Connie Green, the owner of Wine Forest Wild Foods in Napa County, has also been an active force in creating California's current wild food industry.
initial education in foraging to her
late Estonian husband, Green
began by selling chanterelles-a golden mushroom with a fragrance almost of apricots that's one of the Bay Area's
most common edible fungi-to restaurants in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
recent cookbook The Wild Table, she
recounts that at first chefs either scoffed at her
mushrooms or had no idea what they were.
Not long after that, the rise of California cuisine, with its focus on local and seasonal ingredients, changed the culinary landscape; thirty years later Connie Green
is now a rather illustrious forager in the restaurant world and a favorite of Thomas Keller at Yountville's famed French Laundry.
seems to foster strong, lasting relationships with the foragers who supply for her-she even says she
keeps bail money on hand in case of need-and she
relationship with them "symbiotic.
When I ask if any of them exist in the capacity of hired staff, she
says, "God no, that would be creepy.
She invokes the freedom of living with no paycheck and no boss, on your own wiles-some of the very unrestrained, untamed qualities we tend to associate with the word "wild."
The pickers she
knows are people accustomed to making their living by using the resources of the natural world, many of them coming from backgrounds in fishing, logging, or fruit picking.
Indeed, diners' growing love for wild mushrooms is creating a demand for a classically renewable forest resource.
While timber harvesting involves killing and taking the whole body of an organism, plucking a mushroom is like taking one body part, as it leaves the underlying mycelium intact.
Overharvesting doesn't seem to be an issue as far as the health of the fungus itself is concerned-long-term studies in the Pacific Northwest and Switzerland found no evidence that picking impairs the fruiting at all.
Connie Green tells me that she
has been picking chanterelles under the same oaks in Napa for thirty years now.
"I hate putting it this way," she
says, "but it's a way for our forests to have value standing up."
says, "They don't trust us with our public lands.
The flavor of the administration is that it's their land, and they have to think long and hard about letting us use it."
These opinions, I think, crystallize a populist concern-to whom does the land actually belong?
complains that what we lack here in California is the institution of the commons, a term for lands traditionally held and used jointly by an entire tribe or village or community.
points to Sweden and Finland, which abide by "everyman's law" or "the right to roam," a long-standing customary law that has been written into the constitution of both countries.
"I think," says Green
with more than a hint of exasperation in her
voice, "that the East Bay park people look at chanterelles as ginseng.
Campbell and Green
also express a desire to preserve natural open spaces-the crux of their belief is that foraging is an activity we should preserving land for, while some parks see it as an activity to preserve our land from.
"Foraging is one of those ways," Green
says, "that humans can interact with nature, fall in love, badly need it incorporated into their lives, and be profoundly invested in its preservation.
This is exactly how Green
and Schramm got their start.
As Connie Green
puts it, "Salt Point gets hit hard because it's the only game in town."
When Connie Green
or Todd Spanier tells me that we should look to Europe for a more enlightened attitude towards land and foraging, I see an impediment to this-I think of California as the ultimate land of transplantation, from the agricultural engineering of the Central Valley to cultures that have installed themselves like nonnative flora.