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The Myco Files : The people at Far West Fungi in Moss Landing know mushrooms.


Moss Landing mushroom farmers and fancy lentil recipes.

By Amber Turpin

Apparently, September has been declared National Mushroom Month. I have a feeling the organization (USDA) that deemed this the month to eat mushrooms was more interested in promoting conventional sales than the health benefits and deliciousness of wild mushrooms. The people at Far West Fungi, operating out of Moss Landing, are the ones to talk to if you want the real deal on how to enjoy mushrooms that aren't the white button variety. For all its 25 years, the farm's goal has been to promote the joys (and low environmental impact) of organic specialty mushrooms through direct sales and education as well as by creating starter kits for the home shroom cultivator. Right now chanterelle, chicken of the woods, hedgehog, hen of the woods, honey lobster and matsutake mushrooms are at their best, with more varieties available as the winter season approaches. Find Far West at its farm in Moss Landing, at area farmers markets and at its stall in the San Francisco Ferry Building. ( or 831.728.5469)

A food festival exists for every ingredient you can think of, from the obvious and popular to the completely obscure. Upon coming across news of the 20th annual National Lentil Festival & Cook Off, based in Washington, I was immediately captivated. Because every household tends to have a few go-to recipes for the last-minute potluck or out-of-town guest appearance, and one of mine happens to involve lentils, this made the Lentil fest too perfect to pass up. There are few contests that I would feel compelled to enter, as I generally shy away from competitive events on the whole, but I couldn't say no. And the winner? Unfortunately, not me or my Mediterranean Lentil Salad. My bruised ego was assuaged a bit, however, by the free 2008 festival cookbook I was sent (and published in) as thanks for the submission. Out of the six winning recipes, one from each category of appetizers, salads, breads, soups, entrees and even desserts (lentil chocolate chip cookies, anyone?), the winner of "Most Unique" goes to one of our neighbors up in Berkeley, Jessie Apfel. She deserves a pat on her back for the amazing "Full Flavored Lentil-Stuffed Apples," perfect for this season. Visit for more recipes and information.

The rat race of college starts long before classes actually begin. The process of applying for scholarships and grants is a huge component for most prospective students who aren't blessed with a free ride, and can be extremely overwhelming. However, the pool of money and grants out in the world is deep and weirdly pinpoint-specific at times, and once tapped, can be the gateway to a literal wealth of knowledge. For kids growing up in certain parts of wine country, there is the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Foundation (MCVGF). This year, in partnership with the Monterey chapter of Knights of the Vine, six lucky students received more than $8,500 toward college. The main requirement, along with scholastic strength, community involvement and leadership, is that their parents be winery or vineyard workers employed by MCVGF members. Anytime after Jan. 1, 2009, call 831.375.9400 or visit to apply.

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