Last night I ate the tastiest mushroom I’ve ever eaten in my life. Really.

I sauteed it in olive oil with a dab of butter. Threw in a dollop of sweet sherry, a pour of boullion for moisture, et voila–Ummmm-um!

Given my recent column on foraging, you might assume that I picked this mushroom myself. I’m not that brave; I don’t know an amanita from a beefsteak.

No, somebody else foraged this mushroom. And therein lies the tale.

We have this friend. Tom. Tom’s an adventurer, a man’s man, a bad boy. The kind of guy who would kayak around the world, in spite of a foot badly lamed in an early motorcycle accident. The kind of guy who’ll tell it like it is, even if gets him punched in the face. The kind of guy who’d intervene in a robbery and get shot and live to tell the tale. Who, in fact, did just that in his errant youth.

Tom’s fearless. To a fault.

His wife is a saint.

They live a few blocks from us. Tom was driving down a street in the ‘hood when he saw a guy up in a tree. Being Tom, he stopped and asked the man what he was doing.

“He was Italian, and he had this thick accent,” Tom told me. “He said, ‘I’m picking oyster mushrooms.’”

The man said oyster mushrooms grew rampant on trees in the neighborhood. There was, in fact, an especially fine crop of them in a tree just around the corner from where we live, on Ocean Avenue. Unfortunately, this particular stand was at the top of the tree. The tree was tall. And it stood in somebody’s front yard.

The man shrugged. Alas, what can one do?

Tom went home and got a rickety 50-foot ladder and his daughter, who’s in her 20s. He called a young buddy who lives in our building, a mountaineer, and told him that he had some climbing for him.

The mountaineer showed up with ropes, axes and carabiners. Tom tucked him into his car, and off they drove.

They found the tree quite easily: it stood in the front yard of the only house among a block of apartment buildings. Tom parked the car, got out, stepped through the open gate in the eight-foot chain-link fence that separated the house, and the tree, from the sidewalk. He walked up the front steps and rang the bell.

Nobody answered.

Tom propped his decrepit ladder against the tree and the sidewalk side of the fence, and he sent the mountaineer up. The mountaineer ascended-up, up, up-to the top of the tree, while Tom held the creaking ladder steady.

Ocean Avenue is a very busy urban thoroughfare, but Brooklyn is still New York. Do what you do with authority, and nobody will question you. And so it was: nobody stopped to challenge the trio. Not even the police, who patrol the area with great zeal.

The mushrooms were clustered on the sawed-off top of a stout branch, inside the fence but above the sidewalk. The mountaineer clung to the tree and lopped off the mushrooms, and tossed them down to Tom’s daughter, who put them in a bag.

Tom estimates that they gathered about eight pounds of mushrooms. He went home and cooked up a batch, fed them to his family and the mountaineer. He even convinced his wife to eat them.

Nobody died.

So he came to my door. Did I want a mushroom?

I hesitated. The thing was huge, eight or ten inches across.

Well…It’s kind of illegal…

Ah, but it was delicious.

And we didn’t die.

I called Tom’s voice mail, and thanked him profusely for the illicit treat.

This afternoon, I walked past the tree. It was very high. It was definitely behind the fence. There were still mushrooms at the top, on that cut branch, on the side of it that faced the house.

I came home to find a message from Tom on our phone. He said, “There are a lot more mushrooms left on the tree. If Paul wants to go with me, we can pick them-just let me know.”

It was tempting. But…