The August 2009 MexMush Oaxaca Foray
was in many ways similar to our previous tour there in 2006. For example, our Frequent Friendly Forayer, Hildegard Hendrickson from Seattle, came on both tours. She also found the first Matsutakes both times. We went to many of the same locations, and enjoyed the special cuisine and other attractions the state is so famous for.
But, for others on this “reprise of Oaxaca” event, it was a special, first experience of a state, people and culture that enhanced the mushrooming experience to a remarkable level. It was informative, challenging, rewarding and FUN week of travel adventure and mycology. One of our participants called it her "favorite tour yet." Here is a small visual sample of what went on:
A Delectable Del Monte Dinner
Admiring Mitla mosaics
Back to the Troop Carrier
Do these look edible
Getting in the Spirit to Foray
Good students at Susana's cooking class
Hildegard prompts Matsutake excitement
In cool Cuajimoloyas woods with Juana
Kathy's prize bolete
Matsutake Madness becomes rampant
Mitla villagers Sharon and Arturo
Patrick pokes fun at Arturo and Gundi
Riding the Mitla Limo
That is NOT a Lepiota!
The Loneliness of the Taxonomist
This Lepiota is hard for some to identify
Welcome to Joe's Bar & Grill
Farewell at the square round table
Final Eve Fun
The "Wonderful Oaxaca" Foray Excursion 2006:
Our intrepid group triumphs and enjoys despite challenges
Ranging from lows and highs of protest disturbances in the streets of Oaxaca city, numbing cold in the mountains, finding many fungi, eating with the delightful village people and cooking with famed chef Susana Trilling - no one on this tour will ever forget it.
Our group gathered in beleaguered down-town Oaxaca, held hostage since June by the state's striking, angry school teachers. Arriving through barricaded streets, protest banners and grafitti, we managed to have a grand opening dinner at the elegant La Parra hotel - poolside, with waiters scurrying through torrential rains to serve us. Among his signature dishes, chef Sergio managed to sneak in some fried grasshoppers "chapulines" - a local delicacy - as croutons on a delicious salad, which we could not identify in the low lamplight.
Early Monday, August 7, we headed for the peaceful hills, staying in the Del Monte cabins. Set in a lush, almost semi-tropical forest, we soon found mushrooms aplenty, including the colorful Hygrocybe known as the "Parrot" mushroom. We took our meals in the comfortable lodge restaurant, which offered views over a splendid valley.
On Tuesday, we drove to nearby Lachatao, at 10,000 feet, for our second foray, led by local guide Telesforo. His forest was a haven to matsutakes - Hildegard found two in the first two minutes - several varieties of chanterelles, including black trumpets, as well as many other prize specimens. To our delight, much of the forest was decorated by a beautiful wild orchid. Lunch with the village women - across from a beautiful 17th century church - rounded out our stay here.
Back at Del Monte, we were amazed to find that we had collected about 70 different species, ably identified by Arturo Estrada Torres, our technical leader. His informative session on the mushrooms of the region followed.
The next day, we moved on to Cuajimoloyas, a town set high in the mountains that is part of a group of indigenous villages that is totally self-governing and self-policing. Chef Susana Trilling joined the group at this point to introduce us to the local people, food and customs. The village women cooked all of our meals, with most of the dishes containing the mushrooms of the local forests, dishes that have been cooked here since time immemorial.
The woods around Cuajimoloyas yielded a fantastic number of boletes, Amanita caesarea and other choice edibles - many of which eventually ended up on our plates. A forayer's paradise, guided by Joel, former village leader and head of the family that fed us most of the time.
But, at that elevation, the nights were COLD, when temperatures dropped to almost freezing. The cabin fireplaces, though stoked with plenty of wood, provided minimal relief.
Friday morning we descended the hills back towards warmth. A brunch stop in Teotitlan de Valle introduced us to the famed hand-woven carpets of the region. We saw how they were made and many brought treasures to take home.
Then, off to Susana's architecturally stunning cooking school, nestled in a valley NE of Oaxaca city. It has a huge, high-domed kitchen, with cooking stations for at least 20 students. Barb and Bob Sommer got the most difficult task - preparing the Mole Amarillo that was to be the centerpiece of the dinner to follow. And what a feast it was:
* Empanadas with mushrooms
* Ramaria soup
* Helvella cake - a special creation of Arturo's
* Mole amarillo with pork and mushrooms
* Breaded boletes
* Chocolate pudding made with Oaxaca's fabulous chocolate
Saturday we gave up on mushrooms and concentrated on sightseeing. We visited the lovely, unusual archeological site at Mitla - intricate old stone-mosaic ruins, some of them melded into a conquest-era catholic church. Coincidentally it was vehicle-blessing day and we had a parade of taxis bedecked with flowers. We then lunched in a restful hotel garden; learned how to make the region's mescal, naturally sampling many varieties; and marveled at the huge 25 ft. diameter-trunk Sabino tree in Tule. A grand final dinner at a quieter hotel in Oaxaca city closed off the day and the tour. All made it back home safely and happily through the city's still-continuing civil insurrection.
"Mexican mushroom Oaxaca tour was an exciting and challenging trip. It took us far off the regular tourist track and high up into the Sierra Juarez Mountains. The coniferous forests in those mountains were magnificent. The ground, covered deeply with moss and pine needle duff, was springy underfoot. There were few signs that anyone else had ever been there. The mushrooms, especially Boletus edulis, Amanita caesarea and several species of Cantharellus, were large and plentiful. It was a mushroomer's heaven. We also had many opportunities to get to know the local Zapotec Indians. They were our knowledgable guides; we ate in their homes, they even treated My cold with their herbal remedies. And the mushrooming overall, both in quality and quantity, was so good, we can't even dream of such finds in our Southern Ontario woods."
Lorraine Brown and Andrew Armitage
Leith, ON, Canada