tramp up a mountain in Yunnan—christened the “Kingdom of Mushrooms”—to explore one of the world’s most diverse fungi-producing regions. More than 850 types of edible mushroom grow in this province where picking season extends from May to September. During a half- or full-day outing, you may spot the prized pine and paper-thin dried beef mushrooms. Then taste the fruits of your labor during a chef-prepared lunch at your guide’s home.
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Personal guides lead custom tours through forests in the Lubuskie region of western Poland. Sign up for a half- or full-day excursion for a crash course in porcini and chanterelle mushrooms, or immerse yourself in a weeklong experience that covers foraging, drying, and cooking. Stay in the family farmhouse and savor such traditional dishes as Polish stew and rabbit with wild mushroom sauce.
Gundi Jeffrey and Erik Purre Portsmouth led their first mushroom foray in 2000 and have taken participants on tours to Oaxaca, Chiapas, Hidalgo, Morelos, and other locations in Mexico. As a throwback to its first trip 15 years ago, the company has planned an August 2015 expedition to Tlaxcala, a state about two hours southeast of Mexico City. Foragers learn to identify both edible and poisonous specimens—and such mushroom genera as helvella, lactarius, and cortinarius.
After a two-hour drive from Seattle, you’ll head into the woods and off the trails to track down such mushrooms as the delicate bear’s head tooth and the meaty King Bolete. Once your guide identifies what’s edible in your collection, you get to take everything home. Daylong tours run from May to June and August to December.
(206) 329-3914, terra-fleurs.com
This appeared in the August/September 2015 issue.
Photo by Peden + Munk.
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