high altitude Archives

Lactarius Deliciosus is fine with me

delicious milk caps 350x262 Lactarius Deliciosus is fine with me

Newly picked Lactarius deliciosus aka delicious milk caps. Note gills are light orange, not white.

It rained quite a bit a few days ago and now the mushrooms are up again, though we’ve found only one bolete in recent days—a magnificent one, but past its prime so we left it. I wonder if the season for boletes is past?

No biggie. Boletes are good but so are Lactarius deliciosus, a mushroom I had not intended to try because it has gills, but when my friend Butter announced that she was looking for it, I starting looking too—and then found them in abundance.

Delicious Milky Caps 

Lactarius deliciosus is just as it sounds: milky and delicious. It’s creamy light orange, both on the cap and gills (which should not be white). Deliciosus is what happens when you sauté it in oil for a while—though just how delicious it is seems subject to debate, with Vera Stucky Evenson (1997) saying, “Although a popular edible in other countries, Colorado’s variety of this species are not always delicious.”  Read the rest of this entry

The Current Currant Season is Kicking

currant spiny 350x262 The Current Currant Season is Kicking

Juicy Ribes berries dangling from spiny branches, beware! Photo by Gregg Davis.

The currants and gooseberries were not yet ripe here at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies when I published my August Wild Edible Notebook, which is devoted to berries—strawberries and huckleberries, specifically—but now they are, and oh what a currant season the current season is!

I had an inkling of the potential the other day when we visited the Como Roundhouse during Railroad Days and Deb was kind enough to let Gregg and I and Kor from Holland out back to see the ruins of the housing tenements, where I found big bushes laden with ripe and hairy but not altogether tasty red currants. Yesterday, however, when we pulled into the parking lot of the Limber Grove Trail, berries were the first thing I saw.

I couldn’t believe the size of those purple berries. There were so many of them—and the biggest I’ve ever seen! So eager was I to begin collecting that I didn’t realize I’d positioned myself in a big anthill until ants were swarming up my leg. After hopping around maniacally to shake them off, however, I found better footing and returned to my collecting.

The bushes were rife with big, painful spines, complicating picking. When I absentmindedly tried raking the bush with my fingers like I do with huckleberries, I wound up cutting a painful, horizontal paper-cut-like slice into a purple-red stained finger.   Read the rest of this entry

Angelica Enhances Alcohol, Satisfies Sweet Tooth

angelica leaves stems 350x262 Angelica Enhances Alcohol, Satisfies Sweet Tooth

Angelica leaves and stalks waiting to flavor a bottle of gin.

How many times have I hiked the same route never to discover angelica? Probably more than a hundred. Of course, this is very much in keeping with what I have come to expect from wild plants—I almost always find something good when I’m out foraging, but it’s often not what I set out to find. 

In his angelica entry in Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West (1997), Gregory L. Tilford generalizes the genus (Angelica spp.) instead of identifying specific species.

According to Growing Hermione’s Garden, Angelica archangelica, commonly known as garden angelica, Holy Ghost, wild celery and Norwegian angelica, has been cultivated both as a vegetable and a medicinal since the 10th century. The name of the biennial plant “comes from the Greek word ‘arkhangelos’ (arch-angel), due to the myth that it was the archangel Michael who told of its use as medicine,” the blogger writes. 

I searched but did not find a USDA listing for angelica in Colorado, although Angelica atropurpurea L., aka purple-stemmed angelica, is listed as endangered in Maryland and Rhode Island and threatened in Tennessee—so these are not states in which to forage it. Angelica lucida L. is listed in Connecticut and New York as endangered and Rhode Island as threatened; Angelica triquinata Michx is listed as endangered in Kentucky and Maryland; and Angelica venenosa is listed as a species of concern in Connecticut. There are approximately 60 species of Angelica in total. Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—August Release!

wild edible notebook august 226x350 Wild Edible Notebook—August Release!

Halfway through August I am once again honored to present the Wild Edible Notebook, my journal-style tale of select plants. This third issue is about berries, specifically the strawberries and huckleberries we’re finding in the Colorado high country this month. Unlike the last issue there are no recipes per se, although I do spend some time pontificating on the dishes we’ve been making with this delicious bounty. Aside from that there are the usual humorous and introspective tidbits characteristic of my first person accounts.

The August edition is 98% brand new content (thus accounting for my long hiatus in posting blog entries).

The procedure for downloading the Wild Edible Notebook has changed. Please visit the Wild Edible Notebook page for information on subscribing to the iPad/iPhone or PDF versions for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides.

To download a free issue of the Wild Edible Notebook and stay abreast of future developments, please join the email list by filling out your info at the very bottom of this website. Thanks!

EDITED 10.7.13 to reflect the new download procedures.

wild strawberries 350x289 Wild Mushroom Mission Leads to Strawberries, Flowers

Worth the effort. Wild strawberry photo by Gregg Davis.

Today, after about six hours of early-morning work on other projects, I headed out excitedly and somewhat anxiously to find a few of those wonderful, glorious mushrooms that have been popping up with all this rain.

We found some yesterday after our Summit County errands, stopping on our way back to Fairplay at a forested spot a friend recommended. Mushrooms were everywhere, albeit mostly past their prime or covered in poo (I exaggerate but I did step in one awful steaming pile of green/yellow grass-filled poo, heaven forbid), but we felt nonetheless like kids in a candy store, finding huge Leccinums, bright yellow-capped and large red-capped Suillus, and puffballs amidst the trees. (Thanks for the tip, Miller!) We didn’t harvest any to eat there, but it was good intel on the potential. Read the rest of this entry

Albatrellus Confluens Conference

Albatrellus confluens2 350x262 Albatrellus Confluens Conference

Albatrellus confluens under huckleberries at 11,000 feet.

There’s a funny mushroom growing all over the conifer forest behind our house at 11,000 feet above Fairplay, Colorado. It is light pink/peach in color, similar to a white person’s flesh, but cracked on the surface, like an overworked foot. As this mushroom ages, a green mold takes hold amidst the cracks and on the surface and the mushroom itself gets firm and tough.   

Does this sound appetizing? Because we’ve been really excited about eating this mushroom lately. 

An Albatrellus a Day 

The mushroom is Albatrellus confluens. Vera Stucky Evenson describes it in similar terms to mine but without the human body part analogies in Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997). A former name for the same mushroom is Polyporus confluens, according to Michael Kuo (2007) at mushroomexpert.com. Read the rest of this entry

cow parsnip carpet 262x350 My Definition of a Good Day: Cow Parsnip for Breakfast, Dinner and Dessert

A cow parsnip carpet far as the feet could walk.

I woke up yesterday morning and cooked my very first quiche, in which the principal ingredient was—you guessed it—cow parsnip! We had it for breakfast; we had the leftovers for dinner; and then we had cow parsnip candy sticks for dessert. For me, there is simply no getting tired of cow parsnip.

I tell my friend Butter that I’m learning to cook through wild edible plants, and not the other way around. She uses fancy cooking words like “duxelle” and “frittata,” meanwhile I’m clutching my head and she has the nerve to say that she eschews recipes. OMG if I didn’t have the recipes I’d be lost! Of course I usually can’t be bothered with measuring cups and most of my “principal ingredients” are not in cookbooks anyway, but a little guidance is always good for discovering, for example, that eggs are important to quiches.

Cow Parsnip Quiche

The quiche-for-breakfast idea came up as I was trying to think of a way to serve Gregg the king bolete (Boletus edulis) that Butter and I found on our first outing together, by the roadside, after searching for them unsuccessfully on foot for several hours. That was also, incidentally, when I gathered all of the wonderful cow parsnip that now fills my refrigerator.  Read the rest of this entry

Slippery Jack on My Breakfast Plate

slippery mushroom 350x262 Slippery Jack on My Breakfast Plate

Not so slippery after all!

Okay so our second attempt to identify the little harbinger of mushroom season growing in the forest outside the house, about which I wrote on July 23, was the better one— as our little guy was a slippery jack (Suillus brevipes) and not a baby king bolete (Boletus edulis) as Gregg had hopefully surmised. 

Still, who am I to poo-poo a slippery jack? They’re tasty—a fact we discovered last season after we got up the guts to taste one we’d spent several days watching. 

Just Enough Info to Steer You Wrong 

Identifying characteristics for Suillus brevipes, which is in the Boletaceae family along with Boletus edulis, include a cap that is “brownish, becoming ochre-brown with age; glutinous, smooth, shiny when dry; cuticle peels easily,” says Vera Stucky Evenson in Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997). She describes the underside of the cap, which has pores as opposed to gills, as containing tubes that are “pale yellow, dingy olivaceous at maturity…not staining.” (Some mushrooms, when you cut them, stain a particular color, but not Suillus brevipes.) The stalk is “white, becoming yellowish.”  Read the rest of this entry

A Puffball at 12,000 Feet

puffball halved 350x295 A Puffball at 12,000 Feet

Puffball, halved to reveal white gleba but sterile base starting to go yellow-brown. Photo by Gregg Davis.

Not everyone is so enthralled by puffball mushrooms. Well, by the size, maybe—for accounts of huge Calvatia boonianas and their proud finders grace newspapers perhaps more than any other mushroom, says Vera Stucky Evenson in Mushrooms of Colorado (1997), a publication of the Denver Botanic Gardens. But the taste, some opine, is nothing to write home about. 

“I took one to dinner tonight, and one of my friends wasn’t impressed,” Butter wrote to me yesterday at 2:00 a.m. “Puffballs don’t have the strongest taste, but they are nice, and I really enjoy their texture.” Of course, she would—as would I, wild edible plants enthusiasts that we are. But to the distinguished palette? Are they worth the effort? 

Success with puffballs may lie in the preparation method, for while some mushrooms are so flavorful that they constitute a meal or side dish in and of themselves, other might be better suited to, say, a cream sauce—which is how Gregg and I inevitably eat our puffballs.  Read the rest of this entry

Do Thistle Flowers Make Good Artichokes?

thistle flower buds 350x262 Do Thistle Flowers Make Good Artichokes?

A bowl of assorted immature thistle flowers.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to take the thistle experiment one step further, having recently discovered the relationship between thistles and commercially-grown artichokes, which I love and miss from my years in California where they are both plentiful and cheap. 

The thistle crown of my previous experiment was artichoke-like enough to please me immensely, such that even though Thayer (The Forager’s Harvest, 2006) says it is hardly worth one’s time to “peel the bristly bracts from the outside of a thistle flower bud (well before flowering time) and expose a tiny, tender, delicious, artichoke-like heart,” I had to try it anyway.

It was a crime of opportunity, really—the “crime” being the theft of the thistle buds from the plants and also from the ants, who were swarmed upon many of them, and the opportunity being our recent foraging trip to Golden, Colorado, where the thistles were big and readily available. Because of the ants we selected our experimental buds carefully, taking six in total— four that I think were musk or nodding thistle (Carduus nutans) and two which I believe were Cirsiums.  Read the rest of this entry

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