Tag Archive: Mushrooms


A day at Edible Acres

It is early spring, which at Edible Acres means Sean is getting ready for for his first plant sale tomorrow.

photo (13)

Plants getting potted up in Sean’s homemade potting mix in preparation for sale.

For me and some other volunteers this means we got to go and spend the day among his awesome demonstration gardens, getting out hands in the soil, and picking his brain about all his amazing plant knowledge while helping him pot things up and learning a bunch about the plants we are getting ready for sale.

And it was the perfect day for such a task, with the weather being cool (probably mid 50’s) and mostly overcast with a few light sprinkles of rain. This weather is great as it is still pleasant to work outside but the plants stay moist and experience less stress as the soil they are being taken out of and the air and the soil they are being put into all are around the same temperature.

Here is a little about five of the plants plants and one mushroom that we worked with today. Most of this knowledge is what I learned from sean over the course of the day and am now refining and adding to from a little bit of online research (linked to throughout). I took home a plant or two of each of these five so I will try and let you know what I think of them as I actually get to experience their wonders first hand.

Sea kale (Crambe maritima):

 

Sea kale is an ancient perennial plant that resembles kale and is making a comeback as a favorite of permaculture enthusiasts. Permaculturists always love perennials because they require less work and generally support more stable and resilient ecosystems. Although Sea kale looks like kale it is actually not even in the same family. But its roots, leaves, and flowers are edible and it grows really easily in just about any soil. And it propagates really easily too! So what we did today was dig up some of Sean’s sea kale plants which had significant tuber like roots underground. Then we just broke the tubers up into pieces and planted them into sean’s potting mix making sure to keep their orientation correct, meaning the more tapered end of the root points down in the soil.

Walking onion (Allium proliferum):

A walking onion bulb cluster

So onions are great. But usually you have to dig them up out of the ground to harvest them, which can be a fair amount of effort, and then you have to replant them the next year from seed, which usually means buying seed, which costs money. But what if you had an onion that behaved more like garlic? Where you break apart your 1 head of garlic and plant, lets say 5 cloves from that head, and then the next year you get 5 heads of garlic. Welcome to the walking onion. This onion does just that; it creates new onions in a cluster around itself, growing every year if you leave them, or allowing you to dig them up, harvest some, and split apart the others and replant them to get more clusters of onions! Amazing!

But, that is really just the beginning of the wonders of this onion. What I described is one way to harvest onions from this plant. But there is a second way that doesn’t even require any digging at all! These onions have a top set that are like mini onions or shallots. These topsets will begin to form in spring and can be harvested pretty much at any point from when they are small and probably pretty mild to when they reach maturity in late summer. If you get them at the right time I hear you don’t even have to peel them! The topsets are smaller then your typical onion, ranging from 1/4″ to about an 1″ but I at least am excited to try substituting them into my cooking where I woulf normally used a regular onion. When the top sets get heavy enough they will cause the stalk to bend over to the ground and if conditions are right they will root, forming another root cluster, hence the name walking onions!

Top sets: are like mini onions! You can harvest these and use them like onions or shallots and you don’t even have to dig up the plant!

I am excited to see the single walking onion I took home hopefully multiply into many for years to come.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum):

 

A wonderfully smelling herb, anise hyssop is great to make tea out of or to sprinkle into salads or put on top of deserts. Medicinally, it is often used to soothe respiratory ailments such as a cough and as a digestive aid. It is in the mint family and so can be used in many of the same ways you would use mint. It also has wonderful purple flowers that the bees love!

Sorrel:

common sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

This sorrel is another delicious perennial that is super easy to grow. I have a red veined sorrel variety planted the garden at my parents which I love, especially when the leaves are young. I anticipate that this common sorrel will be a little more tender and perhaps less strong in taste, if also a little less striking in appearance. It has a tart leaves that are great sprinkled in salads and a quick google search brings up some yummy sounding sorrel soup recipes. I am excited to try that when I have enough of it!

June bearing Strawberry:

This nice mystery cultivar that bears fruit in June (hence the name) seems to be quite vigorous and have great flavor, according to Sean. Sean found these in Ithaca and rescued them after someone carelessly mowed right over them and they have been thriving in his garden ever since. I planted a whole bunch in a little contained stone terrace outside my home here and am excited to have a vigorous strawberry patch to nibble from in just a few months! 

Stropharia rugosoannulata (wine cap mushroom)

So, the last thing I got from Sean is not actually a plant. It was some mushroom inoculated cardboard. And as some of you know I have a soft spot for mushrooms. This one is what we call the wine cap mushroom- a mushroom I have never tasted and certainly never cultivated before, so I am super excited to see if I can!

Apparently the stropharia, wine cap mushroom, is an excellent companion in the garden as it likes complex environments and will not effect the plants in any negative way. In fact, it will help enrich the soil, speeding the composting process and helping break down any woody matter. It also feeds off of bacteria that may otherwise become undesirable runoff or contaminants, so some people have successfully used this mushroom as a bio filter to reduce numbers of such things as fecal coliform from cow manure runoff. Plus it is considered a choice edible by many!

Sean has a great video on his youtube channel showing how to take a little bit of incoulum and grow it into a lot. He also has a video showing how he has really scaled up his stropharium production and now includes this inoculum in his potting mix! So if you buy some plants from him you might just get luck and end up with a few wine caps popping up as well. I followed his video and took the maybe 4″x8″ piece of cardboard he gave me covered with white mycelium and sprinkled it through a large pot in which I layered cardboard, compost, some wood chips and straw. Hopefully in less than a month that garden pot will be full of mycelium and then I can make an even bigger batch and also try putting some directly into my garden so I can get flushes of wine caps around my sea kale and walking onions!

So there is some of what I learned from a day out at Edible Acres in Trumansberg, NY!

 

 

 

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(This is a piece I wrote for my Mushrooms of Field and Forest Class at Cornell University for the cornell mushroom blog, hence the academic tone and citations. But it seemed fit for this blog as well. Enjoy!)

The farmers of Japan say thunderstorms are good luck– they make the mushrooms grow.1 And mushrooms and thunderstorms are partners in folklore all over the world. The ancient god Soma may even have been a mushroom himself. In the book, Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, Gordon Wasson2 argues that Amanita muscaria, the classic red or yellow fly agaric, is the identity of the mysterious Soma, god of the RgVeda, a sacred collection of ancient Vedic Sanskrit hymns. These hymns are some of the world’s oldest religious texts, and from them we know Soma is “the child of the thunderstorm”. Is Soma really a mushroom? Are mushrooms the children of thunderstorms? Read on.

Science, alas, has had little to say about mushrooms and thunderstorms. Until now. Recently, scientists in Japan have demonstrated a link between lightning and prolific mushroom fruiting.1 Although their interest in lightning and mushrooms is not driven by a religious quest, their research may inadvertently shed light on an ethnographic mystery.

In Japan, mushrooms are particularly coveted for their delicious, nutritional, and medicinal qualities and demand is outstripping supply. But now scientists are finding ways to harness the power of electricity to increase mushroom production. Can you imagine farms where man-made lightning bolts strike the ground and induce large flushes of mushrooms? Well, this is what scientists in Japan are doing.3

Today, shiitake (Lentinula edodes), buna-shimeji (Hypsizygus marmoreus), eryngii (Pleurotus eryngii), and matsutake (Tricholoma matsutake) mushrooms are high value health foods in Japan.1,3 Matsutakes now sell for $439 U.S. dollars a pound.3 Before you think you might get rich by growing some, you must consider that these are ectomycorrhizal mushrooms that only grow symbiotically with their pine tree hosts, so the world’s harvest is entirely collected from the wild. Although harvest of these mushrooms in Japan peaked at 12,000 metric tons in 1941, harvest declined to 34 metric tons in 2005, not due to lack of demand but due to many threats to these red pine forests, including a pine wood nematodeinfestation that has been wreaking havoc in these ecosystems.3 People want more mushrooms. Let’s harness the power of lightning.

The use of direct current (DC) electric fields on living tissue is not a new idea, but has a long and contentious history. Even back in 1985, when Robinson 4 wrote a review of the topic, he was able to find 8 reliable reports involving plant cells and 4 on animal cells responding to DC fields. The reports ranged from growth of neurons towards the negative electrode to a “healing” response of wounds. Many of these observations seem to have been dismissed as “laboratory curiosities,” unlikely to have much real world application. In Japan, though, electrical stimulation has been used in the production of Shiitake, Buna-shimejo, and eryngii mushrooms for almost half a decade. And this technology doesn’t seem to be limited to mushrooms, as farmers are also using electromagnetic field technology in the production of tomato, lettuce, strawberry, and some ornamental plants.

The SPLG. Zap!Lightning is notoriously disobedient, so Islam and Ohga built a “Small Population Lightning Generator” (SPLG), conveniently powered by rechargeable AA batteries.3 This device can be wheeled through the forest, and administers 50kV electric pulses to the ground through its electrode wheels. No, it isn’t exactly like lightning—it’s more like the shock you get from a metal doorknob after dancing in your polyester leisure suit. The SPLG delivers maybe 500 milliJoules of energy per zap; a bolt of lightning might deliver one billion times more than that. Other studies have delivered shocks as low as 30kV and shown increases in mushroom yields.1 One Fall day in a Japanese forest, Islam and Ohga trundled the SPLG across their 2 by 3 meter experimental plots in parallel passes that were each 0.10 meters apart.3

The results were yields of matsutake mushrooms just about double the yields in unzapped control plots. A monstrous flush came two weeks after the pulse and a second one nearly as large 3 weeks after. But it wasn’t just the quantity that increased, the quality, as measured by weight and size of individual matustake mushrooms also showed dramatic increases: Harvests from the zapped plots were, on average, almost 70% heavier then controls.3 If you thought mushrooms were magical all on their own, the combination of mushrooms and electricity might knock your socks off.

Fungi are mysterious things and the mechanism by which electrical stimulation promotes mushroom fruiting is still not much understood. Perhaps the mushroom mycelium is responding to an apparent threat of death by redoubling its reproductive efforts? Many electrifying questions remain. Like: how does the zapping affect forest trees? Can the high fruiting rates be sustained without damaging the mushroom-tree symbiosis? When’s the next thunderstorm due in my neighborhood?

In the meantime, if you feel like experimenting (safely, of course) with mushrooms and electricity, you might want to check out this intriguing post about a New York City mycophile who grew his mushrooms amid Jazz music, artificial fog, and static electricity. Or, next time you go in the woods foraging for mushrooms, look for trees recently struck by lightning. Who knows what you will find. Maybe you will even have an encounter with the god Soma, child of the thunderstorm.

An assortment of References

  • 1. S. Tsukamoto, H. Kudoh, S. Ohga, K. Yamamoto, and H. Akiyama, “Development of an automatic electrical stimulator for mushroom sawdust bottle,” in Proceeding of the 15th Pulsed Power Conference, pp. 1437–1440, Monterey, Calif, USA, June 2005
  • 2. R.G. Wasson. “Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality.” 1968.
  • 3. F. Islam and S. Ohga, “The response of fruit body formation on Tricholoma matsutake in situ condition by applying electric pulse stimulator,” ISRN Agronomy, vol. 2012, Article ID 462724, 6 pages, 2012. doi:10.5402/2012/462724
  • 4. K. R. Robinson, “The responses of cells to electrical fields: a review,” Journal of Cell Biology, vol. 101(6): 2023–2027, 1985.
  • 5. S. Tsukamoto, T. Maeda, M. Ikeda, and H. Akiyama, “Application of pulsed power to mushroom culturing,” in Proceedings of the 14th IEEE International Pulsed Power Conference, pp. 1116–1119, Dallas, Texas, USA, June 2003.
  • 6. W. R. Adey, “Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields,” in Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 51:410-416. 1993.
  • 7. S. Ohga and S. Iida. “Effect of electric impulse on sporocarp formation of ectomycorrhizal fungus Laccaria laccata in Japanese red pine plantation.” J. Forest Res. 6: 37-41. 2001.

Calvatia gigantea: Giant Puffball

Last weekend I did the whole monkey run loop in Ithaca, a beautiful 5 plus mile loop with stunning views, fields, forests, water, hills, and Mushrooms! It was a mild saturday after a rainy friday and I found a field mushroom with pink gills and an orange mushroom but these two mushrooms got crushed in my bag by the huge puffball I found; Calvatia gigantea. This giant puffball was a bit misshapen, probably due to other animals that had decided to take a bite out of this tasty treat, but it was so big that even after cutting off the entire oddly shaped, critter nibbled exterior (which my teacher recommended I did quite thoroughly for sanitary reasons), I had plenty to make into two delicious meals.

The puff ball before skinned, just cut in half. Note the pure white inside. You don’t want to eat any puffball that has begun to discolor inside. I admit, the apple is somewhat of a midget apple so it may not be a fair size comparison… But it was quite large!

The first meal I made was what I am calling puffball parmesan. I would say it was as tasty as any chicken parmesan I’ve ever had!Here is how I did it.

Ingredients:

(made about 4 servings, depending on how hungry you are. Note: although just as delicious, I did find that puffball parmesan is not quite as filling as chicken parmesan. I ended up eating hald of my 8×8 casserole dish for one meal!)

  • 1 Calvatia gigantea (I used about half of my large one for this recipe)
  • bread crumbs (I made my own out of some old hard bread, adding whatever yummy spices I had around like sage, thyme, rosemary, basil, salt and pepper and some fresh chopped garlic)
  • eggs (2-3 should be enough)
  • butter or oil (I used a mix of olive oil and butter)
  • spinach
  • tomato sauce
  • parmesan cheese
  • mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to about 350 F.  Wash and trim your puffball thoroughly to get get rid of the tough and possibly unsanitary outer layer. Cut it into hamburger thickness slabs. Have two bowls ready, one with your eggs beaten, and another with your breadcrumbs. Get a pan warmed up with oil or butter. Then dip each slab of puffball into the eggs and then roll around in the bread crumbs. Fry lightly on the pan until golden brown on the outside.

Arrange these breaded puffball slabs in a casserole dish. Pour some tomato sauce over them (I added some spinach too for some extra nutritional value). I also mixed up the extra bread crumbs and egg I had and through that in too. Then put some thin strips of parmesan cheese cheese on top, sprinkle some parmesan and stick it in the oven until the cheese starts to bubble, and you have yourself a delicious puffball parmesan! I honestly think I might have been able to serve this to an unsuspecting passerby and they would have thought it was chicken parmesan.

My puffball parmesan just out of the oven. Yummm.

After this delicious feast I still had half of my puffball left, that I was surprised to find remained in good condition in my fridge for the week. So today, as I seemed to have caught the cold that has hit Ithaca hard I decided it was time to make a big, hearty soup. Last night I boiled a chicken breast with the bone in to start the stock, but found it to still be quite weak, so I decided to make it a chicken-miso soup. Being a fan of using what I have in the fridge if I can I decided to cut the res of the puffball up into little cubes and throw in into my soup instead of tofu! At first each little cube seemed to be expanding with the liquid and and floating on the top but as I let the soup simmer they shrunk down in size and tasted quite yummy! Although ingredients in my hearty soup included a cup (uncooked) of brown rice, carrots and onions sautéed and then thrown in, garlic, and kale. And of course lots of miso, some pepper, and chili powder. Although I don’t have much sense of smell or taste right now the soup tasted good to me and is definitely warming me up and making me feel better. If I made it again I might add less rice or make sure I had more broth though because the rice soaks up a lot of water and turns it into almost a stew.

I hope you enjoyed these puff ball recipes!

A Lucky Mushroom Day

Disclaimer and warning: Please do not use any information on this site to identify or eat mushrooms. Mushroom identification is a complex thing and I am only a novice!

Mushrooms of Field and Forest, PLPA 3190 taught by Kathie Hodge is quickly becoming my new favorite course at Cornell. This class takes up my whole wednesday afternoon and evening but I am not complaining. Last wednesday we went to Danby State forest (near Abbot loop) to hunt for mushrooms and it seems as though a little spell put on me by our TA using a mushroom wand (a stick covered in mushrooms) gave me some good luck. It seemed that my finds grew more and more spectacular through the afternoon.

First I found some beautiful specimens of the Ash-tree Bolete (Gyrodon merulioides), right under some ash trees, as their name suggests. These mushrooms are edible but only “ok” in the taste department according to my friend. But their spore surface is quite beautiful in my opinion. Looking like a spiderweb network of subtly ridges lines, it makes me think of a view of a complex mountain range as seen from a spaceship.

The Ash-Tree Boletes

The beautiful underside of the the Ash-tree bolete

As I bent down to pick some other rather small mushrooms I looked through the forest and spotted a large orange-ish spot on a tree 20 or so yards away. Indeed it was a mushroom and quite a large one at that! It was Big Laughing Gym (Gymnopilus spectabilis or jumonius) growing on a still live maple tree. Can you guess by the name that is might be hallucinogenic? This  sturdy stemmed, fleshy mushroom was a bit of a tricky one to identify but given its size and a few other subtle characteristics I am pretty sure it is G. spectabilis, which has recently been renamed G. jumonius. The smell of Big Gym is almost sickeningly sweet but it is said to taste bitter, although I cannot say from personal experience.

Big Laughing Gym

The underside of Big laughing gym, with a smaller one with partial veil still intact

As I continued to walk in the lowlands of Danby state forest I came across two more amazing specimens! Words would not do these two mushrooms justice. (the best always comes last)

A Beautiful Parasol Mushroom (Genus: Lepiota, Species: Procera?). Such feathery delicate features!

Here is the underside of the parasol, showing a prominent annulus (the ring that comes from remnants of the partial veil.)

And the grand finale is an Amanita muscaria var. Formosa, common name the yellow – orange fly agaric.. A picturesque, but hallucinogenic and poisonous mushroom.

Here you can see the underside of this amanita. Notice it has an annulus (the ring around the stem), although less distinctive then the lepiota, and a volva (the wide, bulbous base)

And there you have it! Well, almost. My mushroom hunt ended somewhat dramatically with an auspicious dead snake. I’ve been seeing a lot of snakes recently, which to me symbolize the ability to transform, but this snake was dead so I will take that as a sign to not test my luck with any “transforming” mushrooms.

This dead snake had two puncture wounds above its eye, almost looking like it had been bitten by the fangs of another snake. I think it is an eastern ribbon snake. If anyone has a guess as to how it might have died I would love to hear your thoughts!

below are a my own hand drawn illustrations of the four above, with key identifying features labeled.

For some more pictures of mushrooms you can check out this facebook album. Also, the Cornell mushroom blog is fun and my teachers flickr stream has some great photos.

The Great Outdoors in NYC

My first very own field guide finally arrived today! It is the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to New England. Now you might wonder why am I getting a field guide when my current location is new york city. (and yes, I realize New York is not included in the new england states but I decided there is probably a fair amount of overlap in the flora and fauna). Well, over the last couple of years my interest in plants and animals has been steadily growing. I always loved the outdoors but it has only been recently that I have wanted to know the plants more intimately by name, medicinal use, nutritional qualities, habitat, ecosystem function and more. And the long and short of it was that it was when I came to NYC to live with my grandparents for a month and help take care of my beloved grandpa post op my curiosity finally drove me to buy a field guide. Even in riverside park there is much to find! And I found myself without a more knowledgeable friend close by wanting desperately to know what this tree was, whether that shroom was poisonous, and what the name of that bird is. And so I ordered what I hope to be the first of many field guides.

I have slowly been gaining knowledge by going on plants walks with those more knowledgeable when I can and taking advantage of other opportunities. This summer’s permaculture course made me feel even more strongly about the importance of knowing plant functions in ecosystems. Then in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I have gone with my parents for many years to do art as a family, a took a new interest in El Charco de Ingenio, their botanical gardens. There I saw a totally different desert ecosystem overflowing with a diversity of cacti. Tapping into a recently evolved “green map” of San Miguel I found out about a one day workshop on tincture and salve making using medicinal plants. And so in one short day I found myself learning how to, and actually making, right there on the spot, herbal tinctures, infusions, teas, vaseline or oil based creams, and beeswax based creams- wow! I didn’t know it was so easy! Here are some basic recipes.

(CAUTION: I am not an expert and each individual herb should be researched and used accordingly. Some are poisonous if ingested or if the wrong part of the herb is used, and these recipes are simple basic recipes of a beginner, so please do your own research before trying anything you plan on taking or giving to someone else.)

Tinctures (alcohol based)

1 part dried herb

4 parts alcohol (vodka or gin or glycerin work)

Leave for two weeks in the sun, agitating or shaking daily

Strain out the organic plant matter and put in a dark container and store in a dark, cool place and it should last over a year! Don’t forget to label it clearly!

20 drops of this concentrated tincture in a glass of hot water can be used to make a tea or taken directly.

40 drops in hot water can be used to soak gauze or other material to make a compress.

Tea or Compress

Most of us know how to make a tea but here are a few words of advice if you are using it for medicinal purposes. The water has to be boiling or just at boiling point. Purely hot water won’t do. Steep it for 5 to 10 minutes, not more as it will get bitter. To use a tea as a compress just soak some gauze in the tea and put it where you need it.

Infusions (oil based)

1 part dried herb

4 parts olive or jojoba oil (other plant or fruit oils can work too)

Add Vitamin E to keep oil from going rancid (This is optional but will help extend the life of your infusion to about 1 year. Otherwise it will last a few months. It works well to just buy a capsule of vitamin E and break it open, adding the content to your infusion.)

Leave in a closed container in the sun for 10 to 14 days, agitating daily

filter out organic matter and put in a dark container in a cool place to store.

Infusions can be massaged into skin or heated to release odors of herbs

Solid Cream (beeswax base)

100 ml of olive oil or other oil

5 grams of herb

5 grams of beeswax

Heat the oil and herb for 1/2 hour in a double boiler

Strain herb out of oil (Optional. Some people leave the herb in)

Add the beeswax while still hot, pour into desired container, and allow to solidify

And done! This can also be used to massage into skin, as lip balm or other topical use. Also, you can play around with the ratio of beeswax to oil  to get different levels of solidity.

Vaseline Based Cream

Double boil vaseline and herb together

Pour into your desired container and let solidify.

Then use as is! No straining, no nothing. This is the lazy man’s version of the above solid cream. Personally, I would prefer to not used a petrol based product and it seems you can get the same consistency by altering the ratios of oil to beeswax with the previous recipe!

I also learned a bit about a few common herbs like arnica (do not ingest this one! It should be used only topically), chamomile, calendula, lavander, and mint but I think I will save that for another post.

Then when I returned to Ithaca, NY Peter and I asked our very knowledgeable friend Micah to take us mushroom hunting. And oh did we find a lot of mushrooms!

(once again, a word of CAUTION: many mushrooms can be deadly! A few are even dangerous to touch, so be very cautious. Go with a knowledgeable guide. This list of “ten commandments” for the mushroom hunter are also a good guide to follow).

But we found maybe 6 or so pounds of black trumpet chanterelles- delicious cooked up with lots of butter and garlic. And we also found some old man in the woods, toothed fungi, and artists fungus and oyster mushrooms. This experience in particular made me really want to know my flora. Imagine being able to eat like a queen and not have to pay a cent!

And so when I arrived in new york my eyes were trained to look around me and notice the flora and fauna. And there are so many fascinating plants in riverside park that I do not know! And birds that also intrigued me. I also found Maitake mushrooms, which, after much debate, I decided not to eat due to the possibility of accumulated toxins and pollution in them. And I also found what I think is an artists fungus and some puff balls! But I am excited now to go out and try and identify the many plants and birds that I have not been able to name with my new field guide. Oh, so many possibilities! What was that fragrant plant whose smell I recognized but name I did not know that was growing by the hudson river? I will hopefully let you know in a few days.

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