Monday, May 31, 2021

How to identify cinnabar chanterelles - edible mushrooms

Identification difficulty: Novice

Cinnabar chanterelles / red chanterelles, Cantharellus cinnabarinus, are an often overlooked member of the Chanterelle family. 

Though smaller and slightly less delectable than their larger, more famous cousins, cinnabar chants are certainly edible, and quite delicious in their own way. 

A fairy ring of cinnabar chanterelles in the Piney Woods of East Texas

Most blogs and even professional foraging books group cinnabar chants with the larger, yellow chanterelles, and treat them as an afterthought. This is problematic, as the cinnabar chanterelle has a wider range of look-a-like species, and if you simply use the information for regular chanterelle look-a-likes, you could find yourself eating a potentially harmful species. 

I'm going to try and prevent that confusion with this post. 

As a side note, I've been wanting to do a post on chanterelle and cinnabar chanterelle identification for some time. Cinnabar chants were one of the mushrooms we found most abundantly in the greater New York area.  However, at the time I couldn't afford a smart phone or quality digital camera to be able to take the kinds of detailed pics I feel are essential for identification of these species. 

And since moving to Texas, where higher salaries and lower cost of living have overall improved our quality of life, I've been unable to find these guys, until a trip to the Piney Woods of East Texas.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Vegetarian Mock Fried Clams with Oyster Mushrooms

Snowmageddon 2021 has passed through Texas, leaving many without power, water or heat, or others with frozen and broken pipes. 

I thank everyone who has reached out to inquire as to our safety, it means so very much. 

We are quite well, and very lucky. We never lost power, though we only just got our internet back. We did have the pool and some pipes freeze, as our temperatures inside the house dropped below 50. Apparently our gas meter's regulator was not set for that kind of prolonged cold, but the gas company did come out and get it tweaked for us to the point were it could keep up. 

Our street was never plowed, nor were neighboring streets, throughout the entirety of the situation. We hadn't really hit up the grocery stores (which were packed and sold out) before the snow started, as honestly, we didn't think it would be that bad. So we have been making do with what's in the pantry for the past week. 

Before I get into the post, I wanted to again thank all my readers who continually reach out even through my long disappearances. I'm back because of you. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Ukrainian green borscht with backyard curly dock weeds

So, as you can see, I'm not terribly good about updating my blog. 

That said, I have been out foraging, just not feeling like posting, trying new things, or communicating with the outside world. That happens with me.

So I did try something new this weekend: Ukrainian green borscht. Properly known as Shchavel borscht, it gets its name from Shchavel, the Ukrainian word for sorrel. 

Garden sorrel, Latin name: Rumex acetosa, is a garden vegetable grown mostly in Europe and the Mediterranean area--though it was popular in one time in America. Sorrel is a broad-leaf green rich with potassium, vitamin A and oxalic acid*. The latter gives it a sharp, sour flavor. 

Sorrel is popular, in part, because it's very easy to grow. The entire genus Rumex are known to grow in poor soil, both dry and we conditions, alkaline and acidic areas, and sun or shade. They are hardy plants that don't require much care. They are so hardy that one member, Rumex crispus--aka curly dock--has managed to naturalize itself throughout most of North America, having become a common weed. You almost certainly have some growing near you.

Curly dock in January in Texas is still very young and tender. These leaves are about 8 inches long,
at full growth they will be nearly double that. 

Generally a spring and summer plant, the mild climate of Texas means that curly dock can be found in the Dallas area from late fall through early spring, with December through March being peak.

Curly dock has many of the health benefits of garden sorrel, as well as being rich in iron. It's easy to identify in the wild, and was probably brought here originally as a food crop--but fell out of favor. 

I usually used curly dock as a substitute for spinach, but it actually makes a lot more sense to substitute it for sorrel, since they are very closely related, in the same genus. Spinach recipes are a lot easier to come by, but I was very excited to find a true sorrel recipe I could sub curly dock for. 

When very young, curly dock can lack the crinkled edges that make ID easy. If you are new to foraging you might want to remember the old saying: "When in doubt, throw it out!"

Monday, October 8, 2018

Mushroom identification: the pigskin poison puffball or earthball

This rotund little mushroom is Scleroderma citrinum, commonly known as the pigskin poison puffball (from here on referred to as PPP).

Pigskin poison puffballs live near the bases or exposed roots of trees, especially oak, maple and conifers. 

PPPs are a very common mycorrhizal species, usually found at the bases of older trees (though sometimes young trees can have them as well), and often among exposed roots. (Mycorrhizal means they have a symbiotic relationship with plants, in this case trees).

As a child, this was my favorite mushroom. In late September and early October I would run around the neighborhood oaks and give each PPP I found a tentatively gentle squeeze. If it felt ready--less firm and slightly squishy--I would stand up, back off, and run two or three steps to jump on the mushroom as hard as I could, so that it would truly explode in a cloud of spores.