And yet, and yet... even after this weekend's Fungus Fair and my ensuing blithe commentary, I am not quite ready to turn my mind to things unrelated to the mushroom. It's a little like how I was with beards this summer. Luckily, 'shrooms are multifarious, earthy, adorable, subversive-leaning, and utterly delicious! Or poisonous, sometimes. Below, my four favorite mushroom gift ideas for the season of buying things “for other people.”
Mushroom mini-farm, $19.50 (photo above)
I actually got this for my boyfriend's birthday and hid it so poorly that he immediately found it. Luckily, as it hadn't sprouted yet, he thought it was a foul, mold-covered loaf of bread. Perhaps it is testament to our relationship that he didn't hurl it into the trash bin, but instead set it out on the kitchen counter for my perusal. No, love, it is not bread – but leave it uncovered and soon this pre-germinated lump of … something... will sprout up to one and a half pounds of delicious mushrooms cultivated by the folks at Far West Fungi, Monterey Bay's primo mushroom farm. Available in shiitake or tree oyster mushroom.
1 Ferry Building, SF; (415) 989-9090, www.farwestfungi.com
FUNGIfolio calendar, $7-12 sliding scale
Does your baby-baby love mushrooms and need a calendar? “I love mushrooms so I made this calendar,” says Ramona Hopkins, creator of the FUNGIfolio wall calendar. Perfect! Keep in mind that the Bay Area is home to a year-round bounty of fungal growth with this indie score. Bonus: Ramona will be hawking her wares at the sure-to-be-awesome East Bay Alternative Press Expo this weekend (Sat/11) – so if you're feeling the need to wax mycologically, she'll love to oblige.
Golden shiitake mushroom ring, $40
Gone are the days when the friendly 'shroom was confined to the mediums of obvious backpack patches and fimo bead necklaces. Now you may announce your affliation to the basidiomycota phylum as befits you – in sheer class. Scope this wood-metal ring from local Bay jeweler J. Fein – a plump shiitake to sit on your daintly uplifted pinky. Sipping tea while conversating with a loved one on voyages taken, perhaps?
Sold in various Bay Area locations, www.etsy.com/people/jfeindesigns
All That the Rain Promises and More, $17.99
Oh yes. OH YES. You know you're not supposed to be heading out on your own, picking up any bulbous what's-it that you find – that's how you hurt your liver! In fact, you should probably check out one of the area's beginner's mushrooming forays before you hit the duff. But for the armchair mushroom hunter, or anyone who'd like a handy guide of the area's yummy and yucky fungi friends, California crazy man David Arora's guide to over 200 species should do nicely. Look at this guy on his book's cover: he's trucking around with a loose-cannon grin in a tux, a trumpet, and the biggest damn chanterelle you've ever seen. Score!
Bay Area bookstores, www.davidarora.com