Monday, August 29, 2016

Mushroom Recipe - Alboater Palmiers


Every summer is a different story for us when it comes to foraging wild foods or collecting fungi. We can try to be in the right forest at the right time, but still go home empty handed. It had been a terribly dry June and July, but a few very spotty rains have perked up the mycelium in a few isolated locations, bringing forth some magnificent flushes of edible and non-edible boletes.


Boletes have a standard cap and stem appearance of a mushroom, but instead of gills on the underside of the cap, there are elongated tubes that can look like a sponge. Boletes come in assorted statures, colors, textures, and can taste fantastically nutty, meaty, cheesy, or are inedible and bitter. Some species have bizarre staining reactions to being cut as well as chemical reactions to the reagent that Robert uses to test them for identification purposes. Bolete identification can be a study in frustration for some, but Robert loves the challenge.

photo by Beth Karwowski
The black velvet bolete (Tylopilus alboater) is one we don't often find in large quantities, and it is one of the few non-bitter Tylopilus. While out this past weekend with friends, we found more than three dozen of them, some incredibly large, most bug-free. The cap and stem appear to be very dark brown or black, lightening with age and sun exposure, and the pore surface starts out white and ages to brownish-pink. They will stain black when cut, and stain your fingers black when handled. Black velvet boletes are very firm and heavy mushrooms when young when the tubes are still shallow, and can be excellent edibles. 

Since Tylopilus alboaters cook up black, I decided to use that characteristic in a black and white palmier cracker. This could be used for any bolete really; we might try it again with Baorangia bicolor which might exhibit a more orange-colored filling.


Black Velvet Bolete Palmiers                yield: 48 palmiers

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed but still cold
flour for dusting
3 Tbsp. oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
12 oz. roughly chopped Tylopilus alboaters, or any other firm Boletes, tubes removed if too large
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 Tbsp water
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. Panko bread crumbs
non-stick spray oil or melted butter
Kosher salt or large flaked salt for sprinkling

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and cook the garlic, shallots, and chopped boletes for 15 minutes, stirring often, until soft.
2. Add the dry white wine, water, thyme, and bay leaves, and simmer over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is evaporated. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.
3. Place the cooked boletes in the bowl of a food processor, and add the salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and Panko crumbs, and pulse until blended. Puree for about 1 minute, there will still be visible grains. Allow this filling to cool to room temperature; it will thicken considerably.
4. Roll one of the sheets of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 9" x 15". Spread half of the bolete filling on the puff pastry all the way to the edges. Starting on one of the longer edges, roll up the puff pastry tightly, stopping at the halfway point. Turn the puff pastry around and roll up the other long side until it meets in the middle with the first rolled edge. Wet your finger, and rub it between the two rolls, pressing them together to stick.
5. Flip the rolled puff pastry over so that the rolled edges are on the bottom, and gently squeeze and stretch the log until it is 18" long. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and remaining filling. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for one hour. At this point, the logs can be stored frozen for 6 months, and allowed to thaw slightly before slicing and baking.
6. Heat oven to 400º F. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper. Remove the puff pastry log from the freezer and using a thin, sharp knife, cut off 1/4" slices. Place them about an inch apart and either spray with cooking oil or lightly brush with melted butter, and sprinkle on some Kosher salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned and crispy. Cool and store in a dry place.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Program Dates, August through October



Holy cow, where did July go? Summer vacation is half over, and the first day of school is less than a month away! We have programs coming up, and add more occasionally. The best place to see our events listings is on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/The-3-Foragers-118852208201771/ . Most programs 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 the autumn, or weeknights 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

 

 August 13, 10am- 1pm, Mushroom Identification for Beginners, Flanders Nature Center, Woodbury, CT. Contact Flanders to register, 203-263-3711, cost: $10 members, $15 non-members

August 27, 10am-1pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, Goodwin State Forest, Hampton, CT. Contact Goodwin to register, 860-455-9534

September 3, 1pm-4pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, Bushy Hill Nature Center, Depp River, CT. Contact Bushy Hill to register, 860-767-2148 x604, cost: suggested donation $5

September 10, 1 pm-4pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, Pratt Nature Center, New Milford, CT. Contact Pratt to register, 860-355-3137, cost: $5

September 18, 1 pm-3pm, Mushroom Walk, Friends of Hopkinton Land Trust, Hope Valley, RI. Contact Hopkinton Land Trust to register, space is limited, 602-730-7263

September 21, 6:30pm-8pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, Farmington Library, Farmington, CT. Contact Farmington Library to register, 860-673-6791

September 26, 6pm-7pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, Harmony Central Library, Glocester, RI. Contact Harmony Library to register, 401-949-2850

October 1, 1pm-4pm, Edible Plants and Fungi of Autumn, The Sanctuary Land Trust, East Haddam, CT. Contact The Sanctuary to register, 860-319-134, cost: donation

October 15, 10am-1pm, Mushroom Identification for Beginners, Northwest Park, Windsor, CT. Contact Northwest Park to register, 860-285-1886, space is limited



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