Don’t be scared if, on your next hike through Point Reyes, you come across fleece- and wool-cap–clad folks armed with knives and woven baskets wandering about aimlessly and staring at the ground. They’re mushroom hunters; winter’s wet conditions along the North Coast draw them in droves. But before you start popping these organic beauties straight into your mouth, know that it can be tricky, even for an expert, to discern between poisonous and nonpoisonous ’shrooms. (You’ve seen Into the Wild, right?) Plus, most state parks require permits before you can go picking. So, if you’re interested in seeking your own chanterelles, black trumpets, candy caps and yellow feet, the best and safest way is to tag along with the specialists on one of these guided foraging adventures.
Armed with microscopes and mushroom experts, this society leads foraging events and tours around the Bay Area. Monthly meetings discuss topics like "What are Mushrooms Doing in My Forest?" and "Fungal Fun in New Zealand." Annual membership $10.
An informal group since the 1970s and officially a nonprofit since 1984, the Fungus Federation conducts local forays, weeklong trips and workshops through some of the finest mushroom habitats on the West Coast. Members can party with other fungi enthusiasts at the annual Suds ’n ’Shrooms potluck, featuring local home brews, or the Wine and Mushroom Fest with pairings from local winemakers. Serious about mushrooms? FFSC also provides grants to mycology (the study of fungi) students as well as identification services for local hospitals. Annual membership $20.
The club was founded in 1950 to bring together urban fungi fans and to maintain the rights of the people to forage on public lands. The MSSF hosts a range of monthly activities including meetings with guest speakers in Golden Gate Park during active mushroom season (September through May) and classes on mushroom identification and cooking. To get your hands dirty, sign up for local field and camping trips for the opportunity to learn how to safely identify and eat fungi right in your backyard. Annual membership $20.
The organization supplies Wine Country residents with lectures on fungi and monthly field trips during peak season. A number of forays are for members only, but the annual membership fee for families is just $25. Monthly wild mushroom forays (Feb 9, 23) let eager amateur mushroomers learn the ins and outs of collecting fungi in Ardenwood Historical Farm. Annual family membership $25.