Archive | August 2014

Fungi, Fungi, and more Fungi!

An abundance of Chanterelle's

   An abundance of Chanterelle’s

The Chanterelles, Oysters, and Puffball Mushrooms are all coming out in droves with the cooler weather here in Northern Michigan.  Thank GOD!  We love mushrooms, they are so delicious.  I took my 5 year old  nephew out with me yesterday to show him the ropes of Chanterelle hunting.  We found more than Chanterelles which was great.  My nephew told me we had to make something for dinner which included the mushrooms.  The recipe I made is included in this post.

Chanterelles grow on the ground, either singly or in groups.  The ones we are finding are called  “cantharellus cibarius”.  They are yellow.  Anywhere from a light buttery yellow if they have been under leaves and haven’t gotten much light to a dark yellowy orange if they are getting older and drying out some. They have a flat to slightly depressed cap usually, though occasionally it can be more trumpet like.  Chanterelles have “false gills”.  What are false gills you ask?  False gills look like this: 

These are false gills

These are false gills

 They are false gills because they are more like folds in the mushroom.  You can not pull them off individually.  They tend to fork at the end of the mushroom.  It’s really important to know the difference between false gills and true gills.  There are very dangerous look alike mushrooms out there.  The Jack-o-Lantern mushroom is a look alike to the Chanterelle.

Think about a button mushroom you buy at the store.  Turn it over.  On the underside you will see that it has gills.  They are detached from each other.  You could pull each one off individually if you like.  They are plate or blade like.  These are true gills.

True gills.  Can be pulled off individually. Detached and hanging down singularly.

True gills. Can be pulled off individually. Detached and hanging down singularly.

Chanterelles also have a fruity smell.  You may not notice it individually but if you get several together it’s undeniably apricoty.  Chantharellus Cibiarius once broken will stain a darker orange to brown color.  They are usually  a few inches tall (between 1 and 5) and and inch to several inches across.  The spore print is pale yellow to creamy white.  Chanterelles can be preserved by sautéing them in some butter and garlic, cooling, and then putting in freezer bags and frozen.  If preserved other ways they tend to lose their flavor.

This is the biggest Chanterelle I have found.  It's as big as my hand!

This is the biggest Chanterelle I have found. It’s as big as my hand!

Chanterelle Hunting

Chanterelle Hunting

Smaller chanterelle.  This is more typical size

Smaller chanterelle. This is more typical size

 

We also found oyster mushrooms.  They tend to grow on deciduous trees and tree stumps.  They grow in clusters mainly but can be found individually.  The ones we find are typically a light tan to creamy whitish tan color.  They are slightly slimy when wet.  They look like a fan and have true gills.  The Oysters in the pictures below are not ones I picked yesterday but some my wonderful neighbors gave me a few days back.

Creamy tan to whitish color, true gills, fan shaped.

Creamy tan to whitish color, true gills, fan shaped.

True gills

True gills

They grow in abundance

They grow in abundance

Oyster Mushrooms come in many shapes, colors, and sizes.  There are a lot of different types of oysters out there and you need to know which are which.  If your unsure you can ask a mushroom expert for identification.  Never eat ANY mushroom that your unsure of.  You could get sick and at worst die.  Now we wouldn’t want that would we?  Oyster are a good addition to many main dishes.  They are also great dehydrated and then ground into a powder that can later be used for adding a mushroomy flavor to food.    

 Wild Mushroom Risotto

  • 1/2 stick of salted Butter
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 2-3 cups wild mushrooms, I used Chanterelle, Oyster, and Pear Puffball
  • 1 C Arborio Rice (Risotto)
  • 2 C beef broth
  • 2 C Sherry
  • 2 C water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Optional: Fresh Chives (3-4 TBSP) and  Fresh Oregano( 1-2 TBSP)
  1. Melt butter over medium high heat in a large skillet
  2. Add in Olive Oil 
  3. Add Onions to pan and allow to simmer until onions are translucent, 3 minutes or so
  4. Once Onions are translucent add wild mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms shrink in size and pan has lots of liquid.
  5. Add in Arborio rice.  Stirring continuously until all liquid is absorbed.
  6. Mix beef broth and Sherry together in a 4 cup measuring cup or bowl
  7. Add 1 C of beef/sherry liquid to pan.  Stir continuously until all liquid is absorbed.
  8. Continue adding beef/sherry mixture to skillet 1 Cup at a time and stir until all liquid is absorbed in between each addition
  9. Test Arborio Rice.  Taste a piece of rice and see if it is still hard in the middle, if so add water 1 Cup at a time in the same manner as above until rice is soft.
  10. Add in salt and pepper and Fresh Chives and Oregano, cook a few minutes more.  Rice should be a creamy consistency.
  11. ENJOY!
    Keep adding liquid until absorbed

    Keep adding liquid until absorbed

    Once finished Rice will look like this.

    Once finished Rice will look like this.

 

I hope you enjoyed the Mushroom Issue of my Blog.  David and I both really enjoy mushrooms and hope you do too!

 

The BULL about Bull Thistle

Bull Thistle in Bloom

Bull Thistle in Bloom

Bull Thistle, that prickly, pokey, spiny plant that hurts to even think about touching.  We did though.  We touched it a lot.  We got poked, ALOT!  Then we got smart and brought leather gloves and gardening pruners with us.  We gathered more, many many more of those beautiful purple blossoms.  Why? you ask.  To eat them of course!

No, seriously.  We ate them.  It was a pain in the patootie, but we did it.  Was it worth it?  Not really.  Here’s why:

  • They hurt me, repeatedly
  • It’s a lot of work for a thumbnails worth of food
  • It takes a tremendous amount of thistle blossoms to make any sort of a side dish
  • They hurt me, repeatedly
  • Did I say, they hurt me?

Supposedly you can eat the stems.  Only stems from the first years growth because after that they get way to tough.  We found that out the hard way, David and I.  Bull thistle can be prepared by boiling it and then extracting the good stuff.  They are rather like an artichoke in how the look, taste, and are prepared.  Just like and artichoke you don’t want the “choke” part, just the meaty fleshy part underneath all the hairy stuff.  The hairy stuff is the flower.  Unlike artichoke, it’s just not worth it.  You boil the thistle heads whole for about 20-30 minutes.  They actually turn black and get soft when they are done.  After retrieving them from the cooking water with tongs or a slotted spoon, you need to cool them a bit so you can handle them.  The spines are softer now but you will still get poked if your not wearing gloves.  I found it easiest to cut the head in half lengthwise.  I then used a spoon to get in between the choke and the flesh and scraped the good stuff out.  It’s so small.  I did this about 20 times before I got sick of it and stopped.  David and I each ate about 10. We agreed they taste like globe artichoke but that we would rather just eat the artichoke.

You can also eat the leaves of the Bull Thistle.  We aren’t even going to go into that aspect of it.  David and I decided that that was not happening.  You have to pick all the spines off.  That in itself would be such a monumentous task.  We couldn’t see it being worth it unless we were absolutely starving and couldn’t find anything else to eat.  Then we might consider it.

I think that the beautiful Bull Thistle flower is best left to the bees.Honey Bee on Bull Thistle Bee on Thistle   If You decided you just have to try eating the Bull Thistle plant, BE CAREFUL! Protect your hands by wearing some sort of protective covering.  If you decide to eat the leaves , remove all spines.  You can fry them up like any other greens. 

Honey bee getting pollen off of a Bull Thistle plant

Honey bee getting pollen off of a Bull Thistle plant

Blueberries, Oh how I love thee.

imageWild Blueberries have taken over the WORLD!  Ok, maybe not the world, but definitely my kitchen.  I’ve picked 3 gallons and 3 pints of those little tiny bursts of goodness that melt in your mouth like candy.  With all those berries I can make ALOT of edibles.  But first, let’s talk about the blueberry.

Blueberries are natures superfood.  They are low in sodium, and high in Vitamin C.  They are a good source of dietary fiber and are a 1 on the glycemic index.  They are 81% carbs, 11% protein, and 8% fat.  One ounce of wild blueberries has on average 9% of your Daily Value of Vitamin C or 5.1mg.  2% Dv of Vitamin E, 6% vitamin K, and 7% riboflavin.  They are also a good source of Manganese, 28% of your Daily Value actually, and all this in just 1 measly ounce.  You can easily add an ounce of blueberries to a cup of oatmeal or yogurt in the morning with your breakfast and be on your way to a great start nutritionally for the day.

Besides all of that they taste delicious!  If you, like me, are a blueberry fanatic then you’ll want to pick as much as you can when they are in season and then preserve them for later use.  My preferred method for preserving blueberries is freezing or canning.  The reason I choose freezing or canning over dehydrating is this:  When you dehydrate wild blueberries they become tiny little morsels and a lot makes very little.  With freezing you can use the berries later on in pies, muffins, cakes, or as topping or add-ins to your favorite recipes.  When I say canning I specifically mean jams and preserves.  That way I can use an open bath canner instead of a pressure cooker.

   Freezing Wild Blueberries: Low and High Bush

Unwashed Frozen Blueberries

Unwashed Frozen Blueberries

  1.   Pick lots of berries!  Ok, OK!  Silly I know but you kinda need berries to freeze them!
  2.   DO NOT WASH THE BERRIES!  Sounds crazy but just don’t.   If you wash your berries now you’ll need to make sure they are completely dry before freezing them.  Also washing, soaking, or floating your berries allows them to soak up water.  They become mushy more easily and lose flavor.  If you leave them unwashed now you can rinse them just before use and they will retain their shape and flavor very nicely.
  3.  Sort through your bounty and take out all mushy, rotting, unripe berries.  Also remove any sticks, seed heads,  leaves, creepy crawly critters, and anything that is not a “perfect” berry.
  4.  Place all your “perfect” berries into quart size freezer bags, or if you use a Food Saver machine or other device to remove air, place blueberries in those bags.
  5.   Remove air from bags.  If you don’t have a sucker machine, which I do not, zip up your freezer bag almost all the way.  Insert a straw down into open spot and close bag as far as possible with straw still inside.  Begin sucking air out.  Once all the air is out continue sucking and remove your straw quickly and at the same time zip the bag the rest of the way.. WAHLAA!  Not you’ve sucked out all the air and your berries will freeze faster and will remain fresh longer.  Not oxygen in the environment means slower breakdown of sugars, and thus longer lasting berries.
  6. Label the bags with name and date and set in the freezer as flat as possible.  Use with in 6 months.

If you prefer to turn your blueberries into preserves, jams, jellies, compotes, or pie filling there are many, many, many recipes out there for you to try.  I’d say go for it.  I have my favorites that I will share next time.  For today though, ENJOY those berries.  Eat them up and turn them into something yummy.

Like this:

Wild Blueberry Cordial

  • 2 Quart size jars with lid and ring.  Preferably wide mouth ex. Ball, Mason, Kerr.
  • 2 -3 cups of wild blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 pints of Vodka, whichever type you prefer
  • 2 Cups of white sugar

Directions

    1. Combine blueberries and vodka in the quart jar.  Seal and set in a dark, cool place for 1 week.
    2. After 1 week, pour the mixture through a cheesecloth or a strainer.  Save the  blueberries.  Put the strained liquid, (blueberry-infused vodka)  into a clean and sterilized quart jar and seal.
    3.  Add the sugar to the blueberries.  Stir well and then put the blueberries into the other clean and sterilized quart jar, seal.
    4. Place both containers in a dark, cool place for 1 month.
    5. After about 3-4 weeks,  add the blueberry mixture and the blueberry-infused vodka together in a large sterilized bowl.  Strain the blueberries from the mixture and set aside. Pour the vodka-sugar mixture back into the 2 quart jars. Seal and allow to age in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months.
    6. Blueberries can be tossed out or reserved to be used in the manner you choose.
    7. Drink the cordial in cute little cordial glasses or if you’re like me, give it away to your adult friends and family for Christmas.

 

The Bounty in your own backyard!

Have you ever taken the time to walk around your yard and wonder what really might be there, to eat? Your probably thinking that this is a ridiculous question, that of course you haven’t. Maybe you should! Foraging for wild edibles has many benefits. Variety in diet, saves money on groceries, essential vitamins and minerals, among other things. Let’s go over some of the wonderful and exciting reasons to forage.

Variety in diet:

Many of us are tired of the same variety of fruits and vegetables that you can buy at the store. Mostly it is the same things trip after trip. Potatoes, lettuce, oranges, etc. Instead of plain old iceberg lettuce have you ever tried a spring mix? Notice the difference in texture, variety, and taste? Some of the “lettuce” in that spring mix can be found in your own backyard. Yes, seriously! Dandelion greens for example are a common staple in Spring Mixes. Dandelion greens are full of vitamins such as A, C, and K. They also have minerals. Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphorous to name a few. These “weeds” are full of nutritional value and add variety to diet.

Saves money on groceries:

Imagine the money that could be saved by foraging for your own wild greens in order to make a salad for dinner. It costs almost nothing! It does however take time, knowledge, and determination. Your backyard probably has Dandelion, Mallow, Purslane, Broadleaf Plantain and other wild greens. Taking the time to learn what these are is invaluable. Imagine picking, for free, a salad from your own backyard or neighborhood. The sense of accomplishment you get feels amazing!

Essential Vitamins and Minerals:

Foraging for food in the wild is an excellent and sustainable way to get your daily vitamins and minerals. Take for an example the dandelion greens discussed above. These greens are loaded with valuable nutrients. One cup of dandelion has 5588 IU of vitamin A. That is 112% of the daily value. There are 19.3 mg of vitamin C, that is 32% of the daily value. 428 mcg of vitamin K which is 535% of the daily value! Imagine how much you could save buying vitamins! Dandelions offer much more in nutritional value than 1 cup of chopped iceberg lettuce. Let us compare. Iceberg lettuce has 361 IU of Vitamin A, 7% of the daily value. 2.0 mcg vitamin C which is 3% of your daily value and 17.4mcg of Vitamin K, 22% DV. The comparison is spectacular. Which would you rather eat?

Foraging in your yard, community, county, can be very rewarding. Besides the nutritional benefits there are the health benefits. Being outdoors and exercising. Get moving and forage!

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