Friday, September 20th, 2013 at
Stuffed puffballs with onion & bread stuffing, tomato bits, and queso fresco.
This has been quite a season for puffballs—both large and small—in the Colorado high country. Though the season for giant puffballs is upon us, I wanted to first share a preparation we’ve been enjoying with small puffballs, which are still out there fruiting like crazy too. I like to call it “stuffballs.”
For the stuffballs I’ve been using puffballs of the genus Lycoperdon. Up here we have gem-studded puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum), which when young and fresh have what Vera Stucky Evenson (1997) describes as “conelike spines” covering the top that can be rubbed off. The puffballs are “almost spherical with a tapered base,” she writes, adding that they can be “abruptly tapered at the base.” In my experience the tapered bases can come together gradually, or seem like miniature fat stems. I often find L. perlatum growing deep in conifer forests, in soil on the forest floor.
We also have the related pear-shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme, per Evenson), which are pear-shaped, as the name suggests—also roughly spherical with an elongated base. Michael Kuo at MushroomExpert.com writes that L. pyriforme is a very recent synonym for Morganella pyriformis, and that the pear-shaped puffballs are one of the few puffballs that grow on wood (or lignin-rich soil, Arora, 1984). The mushroom’s surface starts out smooth, Evenson writes, developing coarse granules later so as to appear rough. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, September 19th, 2013 at
Pock-marked Fairplay porcini, their colors ranging from red to light.
Yesterday we revisited one of our old, favorite hikes on the shoulder of Pennsylvania Mountain above Fairplay, Colorado. We must have done a variation of that hike—sometimes ducking into the forest on game trails to encounter still-open mine holes and long-abandoned cabins, others taking the old road high above treeline only to descend via questionable routes down dry, crumbling couloirs—more than 100 times in the 4 years we lived over there.Those were the days when slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) and field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) were the most exciting things ever, back during my big life change when this latent wild edible food obsession was reawakening.
In all those years hiking there, I found only one porcini (Boletus edulis).
But yesterday, as we were driving the long dirt road to our old spot, a familiar feeling came upon me. So while Gregg parked the car and took his sweet time organizing this and that into his backpack, I ducked into the trees for a look around, only to emerge a minute later with a medium-sized porcini button I spotted poking out of the duff. Read the rest of this entry
Friday, September 13th, 2013 at
Here you could try singing “Just another Suillus party” to the tune of “Gangsta Party” by 2pac.
For years I steered clear of the edible mushroom Suillus tomentosus—not because it was difficult to identify, but because it wasn’t supposed to be very good.
“Suillus tomentosus has a reputation for being a second-class edible and is best when very young,” Vera Stucky Evenson writes of the blue-staining, yellow-brown mushroom with fibrillose cap and cinnamon brown spongy pore mass in her book, Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997).
But the thing is, the forest has been covered with these yellow Suillus for the past couple weeks where I live at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies, and throughout the region. My good friend Butter at Hunger and Thirst told me some folks call certain Suillus (I found reference to Suillus americanus) “chicken fat” mushrooms because of their color and texture—and I agree that S. tomentosus also looks like lumps of chicken fat on the forest floor.
“And those darn Suillus everywhere!” Valerie commented at the Wild Food Girl Facebook page. She hunts yellow-gold chanterelles, and the Suillus have been doing everything in their power this year to stand up and scream “look at me, look at me” while pretending to be chanterelles from a distance.
But one day, while stepping over perhaps my 100th Suillus tomentosus to get to other mushrooms, it occurred to me I might be looking a gift horse in the mouth—that I might be passing judgment on the horse based on his teeth, though I knew not the quality of that horse, and above and beyond that, he was a gift.
Here God had been tossing me all these Suillus, and I couldn’t see them for the trees. Read the rest of this entry
Friday, April 19th, 2013 at
In Langdon Cook’s instructions, you boil the nettles briefly to remove the stingers. Photo by Gregg Davis.
It’s markdown season at the grocery store, now that the tourists are in absentia for a while, joined by the locals who migrate to parts warmer during mud season too. So it’s time for the good deals—such as the $1 bag of slightly soft “Red Skin Yellow Flesh Colorado Sunrise” potatoes that Gregg and I argued over in the grocery store last week.
“They’ll go bad,” he said.
“I’ll use them all once,” I countered, throwing them into the cart.
Everything gnocchi without moderation
A few days later, as the universe would have it, I came into a wealth of dried nettles and porcini. I won’t say how I came by them, but you can probably guess. So it was logical that I should decide to make nettle gnocchi. Read the rest of this entry
Monday, April 1st, 2013 at
Dried hawks wings (Sarcodon sp.) slices for the crumbling & reconstitution.
Don’t be deceived. I did not make this soup with tiny mushrooms. Rather, I made but a tiny amount of soup.
“Tiny Mushroom Soup” is my new strategy for making something worthwhile with what remains of my dried wild mushroom bounty from the last two summers. That way, if the soup comes out awful, I haven’t wasted a gallon of mushrooms in the process.
Truth be told, I don’t know much about mushroom cookery. It has taken some serious experimentation to get where I am now, which isn’t very far, and more often than not I find myself completely baffled by icky, gooey mushroom sauces and omelets that are so mushroomy weird that Gregg has to eat them because I’ll hurl if I attempt another bite.
Still, it appears luck was on my side tonight, because this soup came together naturally and turned out to be a hit in our house, the cause of repeated, emphatic utterances of “Mmm!” by the one-day hubbie. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, March 7th, 2013 at
Wild chicken stew with slippery jack powder.
Lately I’ve been powdering my dried wild mushrooms, batch after batch and species after species, then attempting to use the powders in various kitchen concoctions.
First were the porcini (Boletus edulis), from which I made a divine sauce, followed by not-so-bad hawks wings (Sarcodon imbricatus) venison marinade and cream sauce. Short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) were a logical choice after that—in part because I have so many, and in part because I refuse to believe them inferior despite their reputation.
I went through a phase obsessing about Suillus brevipes this fall.
Said me on the Facebook: “Not to harp on the (short-stemmed) slippery jacks or anything, but I’m growing very fond of these guys. I’m tempted to say they rival Boletus edulis, but I think Butter at Hunger and Thirst might have my head for it.” (This because Butter is such a porcini fanatic as to pass up the short, slippery dudes.) Read the rest of this entry
Thursday, February 14th, 2013 at
A fall mushroom hunt yielded, clockwise from top left: hawk’s wings (S. imbricatus), porcini (Boletus edulis), Albatrellus confluens, and various puffballs. The sauce in this post is made with hawks wings.
This next mushroom sauce is the stuff of deep, dark forests and shady places, featuring flavors so strong and wild as to cause disquiet to a delicate palate while satiating those of us who desire to delve so deep.
For the second in my mushroom sauce series, then, I present venison soaked in a marinade of hawk’s wings (Sarcodon sp.) and wild red wine vinegar, topped with a Sarcodon cream sauce.
The hawk’s wings came from a two-year-old jar labeled “mature fruiting bodies” that I collected in my early mushroom hunting days. Back then I was more nervous about Vera Stucky Evenson’s advice in Mushrooms of Colorado and the Southern Rocky Mountains (1997): “Only mild, young fruiting bodies should be eaten, as this fungus makes some people slightly ill.”
That year, like I did with many mushrooms, I collected the healthy hawk’s wings specimens I found—including mature fruiting bodies—but then sliced, dried, jarred and labeled them for later use. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, February 10th, 2013 at
A two-bedroom apartment doesn’t leave a lot of room for a wild pantry, but there’s enough in these jars to keep me entertained.
Hello, jars of dried leaves. Hello, pickled stonecrop. Hello there, you acorns and hickory nuts that mom mailed from the east coast, you vodka concoctions flavored with every which wild thing. Hello, jars of sliced, dried mushrooms.
It’s been a long time—eight months exactly—since I paused in the pantry long enough to consider the wild and wonderful bounty therein. Instead, I’ve been off in the real world, making a go at a professional writing career.
But two mornings ago, on the first day of my newfound liberation (read: I quit), I found my way there and stood and stared awhile before sojourning to the computer to see what’s been going on over on the other side of the internet where my dear friend Butterpoweredbike maintains her foraging weblog, Hunger & Thirst for Life, and reading her own account of pantry pondering. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, September 2nd, 2012 at
A small porcini bounty, found mid-August around 11,500 feet in the Colorado Rockies.
Since late July, my dear friend Butterpoweredbike has been emailing me about finding pounds upon pounds of porcini.
Meanwhile, in the last month and a half, I moved to a new home and a new job while trying to finish up my old jobs, working 100 hours per week or more, ad infinitum. What a change from the fancy-free wild food forager I formerly was!
So I lived vicarously through her finds, and this year, Butter did it right—she figured out the favorite forest conditions of the Rockies’ prize fungus, then consulted her maps and with a little help descended upon prime locations that rendered unto her a porcini windfall of staggering proportions. (This is in great contrast to the awkward fumbling we both did last year in the early days of our mushroom hunting obsessions, which were, coincidentally, the early days of our friendship.)
Still, despite being embroiled in a staggering amount of work at my new job, I made a point to search my spots when time permitted, generally one morning per week—but came up empty handed each time.
That was until two weeks ago, when Gregg and I found seven or eight young kings at our favorite porcini place.
Interestingly, the timing coincided with Butter’s pronouncement that porcini season was over. Read the rest of this entry