BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘foraging

Myopic about Mushrooms

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It looked like a Bolete (porcini), it smelled like a Bolete, but I’m not expert enough to be certain so I won’t eat it. There’s too much potential for error given the 100-some Boletes out there. Black trumpets, however, I can confidently identify. NOTE to readers: I can’t identify this mushroom. CONSULT AN EXPERT BEFORE CONSUMING. Thought I found Chanterelles too, but they were smaller than ones from Pacific Northwest. I’ve lost my confidence.

I’ve decided wild mushroom foraging will be the new foodie thing I throw myself into here in Maine. Many species seem to thrive in the damp, pine needle-carpeted forests here, and I’m eager to learn more about them. I’ve got black trumpets down. They’re easy to identify as long as you keep looking down, as “Mushroom Maineiac” David Spahr advises. Here, they spring up next to green moss and bright pine seedings.

We just settled on truffled eggs with the few black trumpets I found. My Dad is a master in the kitchen! He swears by the more affordable white truffle oil from Micucci’s in Portland.

Now, I’m in hot pursuit on a hike. I understand how hunters and fisherman feel. Even if you have to throw your catch back, there’s still the thrill of that “aha!” moment of discovery. I had that in the woods yesterday, chancing upon what I thought were small Chanterelles and a big Bolete that sure looks like a Porcini. We consulted friends and David Spahr’s book. I had been inspired by a display at this weekend’s MOFGA Common Ground Fair. In some ways, the more I read, the more pictures I viewed, the more doubt crept in. It just isn’t worth the risk unless you’re sure. I’ll think about joining the Maine Mycological Association and going out in the company of experts soon. The nearby Long Branch School in Bowdoinham organizes monthly forays. Trouble is, you get the most bang for your wild mushroom buck if you go out on a secret mission, and lose yourself in the woods alone.

The harvest I’m abandoning due to lack of certainty. One is at least definitely a Chanterelle but the uncertainty about the lot has made me lose interest. Also found coral mushrooms we could eat, but they aren’t culinary gems and can have a laxative effect on some folks.

Black Trumpet Mushrooms in Maine and Oregon

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There’s nothing like a good Willamette Valley pinot to bring out the earthy flavor of mushrooms. These foraged black trumpets stand out in this slighty creamy, gorgonzola pasta.

Maine and Oregon have so much in common from a culinary perspective: an abundance of fresh seafood, blueberries, lots of freely ranging chickens, cattle and pigs. And mushrooms just begging to be foraged from wooded trails. Unfortunately, my foraging in Oregon was limited to easily identifiable golden Chanterelles. I hope to get more adventurous here in Maine and got a good start today with our first black trumpet harvest.

Two days of casual harvest on a hike near my parents’ place on a lake in Central Maine.

There’s nothing like the serendipity of chancing upon delicious mushrooms while on a hike. It makes the hike more of a hunt. It’s a simple thrill. We saw at least a dozen other mushroom varieties on the hike, but felt too amateur to pick others than the striking black trumpets. Consulting images on the web, I now suspect we saw Lobsters, Yellow-Foot Chanterelles, and Reishis growing on trunks. I’ll have to tag along with someone more senior soon.

Black trumpets are a simple thrill to discover on the damp forest floor.

If you get your hands on some black trumpets (in Oregon my source was The Mushroomery), you must make this pasta dish (assuming you aren’t dairy or gluten-intolerant. My sister did enjoy it with gluten-free pasta).

Black Trumpet Mushroom and Gorgonzola Pasta (recipe courtesy of Tree and Elaine)

1 oz. dried or fresh mushrooms,
minced shallots
1 cup heavy cream (use 1/2 and 1/2 cream; just as good)
1 oz. Gorgonzola dolce
1 lb. penne pasta (used wild mushroom linguine)
1 c. fresh parmesan
minced parsley, (tarragon-opt.)

Before using, soak mushrooms for 30 min. in warm water, drain and rinse
well to get rid of any remains.

Melt butter and add shallots. Saute 7 minutes,
Then add mushrooms, cream and stir in the Gorgonzola.
Simmer 10 minutes.
Cook the penne with salt till al dente and pour it in skillet with the sauce,
stirring well.
Fold in the parsley and the Parmigiano.

Written by baltimoregon

September 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Trashed Strawberries Are Our Treasure

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Salvaged berries from the Boones Ferry Berry Farm discards at the end of the Corvallis Farmers' Market Saturday.

From the mouths of babes: Little George digs into the ones at the GTF stand.

I’m not shy. I have no trouble engaging complete strangers in conversation. Maybe that’s why I interview people and entertain in the front of the classroom for a living.

But still I felt awkward going from stand to stand at the farmers’ market Saturday, asking for donations for the cooking and canning classes EMO’s Interfaith Food and Farms program runs to help folks stretch their tight  budgets and learn to make delicious meals with food bank staples.

Then I happened to ask Boones Ferry Berry Farm (near Woodburn) if they had any mushed or overripe berries we could have to cook up into jam. They gave me their “trash” bag, chock fill of syrupy, slightly squishy berries that smelled and looked delish, though were perhaps not quite pretty enough for discriminating consumers. But no one would know the difference when they cooked down into jam.

Fellow master food preservers (and dear friend) Rebecka now heads this cooking class, working closely with Jamming for the Hungry’s Sara Power (who was also in our Master Food Preserver Program). Chef Intaba previously ran these classes when I first moved to Corvallis. These are my girls! That’s where I met Norma, my good friend from Texcoco, Mex., and the mother of three adorable children: Jerry, Michele and baby Dennis.

Sara demonstrates her jam recipe.

Jerry patiently waits to make jam.

We  made low-sugar strawberry  jam (and took jars home), strawberry smoothies with yogurt and silken tofu (a food bank staple that often befuddles folks) and a fresh strawberry vinegar for a vinaigrette I helped demonstrate. See the recipe below. I also mixed the vinegar with seltzer for a bracingly tart drink that might be good with simple syrup. Like those Asian drinking vinegars popular at Pok-Pok or old-fashioned shrub drinks. But buyer beware (of stomach ulcers apparently) with the “vinegar cure.”

Also, if your jam is starting to foam if you cook it, we learned that adding a pat of butter helps, and may keep the jam from turning gray. I still might go strawberry picking next weekend, perhaps at nearby Greengable Flower Farm, where they are $1 a pound.

Strawberry Vinegar
Yield: Makes About 2 cups
Active Time 15 minutes
Total time: 1 1/4 hours

1 pound strawberries, trimmed (3 cups)
2 cups white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider, rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar…anything but dark balsamic or plain distilled white vinegar)

Pulse berries in a food processor until finely chopped and very juicy. Transfer to a bowl and add vinegar. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a jar, discarding solids (don’t strain if you prefer a thicker, pulpy dressing). Keeps in the fridge covered and chilled for a week.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Fresh strawberry vinegar.Strawberry Vinaigrette for Mixed Greens Salad
1 cup olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup strawberry vinegar (see recipe above)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
A drizzle of honey to sweeten it up
salt and pepper to taste

Blend ingredients together in a blender, or just shake in a covered jar or beat until mixed and smooth.

Yield: About 1 3/4 cups

*Note: Traditional vinaigrettes have a ratio of 3 parts oil (or other fat, such as warm bacon fat) to one parts vinegar (or other acid, such as citrus juice)

Written by baltimoregon

June 21, 2010 at 1:24 am

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Stinging Nettles: Yes, You Can Eat Them

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These vivid green common nettles are easy to spot, with their two oppositional leaves.

What a difference it makes to actually forage for nettles at the start of the season, as opposed to last spring when they were starting to undesirably go to seed. Foraging with Chef Intaba by the river in Willamette Park last Saturday, I was also much more confident in identifying the green stalks and didn’t confuse them with young blackberry leaves. I also came prepared with my tough purple kitchen gloves and thick rubber boots, the better to wade into the brambles. We snapped off just the young top nettle leaves, so hopefully they will replenish themselves over the next month. The picked raw leaves, which when blanched or steamed are like a sweet, more fibrous spinach, smelled like chlorophyll-laden green pepper in my bag. And when you steam them up, you can drink the remaining detoxifying green-black tea, supposedly good for your complexion and urinary tract. It’s vegetal and slightly sweet.

A good nettle patch: the green really stands out against the backdrop of brown leaves.

With the blanched, chopped leaves, I made a quinoa and bulgur greek salad and a spanikopita-like lasagna, with feta, ricotta, chopped nettle and dill for the filling. See other nettle recipe suggestions here and on Culinate here. I hear they make a good soup, with potatoes. Deborah Madison has a recipe that looks nice. But I think I’ll only get the urge to forage for nettles about once a season. I still prefer domestically-cultivated greens, such as kale and spinach. But foraging is a lot easier, and in some ways more rewarding, than gardening. Here’s to next year, Intaba!

Master forager Chef Intaba picked bagfuls.

Written by baltimoregon

February 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Weeds You Can Eat: Little Western Bittercress and Young Dandelions

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Spicy, watercress-like Little Western Bittercress, growing in clumps in the garden beds.

Eat 'Em and Weed: Young Dandelions.

I’ve developed this irrepressible urge to forage, though my horse chestnut encounter did leave me a bit chastened. I’m also craving garden-fresh greens in the gray of winter, which has been quite balmy of late here, with young weeds and early crocuses starting to blossom.

We’ve had clumps of this clover-like weed erupting in bare non-grassy areas all over the garden. They’re easy to pull, with shallow roots, never much bothering me before. But it turns out these clumps–Little Western Bittercress–are edible! Suddenly, those ubiquitous weeds become less pesky. Thanks to the writings of fellow food blogger (and Master Gardener) Culinaria Eugenius, I was finally able to identify this spicy-sweet greenery. This Oregon State site made me even more confident that I’d identified it correctly. Bittercress: what a marvelous little plant, a peppery, mustardy, watercress-like Brassica relative. Tiny micro-greens that look and taste just like ones chefs pay a fortune for, an otherwise nuisance growing for free.

I wonder to what degree our tastes can guide us in discerning what weeds are o.k. to eat. The bittercress felt right, radish crisp. Dandelion, on the other hand, is so bitter I would assume it poisonous if I didn’t know otherwise. But its tannic flavor mellows with fat and blander flavors, like potatoes or a mild cheese. The greens were stunning in this pizza with fontina cheese. And Mark Bittman recommends them in his Green Mashed Potatoes, which Culinaria Eugenius also recommended. I whipped up a batch, but didn’t use enough olive oil or have enough greens: they should match the potatoes in a 50-50 ratio. But I think I’ll save my little bittercress for salads. I want to enjoy this fresh from the garden foraged find raw.

Just a tease: first buds in bloom here.

Written by baltimoregon

January 26, 2010 at 1:22 am

Poisoning Myself with (Horse) Chestnuts

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Those foreboding spiky shells should have been a sign.

I guess I’ll be more cautious about foraging from now on. A few ago, I gathered these chestnuts from a downtown tree. They looked like the whole roasted chestnuts I had in China, they felt like chestnuts, a guy working on the house told me they were chestnuts. What else could they be? Their spiky shells were a bit foreboding: perhaps that was a sign.

Now weeks later, I just got around to roasting them tonight. I knifed “x’s” onto the shell and popped them in the oven at 400. When they came out, the flesh seems chalkier than I remembered. But I took a bite. And ick, was it bitter. Hmm, could there be a poisonous variety of chestnut, I thought? Sure enough: horse chestnuts were what I plucked. I hardly heard of them: just vaguely remember some homeopathic toner I bought with their bark listed as an ingredient. I washed my mouth out with soap and frantically dialed poison control. A kind nurse answered right away and put me at ease. I only ate enough to maybe hurt my stomach. I drank water and chased it down with Halloween candy, and so far, so good. But one things for sure: I’ll certainly be more cautious when foraging for mushrooms, or any other wild-crafted foods sometime. And now I’ve still got a hankering for chestnuts, real sweet American or European ones, that is.


An edible chestnut in the shell (By pizzodisevo /Flickr Creative Commons)


The horse chestnuts I found scattered around the tree.


Written by baltimoregon

October 31, 2009 at 8:49 pm

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Foraging Again, through Brambles of Blackberries

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Fresh from the woods.

Fresh from the woods.

Lots of treacherous thorns to dodge.

Lots of treacherous thorns to dodge.

Blackberries were about the last thing I should have bought upon my return to the Corvallis Farmer’s Market Saturday. Not because I don’t like them. Oregonians love to forage for and eat those wild blackberries so abundant here. But they loathe those same thorny canes that can become some of the most invasive plants, suffocating all other life out of your garden and yard with those looming, downward-seeking vines. Luckily, wild blackberry plants line the trails where I run, just minutes from our home. I didn’t realize they were already blackening (ripening) until I stumbled upon them in Bald Hill Park yesterday. Why buy blackberries when nature gives them up, generously, for free?

I set out to collect two cups more today for dessert. This time, I came prepared, pulling thick rubber boots over my jeans and bringing yard gloves to protect my hands from thorns. Blackberry gathering is like bee-keeping I suppose: the threat of pricks and stings somehow makes the fruit and honey gathered that much more sweet. I’m sure Novella Carpenter would agree. In 30 minutes (including my bike ride down the road and back), I had gathered what I needed.

Ivy Manning’s cookbook once again inspired me: this time, to make her uber-local Peach and Blackberry Hazelnut Crisp. Unfortunately, peaches are just barely in season here, but I still managed to snag some at the food co-op. Though ripe, the peaches sure didn’t seem freestone, clinging as they did to their pit. The blackberries: foraged. The ground hazelnuts, from nearby Hazelnut Hill farm. The Quaker rolled oats didn’t quite belong. Add chopped crystallized ginger to the fruit mixture if you have some lying around. Top with vanilla ice cream. I used vanilla coconut milk cream, because the pricey concoction was $2 off. Now if I could only forage for peaches.

Written by baltimoregon

August 11, 2009 at 12:48 am

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