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.