Thursday, July 29, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
- Begin the day at your local farmer's market and accidentally bump into your good friends and their three year old.
- Decide that the kids need a swim and let them romp around in the brook behind the market. Watch them giggle with delight.
- Drive out to the foraging spot. Let your daughter run through the wide open fields. Scan the field margins to find wild grapes, wild carrots, and new plants that have beautiful flowers even though they are not edible like virgin's bower.
- In an old red pine plantation, find the biggest patch of bull thistle that you've ever seen. Look for the first-year rosettes that you will gather in the fall.
Stop off on the way home to show your wife the feral mulberry bush on a suburban street right across from a nascent killer black cherry crop. (Thanks Arena.)
Find a loaded grapevine just down the street.
At home cook up milkweed whites. Serve on toast with tomatoes.
- Set the sumac berries to soak in cold water for sumac-ade.
On Sunday, go to a free circus and cheer on your friend who does a graceful performance on the hanging fabric.
While at the park, weed purslane out of the public garden for a tasty salad.
Head on over to your friend's garden, gather so many lamb's quarters and amaranth that you think you won't be able to eat it all.
That night, cook up and feast on an amaranth green stir-fry and a lamb's quarter spinach ricotta pie.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
I have a confession. Mushrooms scare me. I am even a little anxious about touching them. My mycophagically inclined friends assure me that there are only a few poisonous species and that, for the most part, they are readily identified. Their assurances do little to calm my racing heart when I take a wild mushroom and put it in my mouth. I think that my fear arises from my ignorance. Learning about plants was like learning a whole new language. Alternate, opposite, simple, compound, entire margins, toothed, pinnate, palmate, spike, raceme, head, sepal, pistil, stamen . . . Over the years, I have become fluent in this vocabulary. I've drawn a map of the plant kingdom in my head. I can see patterns that extend across different plant families that make even strange plants somewhat familiar. There are times when I see a new plant that I've never encountered before and know exactly what it is because I've seen its picture in my trusty guides so many times. I have none of this background in mushrooms. I come across a new one, and I don't even know if its the same species as the one across the street.
It gives me a little empathy for those that are trepidatious about trying some of our wild delicacies. Our guests nervously asks, "Are you sure this isn't poisonous," when I offer sumac lemonade or purslane salad. I do not scoff at this hesitation. It is the hesitation of people who live long. Mushrooms remind me of that.
A phone call from our friend Arena is always good news. She is gently introducing us to the world of the edible fungus. She called us this week and offered to show us some of her mushroom discoveries. Friday was pouring rain. Ooga and Baby Yub-Yub, who hadn't taken a nap, had to bail out of our trip. In some ways, the rain is great. The hot, dry summer had made for a frustrating season for the mushroom harvester. But the rain did make for a soggy trip.
Arena gifted us with three precious chanterelles. We drove around our town in my big pickup truck as Arena helped me cut a Berkeley polypore mushroom, showed my the access trails to some good foraging grounds, introduced me to a corner where black cherries are hanging low right across the street from an escaped mulberry, and took me to another site where we cut the tender tips from a black-staining polypore mushroom. Arena, we are so grateful for your help. You are the first inductee to the Foraging Family Hall of Fame.
Arena had suggested a longer, slower heat for cooking the wild mushrooms, so we set butter in three different pans, covered, and fried them lightly. I didn't check them often enough and overcooked the chaterelles a little. They were still excellent. I can only guess how good they must be when prepared well. The Berkeley polypore produced a lot of liquid. Was it rainwater that it absorbed? Was it an oil from the mushroom itself? The black-staining polypore smelled strongly and left a odor on my hands. Everyone agreed that it tasted like meat. (Later, Arena called and said that she didn't like the flavor and hadn't eaten it. Not knowing what to expect, we'd eaten it to no ill effect.) The Berkeley polypore smelled awesome and Ooga and I agreed that its flavor improved after it cooled a little. (Mushrooms are so weird.)
Friday, July 23, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
We went to our favorite swim spot and dove in. The water was amazingly warm thanks to the hot, hot weather we've had. In the midst of our swim, we climbed upon some glacial erratics surrounding the lake and ate handfuls of wild blueberries.
In late June, I decided to take advantage of the end of the clover blossoms by making clover syrup. I’d read several recipes and they sounded easy and delicious. In most recipes, you make an infusion of the clover flowers, let this sit for a long time, and then add sugar and boil it until it is a syrup. The trick is not to boil it too long or it becomes clover candy. Also, do not put your finger in the boiling syrup to test it. If you do (and I did) the burning hot syrup will harden on your finger and you will have to peel the candy off your finger and leave it in ice water for the rest of the day. Then, you will have to clean out the pot with the hardened candy in it.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I know the scientific names of most every plant that we eat. But all I know about these critters is that they taste good. Our housemate, Tifin, harvests them by trap in Caspian Lake in northern Vermont. She says that the crayfish are not native there and that they have altered the lake ecosystem dramatically, causing some species to go extinct and others to swell in number. She brought us a Tupperware full of little red crustaceans. Like lobsters, their red color is a sign that they have already been cooked.
She taught us the way to pull off the tail so that we would get the meat most easily. It took a few tries, but both Ooga and I got the hang of it. They are dressed almost identically to the lobsters my parents would cook on New Year's Eve when I was a kid: a slit down the tail, clean out the organs, break the shell (exoskeleton) to get the meat inside. The main difference is that these guys are so small that much of the meat that I dig out is not economical to get. It feels like a waste to throw edible stuff into the compost, but it doesn't really make sense to spend hours scraping tiny scraps into the bowl. So we stick to two parts: the tails and the claws of the biggest individuals. After pulling the tails off and slitting them open, we clean off the yellow organ which Tifin says accumulate toxins like a liver. The lake is probably clean, but we figured not to eat the stuff anyway. Next we split the top half of the tail from the bottom to reveal a long thin vein which is not really a vein at all. It's the colon. It's edible and probably not unhealthy to eat, but I agreed with Tifin that there is something disconcerting about eat a . . . well, you get the idea. When all is done, we got about 100 g of meat for about 20 minutes worth of work between the three of us. Tifin's experienced hands did the lion's share of the work. Ooga and I asked for pointers. We all had a good time.
Tifin adds mayonnaise to the meat to make a salad which she spreads on bread for sandwiches, but Ooga and I ate them like shrimp with toothpicks and cocktail sauce. They tasted like shrimp but milder and softer. Tifin was hoping for a 5 rating. I give it a 5 too, but Ooga gave it a 4. No matter the rating, I bet that our Stone Age ancestors would be delighted with this catch-- as were we.