You’ll not find these beauties in the market. They grow in the shade of old red alder trees. They aren’t harvested like their blue siblings. They produce scattered bright red gems that birds love. The berries are tart and bright. It’s hard to gather enough for pie, but stepping outside to pick a handful for my breakfast or for a delightful snack is to accept gifts from the divine. And I am grateful.
We are experiencing an abundance of mushrooms! Everywhere I look, shrooms are looking there phallic little heads from under the carpet of wet leaves; or springing from stumps; or decaying beautifully along paths.
Are we a bit concerned that honey mushrooms, a parasitic species, are everywhere we look? Yes. But we’ll take that concern with a little salt and sautee it in bacon fat for our Sunday stew. (Honey Mushroom and Chickpea Stew with Cabbage, recipe follows.)
Spider Spring is a spongy little corner of the Oregon Coastal Range. And each time it rains, layers of mycelium blossom into strange and beautiful, occasionally yummy, fungi.
Honey Mushroom Chickpea Stew
Cut one or two pieces of bacon into a hot stew pot. When it behind to render fat, throw in mushrooms (stems removed, caps brushed and gills cleaned of all needles and soil). Cook until mushrooms release moisture and the moisture is evaporated. Add chopped onions. Cook until soft. Add fresh fennel and cumin seeds. Add 4 cloves or so of chopped garlic and a chopped jalapeno. When garlic and herbs become super fragrant, pour in a quart of broth (chicken or mushroom). Simmer for 25 minutes.
Add a quart of water and soaked chickpeas (1 1/2 cup, dried) to the soffritto. Cook for 2 hours. Add 1/2 pound bacon (Irish or Canadian). Cook for 1 hour more. Add a small head of cabbage (or less) and cook for 1 more hour. Taste, correct seasonings. Eat it up! Yum.
The rains have begun and Nathan is sick, so the weekend is all about hearth and home. That means Saturday baking and a Sunday all-day stew. All day, that is, after the cruise to the beach for a fancy breakfast and stops at Rockfish Bakery, Trillium Natural Foods and Bob’s Books.
Friday, we had one of our favorites, Dippy Food Dinner. This meal includes olives, pickles, cheese, bread, fruit, hummus (or other dippy dip), olive oil/balsamic vinegar/sea salt (“eyeball”), and most importantly, a nice, tasty bottle of bubbly wine, usually Cava, because it’s good! (And Nathan doesn’t complain, because it’s always under $15!)
Saturday, we baked Angel Biscuits and cooked up some brown rice and a salmon fillet and feasted on it over a bed of arugula. We caught up on old episodes of Luther and the week’s Daily Shows and Colbert Reports, roasted coffee and played games. We even smoked the leftover salmon… indoors! In the cast iron bean pot!
early so the dressing had time to soak in. Rockfish’s perfect, chewy, crusty ciabatta loaf went perfectly. The whole day was infused with this amazing smell of bubbling stew.
In defense of illness, we drank bottomless pots of tea, ate delicious, healthy food, kept a cozy fire and laughed at each other’s jokes.
Stem and rip up enough kale to fill your favorite salad bowl. Add 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds. Drizzle with dressing: olive oil, tamari sauce, maple syrup and fresh minced garlic, maybe a squeeze of lemon. Let sit until crazy delicious.
Brown lamb shank(s). Remove from pan. Cooked diced onion, celery and carrots in lamb fat. Add minced garlic. When the whole room smells of cooking garlic, add chicken broth and simmer for a few. Add shank(s), fill with water. Add 1/2 cup dried flagolet beans. Let stew for 3-4 hours. Add potatoes. Stew for another hour. Enjoy all week!
Put a package of yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a teaspoon of honey. Sift together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in 3 tablespoons butter. When it looks like cornmeal, add 1/2 cup milk to the yeast mixture and toss into flour mixture. Knead lightly, roll out about 1/3″ thick. Cut round shapes with the mouth of a drinking glass. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise for an hour. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Cool on baking rack.
Heat a cast iron pan until very hot. Slip in salmon, skin side down. Cook until crispy. If the fillet is more than 1/2″ thick, put into oven to finish cooking. It is done when a fork inserted meets with no resistance. Do not over cook. Serve skin side up.
The Deer (or fawn) Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus, grows on wood and looks a little like polished wood grain.
It is edible! We haven’t tried them yet, so I’ll update when we do. It does looks just like its poisonous relative that grows from the ground, so we will only sample ones that are obviously growing on wood. On Spider Spring they are growing in clumps on an old vine maple stump.
As the name implies, deer love them. But that’s not why it’s called the Deer Mushroom. The creamy white gills have antlers! They have special cells that grow out and split. The spore print is pinkish or peachy colored, so the gills become pink with age. Deer Mushrooms are beautiful. Even if they weren’t food, I’d feel lucky to have them growing on our property.
The Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum) is a parasite. It needs a host, usually Russula or Lactarius. It covers the host with pimply, orange (orange-red, purple-red, sometimes yellow-red) tissue. It transforms the host mushroom into a firm, thick-gilled fungus.
We found this one, enveloping a Russula brevipes (short-stemmed Russula) along the Drift Creek Falls Trail last weekend. After looking up the Russula, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for it. Not because it had a parasite, but because it is much hated.
The broad cap pushes up the duff in a way that makes Bolete-lovers salivate. When they lift the needles and leaves to find a plain old, not-so-yummy Russula, their disappointment leads them to label the poor little brevipes “mundane”, “tedious”, even “vulgar”.
I found the common mushrooms beautiful with creamy gills and dirty, broad convex cap and curled under margins. They were fun to discover poking up from under the fir needles. But they were dazzling in their red Hypomyces lactifluorum armor. Delicious, too.
I get just about all my information about species and identification from Mushrooms Demystified (Arora, 1979). General mushroom knowledge from Mycelium Running (Stamets, 2005).