“Spring arrives with death still on her.” The Book of Difficult Fruit by Kate Lebo
I had hoped to spend January through March surveying Mt. Tamalpais for the elusive spring white truffle with Flora Jayne. But it hasn’t rained in over a month. Up at Salt Point, hedgehog mushrooms, normally abundant during this time of year, are crispy, black, and almost unrecognizable except for their tiny prong-like gills. There are still some black trumpets in damp dells, but they too are drying up. Rain may arrive in time for another flush of late winter, early spring mushrooms like chanterelles, hedgehogs, candy caps and black trumpets. Or we will have to pin our hopes on spring showers triggering flushes of burn morels that appear after a forest fire. And the Sierra snowmelt watering the spring porcini.
The Central Sierra Snow Lab, is a consortium of research stations and field sites where “Snow Scientists” measure the abundance or dearth of snow and study the physics of snowpacks. The Sierra snowpack is known as the “frozen reservoir” and supplies over a third of California’s water supply. Some of it soaks into the ground and when that’s saturated, the run-off fills mountain streams, which flow into rivers, that ideally would drain into deltas, then bays, then the sea, supporting our interconnected ecosystems. However, much of the water in California is trapped in reservoirs and sent to the Central Valley farmers. Irrigating a desert full of water-thirsty crops like alfalfa, which require 10 gallons per minute of water, beating even almonds that need 10 gallons of water per almond, is not sustainable, even during the wet years.
This is where wild and regenerative foods come in. In California, “drought” is the new normal. We’ve come to a time when golf courses, lawns, and industrial cattle farming are soaking up way more than their share. If the dams were removed and salmon allowed to run the rivers to their traditional spawning grounds, we’d have a protein source far healthier than beef that helps the environment rather than harms it. What if we treated forests like valuable resources that provided not only clean air, but also amazing food like morels and porcini? And if we allowed snow melt to do what it's supposed to do and replenish rivers - triggering spring porcinis along the way.