in the wild

Lactarius indigo – YAY!!!

Lactarius indigo, the blue milk mushroom

Highlight of the season, found in the Hudson Valley on September 28th. It’s Lactarius indigo, aka blue milk mushroom.

I’m spoiled. Simple fact. Being married to a whiz-bang mushroom hunter/expert mycologist, I get a lot of morels,  chanterelles  and porcini, to say nothing of sulfur shelf hen of the woods and other well-known wild delights. All are  deeply welcome, don’t get me wrong. But at this point in my mushroom career they aren’t thrillingly special.

Lactarius indigo, on the other hand, is an edible miracle so seldom found that when I run into them I just about fall on my knees and weep. It doesn’t seem fair that a single mushroom could be both mind-bendingly gorgeous and outstandingly delicious, but there you are. Life isn’t fair.

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A Robin’s Nest and a Red Eft

Yesterday, Bill and I were out at the edge of the yard, between one of our big rhododendrons and our neighbor’s shed, rushing through a pushback against said neighbor’s ever-invading kerria. Wham, slam, whack at the long, pliable canes of the wretched thing and then as I parted the next clump – EEK! – right in the middle, a nest. Four beautiful robins’ egg blue blue eggs.

Something like this happens at least once every year. Last time around, my reminder to clean up in a more mindful way was comfortably nestled in a chunk of rotten firewood. I had the chunk in my hand, all ready to pick up and pitch into the weeds. Just happened to turn it over, and there was

eastern newt, Notophthalmus viridescens

An Eastern (aka Red-spotted) Newt, Notophthalmus viridescens

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Eric’s Pet Plant: Lupine (Lupinus species)

Being a Maine person, I have a particular interest in lupines, which will be discussed at the end of the post. First, however, the word from Eric, who not surprisingly is fond of them even though he lives in Connecticut. He’s having an open house this weekend, btw, scroll on down for the invitation.

clump of blue cultivated (Russell) lupines

The spikes of multiple flowers are wonderful in the vase, but also a great show in the garden. Used as a focal point in the perennial bed, as a Derby Day sentinel at the gate to the terrace or in the cutting garden, you can’t go wrong with a good thrifty clump of lupines.

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Preparing Ramps: The Raw, The Cooked, and the Recipe for Total Ramp Tart

open faced ramp tart

Total Ramp tart. Similar to quiche, but with with less custard, more ramp (and crisper crust).

Having recently worried around at the ethical questions attendant on promoting wild foods to all and sundry,  I offer this post with mixed emotions.

On the one hand, Have Ramps Will Cook. We are lucky enough to have access to several large patches; the spirit of experiment springs eternal and besides, people have been asking.

On the other hand, providing recipes is – I hope! – an invitation to use those recipes, so there we are with the ethics again, along with  another reservation,

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To Find Ramps

Or not to find ramps – that is the question. More accurately, since simply finding them is fine, should one or should one not harvest them and if the answer is “Yes, they’re delicious!” at what point, if any, does the answer become “No, they’re endangered!” or again more accurately (and the reason for all this dithering), “No, they’re in danger of becoming endangered if people keep picking them at the current rate.

(Allium triquitum) ramps, growing in the woods

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) at home in typical habitat

We regularly hunt for and pick them, trying to be responsible about it. We frequently  cook and eat them  in season, trying not to be too piggy about it. And I, at least, have two sub-questions:

  1. Is the worry about over-harvesting* justified? And
  2. Is it possible to formulate a general rule for the ethical enjoyment of foraged wild foods?

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Autumn Soup: Winter Squash, Chestnut and (Wild) Mushroom

autumn soup (chestnut, wild mushroomand winter squash)

late autumn color, late autumn flavor: winter squash, chestnuts and wild mushrooms

Must say I do love a soup that tastes rich and creamy without being heavy – or containing cream. Also nice if it doesn’t require an arsenal of seasonings and is easy and quick to make.

The quick part does assume the squash is already baked, and that you know speedy ways to peel chestnuts, but why not? *

As usual, the ingredient list is pretty much the whole recipe, but given that the beauty shot of the main ingredients promised something a bit more extensive, here’s a rough outline, based on the most recent iteration.

“Rough” and “most recent” are definitely the words for it; this is one of those home style soups that’s infinitely variable.

In other words, almost impossible to screw up.

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Autumn Soup Ingredients: chestnuts, wild mushrooms, winter squash

chestnuts,wild mushrooms, winter squash

Ingredients for autumn soup: chestnuts from a farmers market, Lactarius thyinos (no common name), hen of the woods, Queen of Smyrna squash

I took this picture to run with the recipe – not yet written – because I was about to roast the squash and chestnuts, making them less photogenic.

But then I realized the picture itself is a massive seasonal alert. So:

Bill’s detailed hen of the woods hunting advice is here.

The post where I roll all over in delight about the squash, after a timely reminder that the window of specialty squashes is both small and right now, is here.

And really a lot about roasting and peeling chestnuts is here.

Further refinements:

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Hunting Wild Mushrooms – Porcini, Chanterelles, Lobsters and More


craterellus-cantharellus-tubaeformis=C. infundibulaformis

I probably should have titled this “Harvesting Wild Mushrooms;” there are all kinds of them just about everywhere (or at least everywhere in the Northeast). Our vegetable gardens may be soggy – even without Irene this has been a mighty rainy summer – but in the silver lining department there’s a bumper crop in the woods and fields.

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Fried Morels

morel mushrooms (morchella esculenta)

Not sure if I’m bragging or confessing; but either way we did pretty well morelling this year, at the expense of working on the new evergreen garden, up-potting the last batch of tomato seedlings, giving the raspberries their second weeding…

Morels Part 1: The All American Fried Morel Experiment

morels fried in assorted coatings

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Home Harvested Sweetness, First Installment

bee on purple crucus

Where there are shoots, there will soon be flowers. Also bees.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed with imminent spring. It’s just so inspiring to see those fleets of tender crocus shoots pushing up; so inspiring ( in a slightly different way) to see those fleets of last autumn’s canned goods still lining the shelves.

Haven’t started raking yet, but I have been making Honey Bars, playing around with assorted vintages, pairing the perfumes of the honeys with different nuts: floral with hazelnuts, herbal with pecans, smoky with black walnuts.

That’s the thing about keeping bees:  if you get any honey at all, you generally get a lot, so even though last year was a total bust we’re in no danger of running out.

The thing that’s in danger is the bees. And as Bill points out in this guest post, the first wave of threats is already pawing away at the doorstep.

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