Wild Edible Notebook—September Release!

wen september2011 350 Wild Edible Notebook—September Release!Halfway through September I am once again honored to present the Wild Edible Notebook, my journal-style tale of select plants. This fourth issue is about wild mushrooms.

In the first part, I share a neophyte’s adventure discovering and experimenting with shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus).

The second part, which regards Colorado Rocky Mountain mushrooms in general, is a little different than prior Notebooks as it is a told in a more journalistic voice. It includes interviews with Jana Hlavaty, the Czech-born U.S. Olympian who is also an avid mushroom hunter, and Vera Stucky Evenson, curator of the Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi at the Denver Botanic Gardens and author of Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains. (Part of the material is reprinted from a recent article I wrote for the Summit Daily Newsbut I have also included portions of the interviews that were beyond the scope of the SDN piece.)

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.

 

A Daily Diet of Puffballs and Leftover Bread

gem studded puffballs 350x262 A Daily Diet of Puffballs and Leftover Bread

Gem studded puffballs from the backyard.

Looking back to the puffball entry I wrote on August 13 last year, I can’t believe how long it’s taken for my backyard colony of gem-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum) to emerge this season. Emerge they have, however (in early September, finally!), and with them a host of other puffballs as well.  

First there were the big puffballs I found on September 3 amidst the sagebrush in an open field on a hilltop in a dry aspen forest in Fairplay, Colorado. This after Gregg’s parents took me on a crazy off-roading adventure (which they didn’t think was all that crazy) consisting of a mile-long drive up a hilly mining road strewn alternately with rough talus and nasty ditches from the spring runoff to get to the trailhead. It’s true that I’m a wee bit squeamish about off-roading, but Gregg’s usually cautious parents seem to have a penchant for it ever since they emerged triumphant from an ill-advised tour in their Jeep Grand Cherokee over Mosquito Pass from Leadville to Fairplay a few years ago.   Read the rest of this entry

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.

Botanical Paper Not Intended for Consumption

mullein cutout 262x350 Botanical Paper Not Intended for Consumption

Mullein inspires short Photoshop diversion.

A few weeks ago I received a kindly offer of homemade botanical paper from a mullein-loving kindred spirit who uses it to flavor her paper. How could I say no to that? 

When the paper arrived I was charmed thrice over—first by the thought, then by the lovely 4” x 4” pieces of mullein paper themselves, and finally, by the message regarding the messages the “Papers of Intent” are intended to convey. 

They are handmade by Stefanie Kompathoum aka Oakmother for “prayers, wishes, contracts, affirmations, ritual, ceremony, and when you want your words to carry special meaning.” The paper is made of 100% post consumer recycled content and is packaged in biodegradable materials, so that sounds like pretty good karma to me. 

This particular batch is mullein-flavored—since what we connected over in the first place was mullein (Verbascum thapsis)—one warm and fuzzy mullein celebration in particular. 

“Take courage with mullein,” the label states. It “protects from wild animals, evils spirits, negativity and nightmares.” (This is excellent timing, as the evening news in addition to Gregg’s absence have me obsessively locking the doors in this deep, dark forest where I live; plus I’m afraid of wild animals too—specifically, Henry, the bear, destroying the bird feeders while I sleep.)  Read the rest of this entry

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

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