Monday, July 25, 2011

Foraging Report 07/25/2011

Gillian holding the Berkeley's polypore
Boletus bicolor
It has been quite a productive couple of weeks for us. The weather has been a bit unbearable, but foraging near a river is good for an afternoon of cooling off. We went on our first outing with the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society at Salmon River State Forest on July 17th. Even though there had not been a lot of rain, there were at least 50 different types of mushrooms gathered and identified. They collected all the mushrooms they find, not just edibles, to identify and catalog back at the gathering tables. We learned how to best gather mushrooms for easier identification purposes, like try to find several stages of growth (button, fully opened, old) and try to collect some of the growing medium the mushroom is on, like tree bark, moss, or underground source. Many mushrooms have a bulbous bottom that should be collected for ID. The people in this club are very knowledgeable, and usually only supply the genus and species name for each mushroom, for precise identification. We also met many of the members, and looked through some of the books they use. We are looking forward to may more learning sessions. On the day before, we found a large Berkeley's polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi), and brought it to place on a separate table to be identified. We cut a bit of the tender edges off to take home and cook, it was tasty with a bit of cracked pepper and oil.

Common milkweed pods (Asclepias syriaca) are growing large enough to gather. They ripen in stages, so one plant will have tiny pods and too-large pods on the same stalk at the same time. Milkweed tends to grow in great colonies in open fields, so it is easy to get them in abundance. They are messy to pick, since they exude their white, sticky latex as soon as they are cut. Robert uses a plastic bucket, but a disposable bag may be easier. We bring them home and give them a scrub with the vegetable brush before boiling them for 5 minutes and shocking them in ice water. After their quick cooking, they are ready to be used in recipes like pickles, salads, stuffed, or just stir fried with soy sauce. I think they taste a bit like green beans, and we usually can't taste any of the reported bitterness most people worry about. Make sure you have common milkweed, it seems to taste the best.

Smooth sumac berry clusters

staghorn sumac berries
Here in southeastern New England, the staghorn sumacs (Rhus typhina) have their ripe berries ready for gathering. We just snap the berry clusters off the tops of the shrub into a bag, trying to avoid the clusters that are obviously filled with bugs. As the season progresses, the clusters will become buggier and less desirable. With the hairy berry clusters, we made some sumac-ade to drink on these hot days, and made a much stronger concentrate to bake a sumac curd topped with meringue. We also use the sumac concentrate as a lemon juice substitute when making jelly. The smooth sumacs (Rhus glabra) have red berry clusters, but are not ripe and sour yet.

Himalayan blackberries
Finally, did we mention the berries yet? Wineberries (Rubus phoanicolasius) and Himalayan blackberries (Rubus discolor) have ripened in great abundance. The hot, humid weather has made picking a bit uncomfortable, but we try to get out early in the morning before it gets too unbearable. I made 15 jars of plain wineberry jam, using the same recipe and methods I blogged about last year. The recipe uses low-sugar pectin, and a seedless pulpy juice to make a tart, thick jam. Then I made 21 jars of wineberry-blackberry jam. The color is darker, and the flavor is a bit sweeter and fruitier. I look forward to swapping some jams at the Coventry Regional Farmer's Market Foodswaps, and gifting several to friends.


Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

Wow! The food swap sounds wonderful. You have inspired me to search out more areas for foraging.

Anonymous said...

Jesus what is your kid holding, it looks like a fungus version of a head of lettuce. It doesnt look very eatable