Tuesday, November 24, 2009
As the mushroom season wanes here in the East, it comes into its own in California.I arrived in Saratoga CA just a week ago, ostensibly for a concert of my music at the Montalvo Arts Center. The event went very well, thanks to the presence of old pal and collaborator Jim Bengston. We showed our visual-musico opus Alcatraz and its younger cousin, Eberbach. The Afiara Quartet was also in residence and played (beautifully) my Fog Tropes II and Evensongs. But the most excitement for me was the possibility of finding chanterelles or boletes or whatever the forest, after the first Fall rains, might offer up.
The oak and redwood forests around the Villa Montalvo have miles of trails and tempted us daily. The first morning out we stumbled across a cluster of mushrooms that I couldn't believe--the fabled "Coccora" or Amanita Calyptroderma (see above photo).This is a species that I had often looked for in my old Calif days, but in vain. This time they were all over the place.
But alas, I couldn't' find the courage to actually eat them (they are considered a prize edible in Italy where they are sold in markets in October). The genus Amanita has among its members several of the deadliest toxic species. The so-called "Destroying Angel " is among them (colorful name!).There was no question in my mind that these were coccora and not poisonous amanitas --the white "skull cap" veil remnant on the top, the color, the large sac (or volva) on the bottom etc..The illustrations in David Arora's book assured me I was right. But I just couldn't make that leap of faith.
WHEN IT COMES TO AMANITAS THERE CAN BE NOT ONE IOTA OF DOUBT
Had I the time I would have sought out a local fungophile (such as Arora who lives in nearby Santa cruz) to positively ID them. Next time!
Saturday I said goodbye to the coccora infested sylvan climes of Montalvo and flew down to LA to hear the LA Master Chorale under Grant Gershon perform my Savage Altars in the spectacular Disney Hall. I couldn't have been happier --it was a stirring realization
It would have been a pity had I ingested amanita ocreata ("Death Caps") instead of "coccora"--I wouldn't have heard that stellar performance.