Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Foraging Report 9/14/2011

Black walnut
I am unhappy to report that there is not too much gathering or foraging going on right now. After we missed some fruits like elderberry (Sambucus nigra) and black cherry (Prunus serotina), we are still keeping our eyes out for grapes (Vitis species), maybe some crabapples, and nuts like hickory (Carya ovata), chestnuts (Castanea species), and black walnuts (Juglans nigra). It is an off-year for the white oak acorns (Quercus alba), which makes the nuts in 2 or 3 year cycles. Usually the grapes are so plentiful and fragrant by now, we find them by using our noses. This year, I am afraid the grapes have succumbed to the dry early summer months and lost the fruit early.

We are very busy preparing for our letterboxing party, Foraging For Letterboxes, this weekend. We have lots of letterboxes planted using foraged foods and animals as themes. We will be preparing several potluck items using our foraged foods: sumac-ade, venison stew, ramps greens biscuits with kielbabsa, pine pollen biscuits with sweet cream cheese, and shortbread-jam dessert bars. At 2:00 PM I'll be leading a short Wild Weed Walk at an alternate location, talking about several common edibles we are familiar with. It is shaping up to be a fun day with our letterboxing friends.

I am also starting to gather some specimens for an educational display we are pacing at the Otis Library here in Norwich, CT for the month of October. There are two glass cases in the entrance lobby that I will fill with information on foraging here in southeastern Connecticut. Last year I placed the display for the first time, and it was very popular. I added some photos, dried plants, nuts, and our jams along with labels and informational cards about who we are and what we do. This year I hope to do more with mushrooms and showcase the recipes we cook with our wild foods.

Autumn olives
Northern bay laurel
While we are on the subject of cooking with wild food, I am excited that we will be a participating forager for a meal at La Laiterie Restaurant in Providence, RI in honor of Hank Shaw and his book tour on October 2. The menu is wide open right now, and we hope to provide several items. Seasonal foods like rosehips, nuts, sea beans, autumn olives, grapes, and flavorings like spicebush berries, sassafras roots, and northern bay laurel. We also have several preserved or dehydrated foods like milkweed flowerbud capers, dried chicken mushrooms, and frozen ramps greens to offer.

Honey mushrooms
Black trumpets
Last, but never least, mushrooms! The recent tropical storm that drenched the area provided ideal conditions for a large flush of mushrooms, and the recent cooler nights are bringing out the autumn mushrooms that we love- chicken mushrooms (Laetiporous sulphureus), honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea), Hen-of-the-Woods (Grifola frondosa), and our first black trumpets (Craterellus fallax). The chickens are still slow to come, but Robert brought home a 7 pound sack of honey mushrooms yesterday, and they are drying in the dehydrator now. No Hens yet for us, we'll start looking in earnest this week at every oak tree we pass for the large polypore. The black trumpets are a happy accident. I don't know if we would have ever found them if we had been looking for them, but we have stumbled on maybe a pound or two completely by accident this past week. The Northeast Mushrooms Group on Yahoo has been buzzing with news and photos of a banner year for trumpets. We dried them and powdered them, and the aroma is decadent, I can smell sweet hints of fruit and a bit of the mushroom muskiness. I made a small batch of bagels with the powder, and we'll save the rest for something else. Robert is interested in a soup, but not a puréed soup or cream based soup, so we will continue to look for recipes and inspiration. This past Sunday was a potluck party with the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society, and some people made black trumpet pizza, and added it to pasta salad. The array of mushroom dishes was spectacular, and the company matched the food as the potluck followed the Sunday foray. I cooked up some mini Sumac Meringues for potluck dessert. Robert looks forward to each foray for the education and opportunity to find some wonderful edibles.


Marcy Marchello said...

Lovely report and wonderful endeavors! So nice to meet you yesterday at Foraging for Letterboxes! Keep up the fabulous work and hope to see you again!
~ Curious Crow

Matt said...

Nice blog. I found it on the Northeast Mushroom board. I made an awesome mushroom risotto out of fresh black trumpets (and chantrelles and hedgehogs) last weekend. I just fooled with an recipe I found on the internet from Bon Appetite magazine.


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