Steering our way through the Douglas Fir Trees of California, we found head huntress of Wild Forest Foods and award-winning author, Connie Green, one of the oldest and finest wild mushroom producers in the U.S.
Forager Green voiced, “as far as I know, we’re the oldest wild mushroom company in North America”. Connie frequently invites her network of quality chefs out on an adventure to hunt the forest floor, where she uncovers some of her fantasy worlds as a mushroom forager. Nourishing her prowess and passion for mushroom foraging, huntress Green soon became a record-setting hunter, picking 265 lbs of delicate and earthy chanterelles in a day. Today, Wine Forest offers over 50 varieties of wild mushrooms and 12 species of cultivated exotic mushrooms, which are supplied to the finest restaurants in Northern California, including the French Laundry in Napa Valley. We can say there are 7 to 9 groups of life on this planet, including animals, plants, and fungus. Connie affirms that fungi quite rightly sit in their own category, owning unique flavors and aiding gut health. “They’re just so alive, I would actually place them closer to animals than plants.”
How did you develop your passion for mushroom foraging?
I joined the spring farmer ritual of morel hunting in the late sixties, a decade of exploration. At that point, I had finished my studies in medieval literature and then I worked in television for some time. I’ve always loved running in the rain and getting mucky in the fields. Later, I married a mushroom hunting Estonian immigrant, whose family survived thanks to wild products during world war II. Moving to rural Napa together in the ’80s, opened the door to Wine Forest Wild Foods, where we started selling chanterelles to chefs. To support the culinary evolution in Northern California, I was determined to educate chefs and encourage them to start switching from canned mushrooms to fresh mushrooms. Of course, I had to grow a team of mushroom foragers as they took days to clean by myself. Over time, I built a group of foragers on the West Coast (from Idaho and Oregon, as well) and we’ve all thrived and succeeded together.
How important are your relationships with chefs?
I believe the health of the purveyor is directly connected to the health of the restaurants. So I’ve always had a symbiotic relationship with the restaurants, and that’s contributed to why we’ve earned a reputation over decades; as well as our quality being unmatched. Upon starting my business, I delivered to the restaurants myself for many years, bringing chefs pieces of the wild directly to their kitchen. There is a great deal of romance associated with the mushroom world. I have had friends working in kitchens for a long long time, dishwashers to chefs. My friends are also my customers. Today, we are supplying legendary American chefs including Thomas Keller and Nancy Oakes. They know I know where these things come from. Our goal is to match our zealousness in providing chefs with mushrooms of exceptional beauty with the same zealousness in preserving the wild country from which they come. In California, we had the 89 earthquake, droughts…global warming is really affecting wildlife.
Order Wine Forest Foods products via Choco
Forager Green offers a vast product list via Choco’s ordering platform, including the finest black trumpets she has sourced 2 hours north of Napa Valley, some of the best you can find in the world. “I’m very pleased and I know Chefs are happy with this. Choco’s ordering tool hasn’t broken the relationship between producers and their customers. It simply made things easier rather than drawing a curtain. I’ve seen so many tools come and go and so I was skeptical, but Choco has not interfered with my customer relationships. I still like to take chefs out on an adventure and take them mushroom foraging sometimes. We also like the format of the emails, it is so easy to respond and touch base with the restaurant if something is out of stock.”
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