in the wild

In Kitchen and Garden in 2011

There will be trees and flowers and food and garden design and some eeks of the week and a great deal more. But as it happens we are starting out with the wild mushrooms that appear here so frequently, because, as Bill said yesterday,

“ A January Thaw: What could be nicer? Today at noon it was 56 F on our front porch.The sun was shining, our  bees were out for their first cleansing flights of the winter, the odd songbird or two could be heard rehearsing spring calls, and on our new year’s walk this shining bit of cheer and promise: ”

Phyllotopsis nidulans, orange mock oyster

No, they’re not edible; just a reminder that there’s always something growing (and always something to share).

Cookies in the Kitchen, Wild Mushrooms in the Woods

I’m having the usual veteran cookie baker’s dilemma: too many tempting new recipes vying with too many old favorites (we will not speak about too little time or too few pairs of roomy pants).

pepparkakor gingerbread cookies

Roll and cut Pepparkakor, the quintessential Solstice gingerbread cookie (animals, birds and stars belong to everyone, regardless of religion or lack of same.)

To cope this year, I’m going to try a 180 from the time honored “one dough, many  cookies” strategy. As soon as I get this posted I’m going to shrink the list and use the dough for spicy walnut ginger fingers to make the fancy cut out shapes necessary to a proper assortment. They’re only a distant cousin of pepparkakor , but under the circumstances I’ve decided they’re close enough.

Bill, meanwhile, has none of these problems. He just keeps going out mushrooming and will with luck bring home winter oysters, about which ( and a few others) he has written another guest post

oyster mushroom , pleurotus ostreatus

The delicious Winter Oyster Mushroom can withstand repeated freezing and thawing cycles and can be found through the Fall, Winter, and Spring in the Hudson Valley of New York.

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Obama’s Apple Bowl – and The Apples All Around Us

apples: winesap top, stayman botom, pink lady right

Dear Mr. President, how about these? (Clockwise from top: Winesap, Pink Lady, Stayman

The President’s office has had the requisite makeover, pictures in the NY Post, story in the NY Times, reviews galore all over the net. Expect I’m not alone in agreeing with just about all of them, including both the snarky –  it looks like a business hotel; the rug is a tad obvious – and the sympathetic: it looks restrained and comfortable and anyway he can’t do anything too stylish when there’s a recession on.

He also can’t do anything even remotely interesting or he’ll just exacerbate the out-of-touch-with-regular-folks problem. But that’s neither here nor there. What I want to know is “what kind of apples are in that bowl of same gracing (if that’s the word) the jazzy new coffee table?”

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Black Trumpets (Craterellus fallax) – Pizza, Mushroom Brie and more

craterellus fallax wild mushrooms

Bill, being an honest and trusting soul, set up this photo without remembering that people have been known to stuff baskets with filler and put a layer of mushrooms on top. So just for the record that IS four pounds and nine and three-eighths ounces of black trumpets and the only reason it isn’t more is that we left the littler ones to grow larger for later.

Now what?

brie with black trumpet mushrooms

Trumpet brie is one of the easiest, tastiest things to do with black trumpets and you don’t need many, either

pizza with black trumpet mushrooms

Trumpet and caramelized onion pizza is also quick and delicious.

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Maine Crab and Lobster (Mushroom) Cakes – with Cilantro Nectarine Mayonnaise

crab cake with lobster mushroom

Maine crab and lobster mushrooms inside that crunchy crust

At the risk of jinxing things I have to say this is shaping up as a boffo mushroom year (in Midcoast Maine, anyway.) We haven’t had much chance to go out, but when we do we are finding things, including lobster mushrooms, which seem to be unusually abundant.

I am of the school that feels they get their name from their brilliant color. To me, the flavor is meaty, not fishy. But others claim they also taste faintly crustaceanlike. This isn’t as farfetched as it sounds; mushroom cell walls are primarily composed of chitin, the same material that makes crab and lobster shells.

Either way, they have a great affinity for Maine crabmeat, one of the world’s greatest seafoods.

cut crab and lobster mushroom cake

Those bright red bits are the mushroom

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Summer Mushroom Season Starting – Chanterelles Coming Soon

Just by chance, our first summer foray was yesterday, when Bill went scouting and I tagged along, even though I was pretty sure we wouldn’t find much. (No rain for a while now and it’s up around 90 every day.)

Bill didn’t expect much either, but he doesn’t need much; one obscure little poisonous tidbit he hasn’t photographed yet is enough to make his day.

We were right, there wasn’t much – if you don’t count the mosquitoes and one huge honking Boletus bicolor.

Boletus bicolor in ferns

Bill with a Boletus bicolor that’s on the big side for a solo specimen

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Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) up close

Hyla versicolor, grey tree frog

Gray Treefrog, Hyla versicolor

Last night as I head back in from performing right-before-bed cutworm reconnaissance, there on the porch is what looks like a wad of leaves. Bend down to pick it up and no – it’s a little black and white toad. Bend down farther. It doesn’t move. Touch it gently. Completely still. Did I God forbid step on it when I was going out?

Nope, it’s just cold. The next time my warm hand hovers near it manages a sluggish hop.

By morning it has moved to the drainpipe and I have looked it up. Even though it’s notably bumpy and almost 2 inches long, it isn’t a toad. It’s a very large – as these things go – Gray Treefrog, Hyla versicolor, and it’s black and white because it’s sitting on the weathered cedar boards of the porch.

hyla versicolor grey tree frog grey form

I rotated the other picture so you could see him/her more clearly. Here’s the actual orientation. The porch is the same color as the wall on the left.

grey treefrog, green form, hyla versicolor

Gray Treefrog caught last summer on a hollyhock leaf; they don’t call ‘em versicolor for nothin’.

Ramp Recipes

The season is brief. Ramps are increasingly endangered and so to be enjoyed in mindful moderation. Generally, the only recipe you need is “sauté in butter; eat (with or without eggs and/or pasta or  toast points and maybe some ricotta).”

Or you can coat them with olive oil and put them on the grill.  But Bill has found several patches so vast that even very modest gathering has put us in ramp heaven.

spring vegetables: ramps, asparagus and herbs

Must be spring - but not for much longer

And as we are also swimming in asparagus, winecaps and morels

I have now made Pasta with Asparagus and Ramp Hollandaise; Ramp-wrapped Meatloaf; Ramp, Winecap and Ricotta Stuffed Ramp-Wrapped Sole and some quite spiffy Roasted Ramps with Morels and New Potatoes.

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Lambsquarter, Lamb’s Quarter, Chenopodium – Delicious whatever you call it

lambs quarter( chenopodium album)

Forager Bill meets Gardener Bill in this post about about lambsquarter, one of the all-time great greens. It tastes wonderful (like a cross between asparagus and spinach);  it’s easy to prepare and cook;  it’s good for you – the usual dark green “high in vitamins and minerals, low in calories”  – and as a major bonus, it not only plants itself, it starts so early and grows so fast that you can harvest multiple crops and still have time to  plant tomatoes, corn, squash, beans or whatever in the very same ground.

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Growing Wild Mushrooms in your Garden – Winecaps Rule!

winecap mushroom stropharia rugosoannulata

Pioneer Winecap mushroom at lower left. They'll come up thickly in this area for the next 6 weeks or so - then keep coming sporadically through summer and fall, if conditions are right.

Winecaps (Stropharia rugosoannulata) are among the tastiest wild mushrooms: firm and meaty, with a taste of the nutty/smoky quality that makes porcini so special. They’re also large, easy to clean and almost as easy to grow as potatoes. Bill wrote a complete how-to last year.

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