Eating cautiously

Well, after Nathan lived after eating mushrooms from his yard, I was a little envious. I had recently digested some shrooms, and then had a little scare and even went out and bought activated charcoal for a little home treatment. It turns out that I would have had to consume over a bottle and a half of caplets for a single dose, and they usually treat with a dose every hour for 4 to 12 hours. At $10 a bottle, it seemed a little steep, but hey, my liver is worth more than that. That particular incident was a convergence of several possible gastrointestinal hazzards, so it was hard to know exactly what it was. There was the flu that was going around at work… I had eaten quite a bit of roasted chicken, which I am some what allergic to when it is cooked with the skin on… We had just had large salads made from organic spinach, only a week after the spinich e. coli scare… I ate some mushrooms that I was pretty sure were *Lepista nuda* or Wood Blewitts, which are poisonous if uncooked, but I cooked them, but then they sat in the fridge for a week or so. Anyway, it did make me think a little harder about putting fungus in my mouth.

So then when I was picking A up from school on Wednesday I noticed several Shaggy mane (*Coprinus comatus*) on the grass between the parking lots. I started picking them as I waited and chatted with B on the phone. I found 5 good ones, and as we were driving out of the parking lot we noticed that there was a whole field more. We stopped and made several trips, returning with handfuls. In the end I had a nice pile in the passenger seat.

Seat of potential poison

When we arrived home I threw out a few that were already showing signs of turning to ink (ie. they were showing shades of grey on the gills). I took the rest in and washed them and cut off any parts that looked bad.

toxic torpedoes?

They really looked pretty good, and seemed like they would make good eating. The ones that I prepared were all still young, and in the button stage, meaning that the cap had not pulled away from the stem much yet. They were white throughout, and had a ring on the stem where the cap connected. The outside of the cap was shaggy, and shed some of it’s scales when handled.

Drumstick

I sliced them into quarters lengthwise and saut├ęd them in butter. They had a lot of water content, and made a wonderful sauce. I did add just a little garlic and then put them in a container in the freezer after trying a bite.

Is that squid?

Yesterday I found more Shaggy mane in the park, and cooked them up too. But rather than putting off the inevitable, I added them to my stir fry. They were very tasty. At one point though, my hands and legs felt a little tingly, and the ringing in my ears stopped. I felt suddenly clear headed, and generally good. I think it may have been my sinuses emptying out after the chili-black-bean sauce I added to the meal. Anyway, it seemed to be a success.

I may try the Blewitts again soon; there is another batch growing under the blue spruce…

Eating dangerously

After Brother Nathan’s recent mushroom movie, the first touches of fall-like weather, and frequent rain, I decided to go in search of edible mushrooms. Last year we saw many types growing in the yard, and in the park nearby. I really like mushrooms, both to eat, and just the odd apeal of an otherworldly shape, smell, and general biology.

Promising beauty

We had a nice rain today, which brought rainbows, and when it was done, I headed out in search of fungus, specifically puffballs. In the fungus world, everything is strange. There are slimes, hard shelf fungus, the destroying angel and death-cap, both of which will destroy your liver, ultimately killing you, and then there is the giant puffball, which can grow to be a meter wide. That is OVER THREE FEET of white fungus flesh! And that is all flesh that can be cooked and eaten, if you can find one that is still young. Well, I did. It was not as big as some, but it was still an awful lot of fungus.

Edible softball

I know of a few places to look, and the first pile of rotting vegitation was host to this nice growth.

My slice

I cut it in half, and it sliced with a feel of rubber butter.

Sliced moon

And then I sliced some more.

Fried fungus!

It was after dinner, so I was not actually hungry for a large portion, but I cooked some in an olive oil and wine sauce, and the rest I dipped in egg, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried. The flavor was slightly sweet, and although it still tasted like mushroom, it was very mild. It has a light fennel or licorice scent and flavor, but it was not at all unpleasant.

I did save half to cook with the kids tomorrow, but I wanted to eat some ahead of time, in case it brought on some discomfort, or worse. So far so good! I am looking forward to hunting for more with Brother Peter, now that I know they are safe, and tasty.

Water/Pepper-mint

Recently a unidentified fresh smell was noticed in the general shore area. I quick perusal of a Field Guide to Edible Plants from Nathan, indicated that there was a wild mint variety called water mint that, believe it or not, grows near or in the water. So I looked closely at the plant. And then I looked online. It did not quite match. Water mint is supposed to be a more course, and quite hairy. Ok, maybe it was some other variety, so I kept looking. The variety in our yard is growing in water, has purplish stems, rather smooth leaves, and few, if any hairs. The flavor is also very minty, without much of the usual odd flavors you get with garden mints. Based on descriptions, it looked like my variety may be peppermint, or “chocolate” mint. The problem is that peppermint is a (usually sterile) hybrid between spearmint and watermint. It could have drifted to our shores, I suppose, or it could just be the chocolate variety.

In any case, I did a final harvest of the spearmint in the garden that I did not care much for, and installed a cutting from the wild variety, placing it in a pot in the ground to ensure it does not acquire world domination. The old mint is now drying in the kitchen, awaiting it’s final destination at the bottom of a teacup.

a month and a half later…

school is in full swing, and we are through the normal hell that is school I.T. during the first month or so. Our workload is getting down to a level that is only considered ‘behind’ and not ‘snowed in’. Now we can fit in some projects, and the one we are working on now is implementing wireless to certain points off-campus. No more detail than that at this point. It is very interesting to find that wireless is rather inexpensive, if you are willing to do things yourself, like make the antenna.

In the cooking arena, we have not been doing too much. During a visit from sister A and her fiance in mid-August, I made my chili, which I have not made for over a year I think. Although I knew that she had been vegan, I was not sure what the latest was. Reports said that she was a regular omnivore these days, and I thought beef would be OK. She ate (and enjoyed I think) my chunky beef chili, but it was the first time she had beef in a long, long time. Later she was not feeling well, and I was a little worried. Seems that it turned out to be amoeba, so that is a relief. Not that I am glad that it was amoeba (which is a very awful thing to get), but I am glad that my cooking did not cause any suffering. I am sure you understand.

Speaking of cooking… I ran across cookingforengineers.com which sports a very nice format for recipes. I am a minimalist, and this appeals to my desire to do less to get the same results. Bethany also likes this, as she is an organizer supreme. This means that she can fit more recipes into her little black book, and can get rid of all those useless pronouns and adjectives that recipes usually contain.

Toasty!

Having made it enough times that I am pretty sure I know how to do it, I made hummus without a recipe. Normally when making something I will try to get all the stuff ready and then begin the making part. But when I made hummus last night, I just started. I began by toasting the sesame seeds because I thought it would taste better (which it did). Tahini is very expensive here so we just use sesame seeds and try to grind them first. Sesame seeds do not grind very well. They just sort of fly around in the food processor. If you add oil or water to keep them down, they then just stick all over the inside of the food processor. So use a mortar and pestle like I did not do. Adding in the chickpeas, olive oil and water was trouble-free, but we had run out of lemon/kalamansi juice, and the garlic was kind of old and shriveled. I used the garlic any way, but was not about to substitute vinegar for lemon. B found some lemon pepper seasoning that was given to us when a coworker left the country. I hesitated, tasted the hummus, smelled the seasoning, tasted the seasoning, and then dumped some in. There were black specks in the hummus now from the pepper, but it tasted more or less OK. Actually, the toasting of the sesame made it taste great, and in a pinch I would grab the lemon pepper without even thinking about it.