Welcome fellow traveler!
If you’re someone who believes that food is art and legend, reason to journey and to celebrate...Someone who’s much like a traditional pilgrim...Seeking experiences that enrich your life and bring you closer to people and places afar...then you’ve landed in the right place!
I draw on my love of the culinary arts and many years of outdoor adventures, travel, and teaching in designing these Black Truffle Tours. It's a joy to share the hunt and the foraging, the hunters and their dogs, the chefs and fabulous feasts with you.
When you join us for a tour, we’ll take note of plants, trees, soils, and whole landscapes; the rich diversity of foods, art and culture beyond your known world -- and you’ll make friends with persons you might otherwise not encounter or even imagine. The journey itself is the destination.
Where it all began
Even before kindergarten I learned about mushrooms. In my little red boots traipsing through the woods on family morel hunts in Ohio. I can never forget the excitement of the find, the pungent aromas and the good eating. And the fleetingness which made it even more special—we called it mushroom season.
Later I learned about the spongy and bruising Boletes in so many colors and sizes, and the sweet, magical Matsutake, among the pines of Oregon. Hunting basketfuls of golden chanterelles became a contact sport in the Old Growth forests of the Cascades. We wrote poems and love letters with the ink of “shaggy manes”, Coprinus comatus.
Wherever I travelled I tuned-in to the mushrooms. In Alaska there were giant and brilliant Amanitas among dwarf permafrost forests and in the Amazonian jungles we collected fragile “oyster” mushrooms amid the huge buttressed trees. In China they served us “tree ear” mushroom soup for breakfast. Delicious and nutritious. Here in Spain the popular Lactarius “milky caps” are collected in huge quantities from pine forests and are sold in farmers markets and grocery stores all autumn long. A favorite preparation is to grill them until crisp with olive oil, garlic and parsley.
Sharing it today: Why Mushrooms Matter
With a background in Forest Science from Oregon State University and my focus on forest fungi I continue to explore why mushrooms matter. Like truffles, many of the big showy mushrooms that we collect in the autumn are the fruiting bodies of a vast network of below ground fungal mycelia. They nurture, protect and connect the mighty trees above. They do this all year round, whether we notice or not, in exchange for sugars from the living trees.
It's an ancient symbiosis on our planet. One that serves as an example for how we humans might aspire to live. Partnering is how life on Earth evolved. We live on a symbiotic planet. Can we rethink competition as our model for survival of the fittest?
For the last 20 + years I have lived and worked in Spain, as a researcher and educator at the Forest Science Center of Catalonia. We work with local and international scientists and farmers in the world of the Black Truffle, Tuber melanosporum.
The Black Truffle or "black diamond" has been a culinary gem for thousands of years due to its unique aromatic qualities. These are earthy and beguiling scents; and the mystique and desire for black truffles have increased with declines in natural abundance.
Trying to figure out how truffles grow has led to critical scientific advances in understanding the intimate interactions between plants and fungi, and the ever-unfolding world of below ground ecology linked to what’s going on up above in the forest.
Mushroom season for Black Truffles is Winter time.
A fine season for escaping to Spain!
Sitka Services: What’s in a Name?
While a curiously cryptic description for a business offering mushrooms and truffle tours in Spain, the name SITKA draws on my Oregon roots and the majesty of the coastal Sitka Spruce forests.
These forests are filled with a cathedral-like light beaming down on mossy floors sprinkled with mushrooms – of many colors and forms, slimy and soft, tiny and hefty and coming and going, shifting with the seasons – the fruiting bodies of the fungi nourish and recycle the giant Sitka Spruce trees that tower above.
This perennial partnering in Nature, this symbiosis of seemingly great and small, continues to inspire me.
The forest, as a sacred and wondrous place, continues to draw me in. And the fungi, the ephemeral and mostly microscopic beings that shore-up the giants, never cease to amaze me.
What’s in a name? A place, an inspiration, a revelation, a celebration and a commitment to serve and to share.
S I T K A