Friday, February 23, 2018

Foraging: how to identify turkey tail mushrooms for natural, cancer-fighting medicines. 4 simple steps

The medicinal turkey tail mushroom is in the foreground here, showcasing it's iconic banding and zoning.

 Identification difficulty: Beginner 

Hi everyone!

Last year I posted about how to dry turkey tail mushrooms and make a cancer-fighting and immune-strengthening tea.

Now I'm back, because new research has come up in the past year, and I can provide updated information on just how turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) are performing in their clinical trials. (Here's a hint: they are doing well) and also science has given us more information on dosage and potential adverse reactions. (There aren't many). I will cover the updated research in a future post.

But for now, I want to show you how to identify Trametes versicolor (previously known as Coriolus versicolor) on your own, if you find it in the woods. Right now, preparations of this mushroom are only produced by a few suppliers, and are therefor expensive. However, this is a widely-distributed fungus, and frequently fruits abundantly, so there is no reason why you can't forage it on your own for free.

Special note on Turkey Tails: I have listed this ID as a beginner level difficulty. In fact, it can actually be quite hard to tell Trametes versicolor from some other varieties of Trametes. However, none of these similar looking mushrooms are poisonous, which is why I still consider this a beginner level mushroom.

So, let's talk turkey!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Vegetarian, foraged oyster mushroom chowder

It's important to know the right mushroom for every task.

When you go to buy oyster mushrooms in the store, you will find that the caps are very small (less than 2" across) and still feature "in-rolled" edges. Basically the edges of the caps roll down and under, towards the gills. This is considered the best time to eat oysters, as they have not yet released their spores, and the flesh is at it's most firm and meaty.

They basically look like this:

When the caps are still rolled down towards the gills,
oyster mushrooms have their best firmness. 

It's easy to harvest "optimal" mushrooms when you are farm-raising them. But in the wild, you generally don't have the luxury, unless you know a spot you can visit every day. Most often the oysters you find in the wild will have flat caps, occasionally with rippled and/or cracked edges. They will mostly look like this:

Older oyster mushrooms are less firm, and work best in soups,
gravies, and after being dried and reconstituted.

Older oyster mushrooms, like the ones above, loose some of that firmness, and are less meaty. Some foragers will even bypass these "spongy" specimens, but they still have a lot of flavor, and are perfect in the right application. By pureeing these mushrooms, like in soups or gravies, you avoid the texture issues.

You can also dehydrate older oyster mushrooms. Once reconstituted, they will have a unique texture--not firm and "mushroomy" like the young ones, but more meaty, almost rubbery a bit. Rather like cooked clams, which is what made me want to try this dish.

Being a native New Englander living in Texas, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed with the desire for foods I simply can't get around here. Sometimes it's lobster rolls, but most often it's clam chowder.  I'd heard that oyster mushrooms can make a passible substitute for clam chowder, and I was highly skeptical, but I decided to give it a shot.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wild mushroom chicken marsala with foraged oyster mushrooms

So much for my plan to post new content every week.

This happens to me every so often, I get overwhelmed with life and have to withdraw from online socialization for a while.

Then to make matters worse, I developed plantar fasciitis, and have been struggling with it for months. Finally, with the help of new sneakers (I've spent a small fortune trying different pairs), and a lot of reflexology, I'm feeling good enough to forage again. However, I can only go on the weekends, as I have to get a foot massage afterwards, to keep things from tensing up again. I've only been feeling this good for a couple of weeks, so hopefully it keeps up.

Of course, the past few weeks have had incredibly unseasonable cold here in the DFW area, so I wouldn't have been out anyway. And a lot of the plants and mushrooms I enjoy in December were killed off by the low temps. Still, this weekend reached the upper 60s, and I was able to get out into the woods, where the mild temps and moisture created an oyster mushroom fungal bloom!

This is my take on your classic chicken marsala recipe. It’s pretty standard except for the use of wild mushrooms (in this case oysters) and the addition of soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and aged balsamic.

I’m going to soapbox for a bit about oyster mushrooms, and human/forest interaction. If you just want the recipe, please feel free to skip down to where you see the recipe subhead.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Easy 30 minute greenbriar ratatouille. Vegan, paleo, low carb, gluten-free, and low fat.

So clearly I've been on a Mediterranean kick lately, with a cleavers pesto last week (I've been enjoying the left-overs since), and a thistle Greek salad the other day. So when I was looking at an ENORMOUS haul of greenbriar shoots, it's really no surprise that my mind turned to ratatouille.

Ratatouille is a French dish, usually served in the summer because it's loaded with summer veggies: summer squash (zucchini/yellow squash), eggplant, and tomatoes. But it comes from the Provonce region, on the Mediterranean, where the cities of Marseille and Nice are located. It's a hearty, rustic stew, that just happens to be vegan, low carb, low calorie, low fat, dairy free, gluten-free and paleo; though it's often served with bread, you could also eat it as a side dish for meat, or over polenta or pasta.

The spirit of ratatouille is to make a healthy meal out of what's seasonally available, and while tomatoes aren't exactly in season, I did have a ton of spring greenbriar, so I decided to go for it. This dish involves caramelizing the onions, and since I enjoyed the greenbriar caramelized as a pizza topping last year, I thought this would be a slam dunk! It was fantastic, even my husband liked it, and he doesn't like REGULAR ratatouille! Best of all, the greenbriar cooks a lot faster than the traditional eggplant, turning an hour-long prep into a meal on your table in 30 minutes!

Thick and juicy, but still tender and bendable,
these greenbriars are at the perfect stage for eating.

Greenbriars, aka Similax species, are only edible in the early to mid-spring, because it's the young, new growth you eat. The shoots and young leaves are quite tasty, and because of some sugars in them, they also caramelize beautifully. They are fairly easy to ID, I wouldn't quite say beginner level, but definitely for a slightly experienced novice. Please check out my post on how to ID greenbriars.