Thursday, December 29, 2016

Winter oyster mushroom identification tips for foragers, locavores and more! Easy winter foraging for wild food.

Identification difficulty: Novice

December 2016 saw an abundance of one of my favorite mushrooms: the winter oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus). I wasn't the only one finding abundant flushes, Instagram was filled with pictures from all over the country.

Winter oysters are one of the best edible mushrooms. They're frequently HUGE - I've found caps that are 9 inches across when fully mature, though 4 - 6 is more common. They have a super-dense, meaty texture, even more so than summer or store-bought oyster mushrooms. They make an exceptional vegan alternative to meat or seafood, especially when properly prepared. They are also great on the grill.

NOTE: there is another mushroom sometimes called the fall or winter oyster mushroom. It looks very similar to Pleurotus ostreatus, but it's actually totally different -- even in a different family. It's Latin name is Panellus serotinus, and it's edible too, but can be bitter, and requires a LOT of long, slooow cooking. It has a different stem and often a different color. Keep reading for more information.

While not exactly a beginner's mushroom, I personally consider the winter oyster mushroom to be a pretty straightforward identification, even for the novice. Summer oysters are actually harder to ID, because there are more similar looking species when it's warm. In just 5 simple steps, you too could be enjoying these tasty foraged mushrooms!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Deconstructed vegan sushi bowl with wild mushrooms. Gluten-freewildcrafted food. Foraging recipe.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays. With such an abundance of wild winter mushrooms in the woods this year, I feel like I've already unwrapped tons of presents. I've found nearly 10lbs of one of my favorites: Pleurotus ostreatus, aka the winter oyster mushroom! Oyster mushrooms are found in temperate regions, and even in the tropics, world-wide. They are fairly easy to identify, have medicinal qualities, and frequently fruit in abundance, making them a great wild food. And, of course, you don't have to forage for them, you can get them at almost any market!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Spicy, sour Sichuan wood ear mushroom salad. Vegan, foraged wild mushrooms

We are officially in the middle of December and Texas mushroom hunting is still going strong. . . though it's a little more complicated than it was in November. This week we saw temps in the 50s, with cold rain, then a drop to 34! Finally the week ended with a spell in the low 70s. I've been harvesting winter mushrooms: oysters, velvet foot, and wood ear like crazy. Most has been going into the dehydrator, but I've been enjoying stir fries, mushroom sauces, soups. . .and this amazing salad.

Wood ear mushrooms are a staple of Chinese cuisine, where they are appreciated not just as food, but as natural medicine. Western science has recently validated wood ear as effective against tumors, as an anti-coagulant, hypoglycemic, among others. Wood ear mushrooms are mild in flavor (they absorb whatever they are cooked in), and gelatinous and somewhat chewy in texture. Marinated wood ears are a popular cold appetizer in Sichuan (Schezwan) Chinese cuisine. They are spicy and sour, slightly sweet, and served with cilantro, chilies and bell peppers. The resulting dish is crisp (from the peppers), chewy (from the mushrooms), and refreshing (from the cilantro).

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Burdock and curly dock dip recipe, vegetarian, gluten-free. Like spinach and artichoke, with foraged, edible weeds.

This was so much yum. . . of course, with this much cheese, it would be hard not to be. Do you like spinach and artichoke dip? I'm going to assume yes; I mean it's delicious. This is my wild, foraged riff on spinach and artichoke dip! 

Did you know that artichokes are part of the thistle family? The part we eat is the flower bud, if left unpicked, it would turn into a huge, spiky, purple flower.

Burdock is a related plant from Asia, where the root is eaten not just for food, but for health. It's great for the liver and kidneys. Burdock has been introduced here in the US, where it's become invasive, like it's friend curly dock.

Despite the similar name, the two plants aren't related, they just look similar. You also use them differently: curly dock is about the leaves.

And curly dock, a tender and flavorful green, with a subtly sour note, is super abundant here in Texas now.

Prolific growth of tender, healthy curly dock

In honor of the coming together of two docks, I christen thee: Double Dock Dip!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Vegan shaggy mane summer rolls with spicy peanut sauce. Foraged, gluten-free wild mushroom recipe.

With my husband working on Thanksgiving, (he's a nurse), and my family all 6 states away, I decided to spend the whole day in the woods. I explored some new trails, got eaten alive by bugs, experienced the kind of natural beauty which refreshes my soul, and basically expressed thankfulness my own way.

I started to make my way back to my car about an hour before sundown, tired, dirty, and renewed. 

I'd found some more tasty curly dock, and medicinal Ganoderma mushrooms. . . But then I saw this ghost-like shape poking through the leaf litter. A shaggy mane.

Once I saw one I saw another, and another, and another. Having trained my eye, I started to see the little ones, mostly burried in the leaves. I used a stick to brush aside the fallen foliage, and I started to see the tender, flavorful babies.

Sorry no pics in the wild. I always find the most interesting things after my phone has died. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

How to dry turkey tail mushrooms for medicinal teas

Just a quick post today. Last weekend I came upon a large harvest of turkey tail mushrooms: Trametes versicolor (previously known as Coriolus versicolor). Through generally considered too tough to be edible, turkey tails are one of the most famous medicinal mushrooms.

Turkey tails are prized in Eastern medicine, where they are known as Yun Zhi (cloud fungus) in China, and Kawaratake (mushroom by the riverbank) in Japan.

In Asia, as early as the 50s, doctors and scientists noticed decreases tumor growth, and sometimes tumor shrinkage, in cancer patients who were drinking turkey tail tea. They also noticed improved immune systems and faster recovery from chemotherapy and radiation.

In the US, pre-clinical trials and stage 1 and 2 clinical trials have shown turkey tail to have positive immune-boosting effects for patients with breast, gastrointestinal, and respiratory cancers. In addition, they have isolated a compound which may help inhibit tumor growth. (Medical abstract here)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Florentine curly dock & ground beef pinwheels. Gluten free, keto, paleo optional

Curly dock is one of those plants which I historically categorized as being grossly overrated. Foragers go on and on about the succulent texture, the rich, slightly sour flavor, and the versatility. Meanwhile, I would turn my nose up at the bitterness, the stringiness, the coarseness, and the fact that it was a small, dirty plant, which frequented polluted areas. "No thanks!" I'd say, "None for me, I like my forage large, lush, full of flavor, no bitterness, and, above all, CLEAN!"

Well, then I moved to Texas and had to eat crow, because I discovered this:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Pumpkin spiced persimmon cocktails you must make this fall!

So a while back, I posted about the pumpkin spiced persimmon syrup that I made. The past few weeks I spent some time experimenting with cocktails, mostly classic recipes, but using my spicy, sweet, fruity syrup. Here are some of my favorites:

Ripening wild persimmons

Don't have wild, foraged persimmons? 
It's ok, I bet these drinks would taste awesome with store-bought fruit as well. 

Perfect for an after-work cocktail:

Spiced Persimmon Old Fashioned 

Spiced Persimmon Old Fashioned

For this drink, I used a local Texas mixed whiskey, Rebecca Creek. I think it's only available in Texas, maybe Oklahoma and Arkansas as well. 

It's a mixed whiskey, more than half corn, 21% rye, and wheat and barley in as well. I chose it, first because it's really really good, and second because I see Old Fashioned are made with either bourbon or rye, and this way I don't have to choose.

If you can't get your hands on a corn and rye whiskey, I'd use a bourbon, as I think the flavor will mix best with the spices and the persimmons.

Also, Rebecca Creek doesn't pay me or anything for the link, I just happen to like their product.

  1. Mix 1 tbs spiced persimmon syrup with 1.5 oz whiskey. 
  2. Add 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  3. Serve over ice. 
  4. Optional: garnish with an orange slice, a cherry, or both

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Quick mushroom fridge pickle recipe, with foraged ringless honey mushrooms. Vegan, gluten-free, paleo,

Quick and easy mushroom fridge pickles, with foraged ringless honey mushrooms. Gluten free, paleo foraging recipe from the ForagedFoodie.

Sour. Salty. Spicy. Dilly, and garlicky.

Is your mouth watering yet?
These are some of my favorite flavors, and they are loaded into these fast and easy wild mushroom fridge pickles.

What are fridge pickles? Basically, they are a veggie or mushroom soaked in vinegar and spices, in your fridge, till the food soaks up all the flavor (over about 48 hours) and becomes an excellent snack or condiment. Fridge pickles must be refrigerated (they aren't shelf-stable), as they are neither canned nor fermented, nor are they salty enough to salt-cure, and they keep for about 2-3 weeks. Because there is no canning involved, they come together quickly.

I made these will ringless honey mushrooms, Armillaria tabescens, (learn how to ID them here) but you can use other wild mushrooms, or even store-bought. The smaller the mushroom the better, as they will soak up the flavor faster!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The ringless honey mushroom: Armillaria tabescens

Identification of the ringless honey mushroom, Armillaria tabescens, is not for beginners. This edible wild mushroom is excellent for foraging, but take care to follow all the advice for identification. #ForagedFoodie #armillariatabescens #armillaria #honeymushrooms

Warning: this is NOT A BEGINNER's mushroom. 

This mushroom cannot be positively identified by observing features alone, a spore print must be done for positive identification. This mushroom has many lookalikes, some of which are deadly, others will make you very sick. Use the following tips as a guideline only, but confirm your identification with other reliable sources and a trusted local expert.   

As always, it's your responsibility to make sure you are 100% sure of any wild plant or mushroom you consume.  

Finally, even when properly ID-d, ringless honeys are notorious for giving some people ACUTE GI problems. Always try a very small amount, like a single cap, for the fist time, then a small portion (3-4), before you consume a whole meal's worth.

Identification difficulty level: Intermediate 

Armillaria tabescens, commonly known as the ringless honey mushroom, is one of the most prolific edible wild mushrooms of early fall, at least some years. When they fruit, I find I can't go anywhere without tripping over hundreds of patches, still other years I won't see a single one.

Please read carefully all content below. Each step, including location and substrate, is essential to identification of this fungus. Wherever possible, I have tried to illustrate every single feature with a photograph, or two.

I chose to write this article because a blog post can show many, many more pictures than a book can, allowing me to really illustrate more features.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Update: identification for beginners, novice and intermediate

Hey all, just a quick update. In general I try to keep all my identification posts geared towards plants and mushrooms that a beginner or novice can identify. But I've recently decided to start adding intermediate content as well.

As such, I've developed a new labeling system, and will tag each identification post with either "for beginner" , "for novice" or "for intermediate".

Sunday, October 30, 2016

My first time trying foraged ginkgo nuts: from identification, to eating, and preservation

When we first moved into our new home, last October, I was excited to see a ginkgo tree in the front yard. There was a handful of fruit on the ground, letting me know the tree was female (ginkgo are deciduous, and only females produce fruit). I sat back and waited for more fruit to fall.

Sadly, last year we only got about 10-12 fruits. I researched this, and learned that when a tree produces very few fruit it generally means it's in very bad shape, and most likely going to die. I suspect that the 7 year drought Texas had just been through was to blame.

This year, we had rain again, and we really baby-d the tree: pruning dead branches, extra watering, etc. She seems to have made a full recovery, as the ground this fall has been completely covered in fruit every single week!

Identification difficulty level: Beginner

Special warning: do not handle gingko fruit, especially broken fruit, with your bare hands. If you come in contact with it, wash thoroughly. People with blood clotting problems, bleeding disorders, or prone to heavy bruising shouldn't take ginkgo in any form. Nor should those who are have had seizures, pregnant women, and anyone who will be going in for surgery.  Raw ginkgo nuts are dangerous, and toxic to many. The fruit and the raw nut should not be eaten. More on all this and how to safely harvest and prepare, further on.

This is what falls every week, on ONE side of the tree! Even more must fall into the bushes or our driveway.

Ginkgo quick history & medicinal uses

Ginkgo biloba (full name), also known as the maidenhair tree, duck feet tree, silver apricot, silver almond, white nut or silver fruit, is a living fossil, the last member of it's family. Ginkgo itself would most likely be extinct as well, if it hadn't been preserved through the ice age by ancient Chinese priests who considered it holy. They grew ginkgo in their temples, and still do today. Ginkgo is very long-lived and hardy, some of the temple trees are several thousand years old, and still other ginkgo trees survived the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Avgolemeno recipe (Greek-style chicken & lemon soup) with foraged purslane. Gluten-free, low-carb, paleo

A quick jaunt around the neighborhood yielded quite a basket full of purslane, and some wood sorrel. Both plants contain oxalic acid, with a bright, lemony flavor. I decided to try adding the weeds to a Greek Avgolemeno, a chicken soup with lemon, eggs and fresh veggies.

Given that purslane also has a mucilaginous (thickening) quality, I decided to bypass the rice that's usually added to the soup, and make it 100% gluten-free and paleo. It was a great lunch, and I have plenty to bring to work for healthy lunches throughout the week!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Super cheesy, scalloped wild mushrooms with leeks. Vegetation, low carb side dish, gluten-free optional

The best way to keep a massive haul of most kinds of mushrooms is to dry them. Drying is optimal for the boletes, chanterelles and other vase-type mushrooms, morels, lactarius, oysters, jelly fungi, and pretty much any gilled mushroom. I've even had good luck with the small puffballs, though I've never tried it with the large ones. The only group that drying isn't ideal for is the polypores.

And so it was with the mushrooms I used to make this dish. I found a long-lost container of wine-cap mushrooms (Stropharia rugosoannulata) in the back of the pantry. I believe these are from the batch we harvested in spring of 2014, which was from a truly epic flush of mushrooms.

Don't have wild foraged wine-cap 'shrooms? That's ok! Try this dish with store-bought cremini or portobello mushrooms.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Tofu stuffed with pork and foraged wild mushrooms. Gluten-free optional.

These adorable little cubes of steamed tofu are my riff on a traditional Hakka Chinese dish, where they are traditionally stuffed with pork and salt-cured fish. I can never really get into salt-cured fish, so I've substituted foraged mushrooms.

Hakka cuisine isn't well represented in the US, but the Hakka people are one of the important ethnic groups in China. They also have an international presence, primarily in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and some of their food has melded into those cultures. So when you have Taiwanese cuisine in the US, it may have Hakka origins or influences.

This dish can be made with nearly any wild, foraged mushroom, but for preference, I'd use hen of the woods, any of the Agaricus, wine-caps, or dryad's saddle.

Using store-bought mushrooms? I recommend mushrooms traditionally used in Asian cuisine: shiitake, enoki, or hen of the woods. 

White button mushrooms or cremini would also be good.

Also note, this dish can easily be made vegan, remove the pork, and triple the amount of mushrooms. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pumpkin spiced wild persimmon syrup for cocktails, baking & dessert. Vegan, gluten-free, paleo optional and foraged.

We all know the old joke: "If you say Pumpkin Spice Latte" into a mirror
three times, a suburban girl in yoga pants will appear and tell you her three favorite things about fall.

Well, I don't wear yoga pants. But. . .it's not far off. I actually don't even DRINK coffee, except when it's a pumpkin spice latte during the fall.  I love that warm flavor of sugar, spice and everything nice. So I couldn't help but wonder what else I could use it with. Persimmons, another fall-only fruit, with a sweet/tart flavor, seemed like it would be the perfect pairing.

It came out really amazing. My husband took one taste and said, "It tastes like the holidays".

It's also really, really easy to mix up a batch, and can be used in cocktails, desserts, baking and more. The base recipe is vegan and gluten-free, and can be made with non-foraged (aka store-bought) persimmons, if you can't find wild ones by you. There's even a Paleo option!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Foraging: identifying and sustainably harvesting wild Virginian (American) persimmons


So last September, I think on Labor Day weekend, I went out for a forage, and I found wild persimmons, Diospyros virginiana. They were hard as rocks, and quite unripe, so I looked them up and figured they'd be ready to go in November. So I waited, came back in November, and the trees were completely bare. 

This Labor Day weekend, I went out again, and found them to be just starting to ripen. So what the season for these guys is, I don't quite know yet. 

I do know that I got my first taste of wild Virginian (or American) persimmon, and it was amazing. They taste so much better than the cultivated varieties, which have always been bland and rather chalky to me. These are sweet, mellow and with subtle tropical flavors: guava, mango, peach and banana, maybe. They're hard to describe. 

These are actually somewhat underripe, and leave a tang on the tongue. I'll be harvesting more this coming weekend, and see if that astringency goes away. Still they are very very tasty. 

But if you're in North Texas, they are coming into season for you right now, so I'll show you what to look for.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Making spore prints for wild mushroom identification, crafts, and science fun!

Hallo! So I ran a survey about 6 months ago, and I'm really really happy with the number of responses I got. To anyone who took it, thank you very much, I really appreciate the time you  put into helping me generate valuable content.

So the overwhelming thing people wanted to hear about was plant and mushroom identification. Another thing I got a lot of calls for were content more geared towards beginner and novice foragers.

One of the most foundational identification tools you'll need for wild mushrooms is knowing how to do a spore print.

What is a spore print?

All mushrooms reproduce with spores. Spores can be considered to be like seeds, except they are tiny--individually invisible to the naked eye. (There are other differences as well, but they aren't really relevant to foraging).

Though we can't see individual spores, they do have a color, and when a lot of them are together, the masses of spores form patches of color, which can be seen with your eye. Sometimes these colors are distinctive, and are a necessary tool to help positively identify one mushroom from another.

Many mushrooms look similar, but have different colored spores, so discovering the colors of the spores is the key to differentiating the species. For example, edible Blewits look similar to potentially deadly Cortinarius, but Blewits have a salmon pink spore print, and Cortinarius have a rusty brown one.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Foraged purslane Okonomiyaki. Japanese "pizza" from invasive weeds. Vegetarian optional.

The rain finally came to Texas, and broke the breeze-less 100+ degree heat. With that kind of weather, I hadn't been seeing many edible wild plants, except for heat-loving purslane. Even purslane needs water though, and the plants were wilted, shrunken, and unappetizing.

All that changed with the rain. The purslane fleshed out, becoming plump and succulent. As I've mentioned before, up north I always found purslane in really gross locations--like the parking lot behind and auto repair shop. I never found "clean" plants in great abundance, not enough to run real culinary experiments with.

So I was really excited to finally have enough purslane to try some new dishes. This is my first one: an okonomiyaki, a Japanese street food. Okonomiyaki is sometimes called "Japanese Pizza" because, like pizza in America, it's a popular snack and quick meal food which can be customized with a wide variety of toppings.
My vegetarian okonomiyaki, with king oyster mushrooms

"Normal" okonomiyaki is made from cabbage, and uses a special flour, which has been thickened with rice or yam. It also contains seasonings, including dashi (made from fermented fish). I've never actually used that flour, I've just experimented with changing proportions to get the right thickness, and with spices commonly found in an American home.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Foraged spring soup: greenbriar and potato

Happy Mother's Day! In the spirit of the day, here is a wildcrafted dish that would be perfect with brunch! And it comes together quickly, so you and mom can spend the morning together in the woods, and whip this up when you get back.

You know how spring greens just seem to pair naturally with potatoes? I think it's because, at the end of a hard winter, our ancestors would only have root vegetables left, and they would be eager to mix them up with those sweet, fresh, first greens of spring. In addition to much needed variety and nutrition, wild greens would have given our forefathers a food source when they most needed it: when their own reserves were spent from the winter, but when planted crops hadn't yet begun to produce.

So I made this dish with that heritage in mind.

Leaving the skin on the potatoes increases the nutrition. To keep the dish vegan, but to add some meatiness, I think a garnish of sautéed mushrooms would really complete this soup well. Next time!

I have to be honest, I did not expect this soup to turn out THIS well! The greenbriar has an excellent leek-like taste, especially with the additional onions. Plus something about the flavor really reminds me of dill, which goes so well with the potatoes.