Town Crier: Horse-trading mushrooms for restaurant chits

California may be hemorrhaging jobs, but there’s one opportunity popping up all over the place. I’m talking edible mushrooms – appearing en mass at a forest near you.

The job of a mushroom hunter can be rather lucrative – even for the hobbyist. Just ask reader Blake Gilmore, who’s been picking pounds of Chanterelles and trading them for free food at some fine Oakland restaurants. Who knew a bag of shrooms could be your ticket to a nice night out?

I’ve written before about our record year for wild mushrooms, but this is the first time I’ve heard of someone trading them for dinner chits. “They’re all over the hills,” says Gilmore, who finds big juicy patches of Chanterelles in Shepherd Canyon and beyond. He calls Chanterelles the beginner’s mushroom because it’s so easy to identify.

But if you’re thinking of grabbing a seat on this gravy train, you’d better hurry. “They’ve [the restaurant owners] gotten really picky about mushroom freshness, water content and cleanliness,” says Gilmore, who at some point  just started giving them away to friends – rather than trying to barter with restaurant owners.

Still – the idea that chefs would even buy mushrooms this way, tickles me. My ancestors did business like this – bringing wheat into town and trading for clothes at the local dry goods store.

It’s nice to know we still horse trade in our little village.

E-mail bag: Reports of dog attacks continue to pepper my e-mail. The biggest “bullies” are running unchecked on the Shepherd Canyon trail to Montclair. One reader (who doesn’t want to be named because of possible retaliation) says a large, unleashed dog attacked his two little dogs and almost killed one of them, recently. He says not only are other dogs in jeopardy when you walk your animal off-leash, but hikers and bikers and joggers and seniors are susceptible as well. So where can your dog run loose?  Here are some sites: Joaquin Miller Dog Park; Alameda Small Dog Park (with a large dog park next door); and Point Isabel (behind the Richmond Costco)

Around town: Montclair’s welcome sign is down, again, for repairs. Vandals smashed the top of the sign with a baseball bat last December – and then again last week. Dave Strong with Strong Signs is reinforcing the sign and repainting it. Maybe he should embed a camera in it, as well.

And the Montclair Library is building its fan base with kids. There’ll be a Lego engineering workshop Tuesday, March 16, at 7 pm. What a fun event. Kids will build whole cities as they learn the basics of physics and mechanics and architecture. But don’t tell them that before hand – it might ruin the fun.

Lemons to lemonade: Breast cancer is no joking matter, but reader Lynne Orloff Jones says one positive thing has come from her experience. She was hired, recently, as a bra model at Nordstroms. “The manufacturer’s rep who makes my prosthesis hired me for a two hour job,” she says. 40 Nordstroms trainees learned how to fit prosthesis on women who’ve had mastectomies. “At Nordie’s,” she says, “you buy a regular bra and they sew in the prosthesis pocket for free. Or there are ready made bras with pockets.” When Lynne isn’t modeling, she teaches Bay Area cooking classes. See her on Facebook at Fix it Fast Cooking.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-273-9418, by email at or on the web at


One thought on “Town Crier: Horse-trading mushrooms for restaurant chits

  1. Hello, My wife and I have become increasingly interested in learning how to identify edible mushrooms and would love to find a knowledgeable teacher. After reading you article in this month’s Montclarion, we thought that perhaps we could contact Blake Gilmore regarding this… or perhaps get a tip on whom to contact.

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