Last summer, I had a great adventure in the coastal forests that hug the Oregon Coast. I went on an early-morning foraging quest with chef Matt Lightner (from Portland's much-heralded Castagna restaurant) and his foraging mentor Lars Norgren. Tall with a shock of white hair, Lars reminded me of my favorite college English professor—garrulous, opinionated, and brimming with an infectious curiosity for the world. Only instead of a world populated by characters from the novels of D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce, Lars inhabits the natural world—a world overflowing with lambsquarter, yarrow, and wild mushrooms. He offered up a ceaseless commentary, rattling off the Latin family names of trees and edible weeds, explaining why truffle hunting is "horrible grunt work," and bemoaning the restrictive laws that fine pickers $10,000 for collecting more than a gallon of mushrooms. By the end of the day, my head was spinning with so much new information. (Only some of which I captured in this post for the New York Times' the Moment.)
I recently had the chance to interview Lars again—this time for Portland Monthly's Farmers Market issue (May). Read on to find out how Lars followed his passion to make a career in mushroom hunting, becoming the go-to supplier for the top restaurants in town—from Little Bird to Nostrana.