Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Programs, Walks, Classes Schedule

  
Here is an updated list of our upcoming programs in Connecticut and southern Rhode Island. Most will include a PowerPoint with original photographs, educational handouts, and Nature Center locations include outdoor interactive walks. We will have copies of our newly released book, Adventures in Edible Plant Foraging: Finding, Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Native and Invasive Wild Plants, available for purchase. 
 
 
We still have many Saturdays in July and August available for programs for YOUR organization, nature center, land trust, or library in Connecticut, Rhode Island, or southern Massachusetts. Contact us directly at kraczewski@comcast.net
 
 
June 25, 1:00 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Bushy Hill Nature Center, Deep River, CT, registration required- space limited. https://www.bushyhill.org/workshops/
 
June 26, 2:30 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic, CT, registration required. http://dpnc.org/calendar/edible-plants-of-summer/
 
June 29, 6:30 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Clark Memorial Library, Bethany, CT. http://www.bethanylibrary.org/

July 9, 11:00 am, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Cross Mills Public Library, Charlestown, RI (401) 364-6211
 
July 18, 6:00 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Mary Cheney Library, Manchester, CT. http://library.townofmanchester.org/
 
July 27, 6:00 pm, Booth and Dimock Public Library, Coventry, CT. http://www.coventrypl.org/ 

August 13, 10 am, Mushroom ID for Beginners, Flanders Nature Center, Woodbury, CT http://www.flandersnaturecenter.org/index.html

August 27, 10 am, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, James L. Goodwin Conservation Center, Hampton, CT http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2691&q=322538&deepNav_GID=1710
 
September 3, 1:00 pm- 4:00 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, 
Bushy Hill Nature Center, Deep River, CT, registration required- space limited. https://www.bushyhill.org/workshops/
 
September 10, 1:00 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, Pratt Nature Center, New Milford, CT, contact Pratt Nature Center to Register. http://prattcenter.org/

September 25, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm, 15th Annual Fungus Fair, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic, CT http://dpnc.org/

October 29, 10 am, Walktober: Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn Walk @ Goodwin Forest, Hampton, CT http://thelastgreenvalley.org/explore-the-last-green-valley/walktober/

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Chicken Mushroom Recipes Roundup

Baked Chicken Wontons

Chicken mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus and Laetiporus cincinnatus) are among our favorite wild fungi to eat for a few reasons. They can often be found in large quantities, their texture and taste is fantastic, and they can be found in three seasons: spring, summer, and autumn. We only collect chickens from hardwoods to avoid potential stomach upset with chickens from conifers. We prefer our chickens at a stage that they are not just formless blobs or fingers, but smaller shelves that are still very and tender and wet when cut. Old chickens are the worst disappointment, like tasteless sawdust. I know some folks are desperate to eat wild mushrooms and will collect fungi way past their prime to try to eat, but if you spend enough time in the woods hunting, you will eventually find better specimens.

Breaded and Fried Onion Rings and Chicken Mushroom Nuggets

Over the years, we have cooked many chicken mushrooms in many ways; in traditional substitute-for-actual-chicken recipes to creating some of our own originals. The texture of a well-cooked chicken mushroom does mimic actual chicken, and a flavorful broth can be made from the chicken mushrooms as well. Do try some chicken Parmesan, breaded and fried chicken nuggets, chicken picatta, and buffalo-style chicken tenders, as the substitution of mushroom-for-meat is very successful. Then think about trying something beyond the easily recognized favorites.

BBQ Pulled Chicken Mushroom Sandwiches









The "white" chicken, Laetiporus cincinnatus
 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bamboo Recipe - Bamboo Rice Cakes


This dish was inspired by Chinese lo bak go, 蘿蔔糕. It is a dish traditionally eaten at Chinese New Year, and in English, it is a dimsum turnip cake usually made with daikon radish and rice flour.

Instead of radish, we added sauteed king oyster mushrooms from the local Asian market (Pleurotus eryngii), chopped ramps leaves (Allium tricoccum), and chopped, boiled bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) to the rice flour base. The "cake" is steamed in a glass casserole dish until firm, then cubed and fried to make crispy outer edges. This didn't last a day in our house, we all adore Asian flavors.


The bamboo shoots that we collect in our area are the invasive yellow groove bamboo, not recommended for planting in your own yard, as there are now laws in place in Connecticut that make you responsible for the cost of removing the bamboo from your neighbor's yard once it invades (and it will, this is considered a "running" bamboo rather than the clumping kind). We collect shoots from one of the several established and growing patches in the area, cutting the shoots when they are about 1-2 feet tall, and still fully enclosed in the outer, variegated sheath. We split them in half, peel off the outer sheath, and boil the tender shoots in water that has some white rice added, then drain away the rice and use the bamboo in recipes or vacuum pack and freeze the cooked shoots. The season to collect the bamboo shoots is short, about  two weeks, before they get too tall and tough, and the leaf stalks emerge with the slender leaves.


We have also used different mushrooms in these cakes, including some wild winecaps (Stropharia rugosoannulata) and some baby wild hemlock reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) that we collect before any color appears. Both versions were quite delicious, and I suppose any mushroom can be used, once fully cooked. Again, we are weighing the dry ingredients here rather than using volumes.


Bamboo Cakes                makes about 6 servings as an appetizer

US measurements:

3.5 oz. chopped mushrooms
oil for cooking the mushrooms
1.4 oz. chopped ramps leaves (or chopped scallions)
7 oz. cooked, well chopped bamboo shoots
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated dry garlic
 1 1/2 c. rice flour
1 c. water

International measurements:
100 g chopped mushrooms
oil for cooking the mushrooms
40 g chopped ramps leaves (or chopped scallions)
200 g cooked, well chopped bamboo shoots
1 g chopped fresh thyme
8 g salt
4 g granulated dry garlic
165 g rice flour
200 ml water

1. Saute the chopped mushrooms over medium low heat in a bit of oil, cooking about 5 minutes until lightly browned.
2. Add the chopped ramps and chopped bamboo, and cook for another 3 minutes while stirring often. Remove from the heat and season with the salt, chopped thyme, and granulated garlic.
3.  In a separate bowl, combine the rice flour and water. Add the cooked mushroom and bamboo mixture and stir, it will be soupy.
4. Prepare a large steamer pot. Pour the mixture into a 6 c./1.5 L glass dish and steam it covered for about 25 minutes. Let the cake cool to room temperature and then chill to firm up.
5. Release the firm rice cake from the glass dish, and cut into large cubes, then re-fry in hot oil or grill lightly to crisp up the outside. Serve with soy sauce or dumpling sauce for dipping.




Thursday, May 26, 2016

Foraging Program Schedule


 Here is an updated list of our upcoming programs in Connecticut and southern Rhode Island. Most will include a PowerPoint with original photographs, educational handouts, and Nature Center locations include outdoor interactive walks. We will have copies of our newly released book, Adventures in Edible Plant Foraging: Finding, Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Native and Invasive Wild Plants, available for purchase. 

We still have many Saturdays in July and August available for programs for YOUR organization, nature center, land trust, or library in Connecticut, Rhode Island, or southern Massachusetts. Contact us directly at kraczewski@comcast.net


 Hope to see you out there!

May 28, 12:00 noon, Edible Plants of Spring, James L. Goodwin Conservation Center, Hampton, CT, registration required http://www.depdata.ct.gov/calendar/viewev.asp?id=6035
 
June 4, 10:00 am- 3:00 pm, 2016 UCONN Bioblitz, Two Rivers Middle Magnet School, East Hartford, CT (We are not doing a class here, but will have books for sale at lunch time along with other invited scientists. We are participating as part of Team Fungi) http://web.uconn.edu/mnh/bioblitz/BioBlitz2016.html
 
"More than 100 scientists will begin the species survey on Friday at Great River Park, and will canvass habitats found within a four-mile radius of the Two Rivers Magnet School. Surveyors will be sampling the Connecticut and Hockanum rivers, floodplains, forests, freshwater ponds, open fields, as well as more human-dominated and developed areas, and are hoping to catalogue more than 1,500 species.

On Saturday June 4, beginning at 10am, the public is invited to come to the school and participate in a variety of activities. People of all ages are invited to come and see a rich sampling of Connecticut’s plant and animal life, attend presentations about biodiversity, talk with scientists and naturalists, and participate in the ongoing activities."
 
June 7, 5:30 pm, Eat the Invasives- Invasives Lecture Series #3, Connecticut River Museum, Essex, CT.  http://www.ctrivermuseum.org/calendarevent/invaders-lecture-series-3-land/
 
June 11, 1:00 pm, Edible Plants of Summer, Flanders Nature Center, Woodbury, CT, registration required, call 203-263-3711. http://www.flandersnaturecenter.org/current_calendar.html

June 13, 6:00 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Westerly Public Library, Westerly, RI. http://westerlylibrary.org/
 
June 16, 6:30 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Farmington Public Library, Farmington, CT. http://farmingtonlibraries.org/
 
June 18, 10:00 am, Spring/Summer Foraging (kid friendly!), Trumbull Nature and Arts Center, Trumbull, CT, registration required, http://www.trumbullnatureandartscenter.org/Programs.html
 
June 19, 10:00 am,  Kid-Focused Ramble and Landscape Tasting, Pratt Nature Center, New Milford, CT, contact Pratt Nature Center to register, http://prattcenter.org/

June 19, 1:00 pm,  Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Pratt Nature Center, New Milford, CT, contact Pratt Nature Center to Register. http://prattcenter.org/
 
June 25, 1:00 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Bushy Hill Nature Center, Deep River, CT, registration required- space limited. https://www.bushyhill.org/workshops/
 
June 26, 2:30 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic, CT, registration required. http://dpnc.org/calendar/edible-plants-of-summer/
 
June 29, 6:30 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Clark Memorial Library, Bethany, CT. http://www.bethanylibrary.org/

July 18, 6:00 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Summer, Mary Cheney Library, Manchester, CT. http://library.townofmanchester.org/
 
July 27, 6:00 pm, Booth and Dimock Public Library, Coventry, CT. http://www.coventrypl.org/ 
 
September 3, 1:00 pm- 4:00 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, 
Bushy Hill Nature Center, Deep River, CT, registration required- space limited. https://www.bushyhill.org/workshops/
 
September 10, 1:00 pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, Pratt Nature Center, New Milford, CT, contact Pratt Nature Center to Register. http://prattcenter.org/
 
 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spring Ramps and Winecap Mushrooms

Ramps crepes stuffed with sauteed winecaps and grain, with a potato/winecap puree and crispy fried winecaps

More wonderful, wild signs of spring are emerging each day here in southeastern New England. Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are up, carpeting some areas of forest floor with their onion-garlic funk, and winecap mushrooms (Stropharia rugosoannulata) have been loving the damp, drizzly weather, fruiting by the hundreds in wood chips across the state. 




We rarely dig our ramps anymore; once we have put up two quart jars of pickled bulbs, it is all leaves for our dinners. We carefully collect one simple, lance-shaped leaf from each bulb that has more than one visible; sometimes there are up to four per bulb. It might seem tedious, and some have insinuated that it is "such a pain to take just one", but it promises the continuation of the many patches from which we collect. The waxy leaves contain all of the good flavor of the bulbs, with an added nutritional boost from a green vegetable. The leaves are also much more versatile in cooking than the bulbs: they can be chopped, stuffed, pureed, dried, frozen, fermented, and for the brave, eaten raw.



Once you dig the whole bulb, you have killed the plant, meaning you have reduced your harvest for next year. Collecting one leaf per plant ensures the plant can still photosynthesize sunlight to produce energy, and the bulb is the underground storage organ for the plant, the battery, if you will. Once the plant has collected enough energy and the bulbs are swollen and large, the bulb of mature plants will send up the flower stalk in hopes of fertilization by insects and bees. The seeds are borne in clusters of 3, spherical  in shape (hence the "tricoccum" in the Latin binomial), ripening from green to glossy black. Later in June, once the bulb has expended its energy on flower and seed production, the bulb becomes flabby and deteriorates slightly, and the leaves yellow and die back, the bulb goes into a dormant state until next spring, keeping the plant alive through the cold winter. The seeds have a low germination rate, and likely require a year or two in favorable soil before they sprout into a new plant. More often we have witnessed bulbs splitting as a reproductive method in a large, healthy patch.



An ideal cooking companion of spring of the pungent ramp is the winecap mushroom. It can be found in mild, wet weather, fruiting in both spring and fall. It is a wood decayer, saprobic on wood chips, compost, or mulch. The white mycelial threads attached to the end of the sturdy stems can be collected along with an infected quantity of wood chips and "transplanted" to a new site to cultivate winecaps in a more convenient location: your back yard. 

Small Gillian, big winecap
Winecaps sometimes grow in great quantities, all in different stages of growth. They have purplish-grey attached gills and a deep purple-black sporeprint. There is usually a prominent cogwheel-shaped ring remaining on the stem that once covered the gills with a thin layer of tissue in young buttons. The cap can be quite large, 1"-6" wide or larger, and many shades of tan through burgundy based upon weather conditions or age. Winecaps are hefty mushrooms, and hold up well to  cooking, going well with many other ingredients.


Winecap risotto-filled ramps "chops", grilled

So, using our seasonal wild foods, we cooked many dinners at home and shared some more. Extra large ramps leaves got used in a stuffed ramps leaf dish; basically a leaf-wrapped turkey meatball cooked in a yellow-pepper sauce. Fresh leaves get pureed to add to crepe batter. More get stuffed with a winecap risotto before getting grilled, leaving the stem intact and acting like the bone handle of a "chop". Winecaps are cooked with potatoes and pureed into a smooth sauce that goes nicely with those ramps crepes, stuffed with sauteed winecaps and grains, and served with crispy-fried winecap slices. Ramps leaves are made into a room-clearing, pungent pesto, then twisted with mozzarella cheese into breadsticks for a snack. Ah, the spring wild food cooking possibilities!

Ramps leaf pesto breadstick twists

Stuffed ramps rolls, filled with ground turkey and quinoa

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ramps Recipe - Ramps Pasta



Ramps are wild leeks, ramps are springtime, ramps are controversial. For us, ramps are what started our whole foraging adventure more than a decade ago when Robert asked me about an elusive onion-scented plant he remembered as a child growing in the forests of Hungary; did we have something like that here in America? Luckily it was spring, luckily we live in eastern North America, and we really lucked out when the random location I chose to look for their oniony-garlicky, smooth green leaves actually did have a carpeted forest floor of ramp-y goodness. We were hooked.

Gillian, age 6 months, eating raw ramps on our first foraging adventure

We have two different species of perennial ramps growing here in southern New England, the common ramp, Allium tricoccum, and the much less common, narrow-leaf ramp, Allium burdickii. The species from Hungary is another, Allium ursinum, which is very similar to our native ramps. Ramps only occur in the eastern half of North America, from Manitoba, Canada down into the higher elevations of Alabama and Georgia. The Appalachian communities have a long history of eating ramps and dedicate several regional festivals to their consumption each spring. 


The leaves of ramps are simple and lanceolate, with a juicy midrib and no veins. They have an almost waxy texture, but are very tender, and can grow 8"-12" long. A cluster of 1-4 leaves grow from an underground bulb, and the stem can be either all white for the narrow-leaf ramp, or have a purple-tinged section of stem for the common ramp. 


At the base of the teardrop-shaped bulb are many thin rootlets. Later in the early summer months, a single flower stalk will emerge from mature plants, producing an umbel of 4-petaled white flowers, which mature into black, round, hard seeds in bunches of three. Once the flower stalk emerges, the leaves start deteriorating and die back, not to bee seen again until next spring. All parts of ramps emit their funky, oniony-garlicky aroma when cut or bruised.
 


Controversy surrounds the collection of wild ramps among foragers and consumers: it's foodies vs. conservationists, collectors for profit vs. recreational collectors, greediness vs. reality. Restaurants and farmer's markets have championed the whole farm-to-table thing, and "wild foraged" is a hot term, allowing sellers to raise prices to whatever starry-eyed consumers are willing to pay. Supply must meet demand, insatiable appetites must be fed,  so more and more ramps are dug each year, while the reality is that once you dig the bulb and leaf of a ramp to sell it, you have killed the plant. Dead. No more ramps next year! Ramps reproduce incredibly slowly in the wild through bulb splitting and rarely seeding, and while you might think you have stumbled upon the motherlode and ramps appear locally abundant, they are disappearing in the wild due to over-collection using these lethal methods. It is now illegal to collect them in some provinces of Canada, and the concern for their conservation is growing in New York. 


So what is a hungry forager craving some green, ramp-y goodness each spring to do? We mostly collect ramps by selectively cutting one leaf from a plant that has at least 2 leaves, and only dig a limited amount of bulbs from particularly dense clusters of plants. The leaves contain all of the funky flavor with the added nutrition of eating a green vegetable. While restaurants and markets seem to think you need the whole plant to look "pretty" on a plate or at the market stall, most of our recipes don't require more than the leaves. Only once a year do we dig just enough bulbs to make 2 jars of pickled ramps, and that lasts us through several potlucks, parties, and salads.


The leaves of ramps dehydrate well to use as a seasoning all year, and we freeze them, sliced thinly and tightly packed into plastic containers. Pre-made pesto freezes well, as does straight puree. This recipe uses the fresh green leaves of ramps, and will stink up your house in the best way when cooked. This recipe might need a touch more flour if the ramps leaves are particularly succulent and fresh, so plan accordingly and adjust as needed.


Ramps Pasta              makes about 6 servings, 1 1/2 pounds

US Measurements:
14 oz semolina flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c. water
2 1/2 Tbsp oil
2.8 oz ramps leaves, washed and roughly chopped 

International Measurements
396 g semolina flour
3 g salt
150 ml water
22 g oil
80 g ramps leaves, washed and roughly chopped


1. In a bowl, combine the semolina flour with the salt.
2. Combine the water, oil, and chopped ramps in a high speed blender, blend 3 minutes until smooth. Pour into the semolina flour, and mix until a dough forms.
3. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, allow it to rest for 5 minutes, then knead it further for 5 minutes.
4. Wrap the dough in plastic or cover with a damp towel, and allow it to rest at least 30 minutes. It can be refrigerated for a day or so if tightly wrapped.
5. Cut the dough ball into quarters, and use a pasta roller to roll it out into flat sheets, starting at level 1 and rolling it down to level 5 thickness, re-folding and rolling it again if it is falling apart. The more you work it, the smoother it becomes. We like the fettuccine size cut for this firm dough.
6. Dry the pasta and store, or cook fresh in plenty of salted, boiling water, about 2-3 minutes, until al dente. Toss with butter or a sauce, and serve.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Foraging Programs in Southern New England


Are you looking for a seasonal, educational program on wild edible plants or mushroom identification or eating in your area located in Southern New England ? 


Have your local library, nature center, garden club, or land trust contact us directly to schedule a program! Our programs can include a PowerPoint slideshow of our original images, a stroll around the property, and handouts for the participants to bring home, depending on the available space, and usually last 2-3 hours. We are available many Saturdays and on Sunday afternoons, as well as evenings during the week.


Reach us at kraczewski@comcast.net to inquire about available dates.
 
Our upcoming programs, please contact the facilities directly to register.
 
May 19, 6:00 pm, Edible Plants of Spring, Cragin Memorial Library, Colchester, CT, registration required
 
May 21, 10:00 am, Mushroom ID for Beginners, Ansonia Nature Center, Ansonia, CT, registration required-space limited

May 25, 6:00 pm, Edible Plants of Spring, Otis Public Library, Norwich, CT

May 28, 12:00 noon, Edible Plants of Spring, James L. Goodwin Conservation Center, Hampton, CT, registration required
 
June 7, 5:30 pm, Eat the Invasives- Invasives Lecture Series #3, Connecticut River Museum, Essex, CT
 
June 11, 1:00 pm, Edible Plants of Summer, Flanders Nature Center, Woodbury, CT, registration appreciated
 
June 16, 6:30 pm, Edible Plants of Summer, Farmington Public Library, Farmington, CT
 
June 18, 10:00 am, Spring/Summer Foraging (kid friendly!), Trumbull Nature and Arts Center, Trumbull, CT, registration required
 
June 25, 1:00 pm, Edible Plants of Summer, Bushy Hill Nature Center, Deep River, CT, registration required- space limited
 
June 26, 2:30 pm, Edible Plants of Summer, Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic, CT, registration required
 
June 29, 6:30 pm, Edible Plants of Summer, Clark Memorial Library, Bethany, CT