Seize the day.
Standard Mushroom DisclaimerNothing about this post is intended as an endorsement of eating any wild mushrooms. Including ones that look just like whatever this mushroom looks like to you. If you are not 100% certain a mushroom is safe for you to eat, don’t eat it.
There are deadly poisonous mushrooms in Ontario and some of the most toxic are common, widespread, and don’t look “scary”.
Be safe out there. Fill your eyes if not your belly with as many mushrooms as you like, and live to adventure another day.
Each year a Dryad’s Saddle appears on the Manitoba maple that hangs over our driveway. Not a mystical fairy apparition, but a pretty tawny mushroom with a lot of curb appeal. It is one of Ontario’s edible mushrooms, also known as Pheasant’s Back. Though I’ve never personally had opportunity to edible it, because some critters — and I’m looking at you squirrels — always spot it before I do. But it’s a pretty do-able mushroom to identify definitively. Even for an amateur mycologist with questionable morels like me.
A couple of weeks ago it rained near continuously for three days. Prompting the fungi to fruit fabulously practically overnight. Including the Dryad’s Saddle (Cerioporus squamosus).
I don’t begrudge the squirrels their seasonal wild treats, nor do I want to eat their favourite foods from nature’s pantry. So while I was definitely going to leap on this opportunity, I was not going to pick this branch clean of mushrooms. Besides being very poor foraging etiquette, it would be like cronching all the good potato chips while your roommate is away visiting their parents. I try to sample enough from nature’s pantry to keep my own wild self nourished, without leaving the shelves bare for others.
(Though, as Neil rightly pointed out, the squirrels already get lots of food from our household. See also: the “bird” feeder…)
I took one mushroom from the cluster. Not the largest nor the smallest, but one that was just right. The oldest can stay to spread their spores, and the youngest can grow to replace the oldest.
Having never prepared Dryad’s Saddle before, I did some reading, and found this recipe for Wild Mushroom Conserve. I began by scraping the pores off the mushroom, following these instructions. Since I wasn’t going to eat them, I returned the pore scrapings to the tree where the fungus was fruiting. Because if I wasn’t going to eat them, why not leave them for something else to nom? It might be a little like putting the good potato chip bag back in the pantry with just potato chip dust in the bottom, but I think my squirrel buddies know I mean well. Since I was prepping the mushroom well after dark, I put on my headlamp, popped outside and left the scrapings in a little pile on the branch for them.
The smell of fresh Dryad’s Saddle has been described elsewhere as cucumber-like, and the description is bang on. It smells just like a fresh cucumber, if a cucumber was pretending to be a brown mushroom, growing on the side of a tree.
After the pores were removed, the next step was to thinly and carefully shave the mushroom down with a mandoline, then let the shavings rest in the fridge overnight, before sautéing them with butter, salt and herbs, and finally packing them as a pickle.
I popped the now-marinated mushrooms in the fridge and left them to rest a few days. Then I had my first small sample, waiting to see if it went down alright before having more. (Safety first kids.) Verdict? Completely delicious. Those squirrels really know their potato chips.
Rating: 10/10, will ask the squirrels to share the bounty with us again.
p.p.s. (Puffball Postscript)
I also made this tasty Wild Mushroom Ketchup with one of our giant puffballs (Calvatia gigantea). A second puffball I dehydrated and turned to powder (it. got. every. where.).
Did you know “ketchup” basically used to just mean any liquid sauce? Language is so neat. Though I will not start asking Neil to “pass the ketchup” any time there is a liquid condiment on the table…. Probably.
It is rare, in these times we live in, to find things of beauty shared freely. But here we are — one of my favourite documentaries ever is freely available to watch, in its entirety, from TVO.
To Make a Farm: “An intimate portrait of five young Canadians who decide to become farmers.”
If you enjoy it, you can donate to TVO, and help keep endeavours like it alive. I bought the DVD ages ago, because I’m old like that. (And I still have the DVD, because I am curmudgeonly like that.) But equally you can take it as the gift it is, and pay it forward with your own life. Creating more space for thoughts of food and its where, what, how and who. How we got into the pickle we’re in, and how we might work together to get out of it.
In the 60s, a lot of people, a lot of hippies got really carried away with y’know, doing things the old way, and it typically didn’t last. To do everything yourself, try to raise all your own food, and then they just got tired of it.
When I planted wheat, and went through the whole process, planting the seed to getting flour, it was just really complicated and I realized well you gotta do nothing but wheat if you’re going to do that and so I can’t be self-sufficient in wheat…
It’s a direction, self-sufficiency. … You do what you can do, as much of it as you can.Lloyd Kahn
I helped this gentleman across the road today. I don’t actually know how old this particular fella is, but even a quick google will confirm that turtles as a species have been on earth waaaaaaaaa*breath*aaaaaaaay longer than homo sapiens have. Think hundreds of millions of years. Compared to turtles, humans are but whippersnappers.
I can assure you there is a turtle tucked away in that shell, because when I spotted it, its head and front limbs were out, and it was headed across the road. It was a fairly quiet road, but I still pulled over and helped it finish its crossing. Always in the direction the turtle is already headed. Though it can be tempting, don’t second guess the turtle… they know where they want to go. If folks try to reset them, or aim them somewhere “better”, the turtle will just do the turtle equivalent of a beleaguered sigh (do turtles sigh?) and slowly head back to exactly where they were going the first time. Only this time, from further away.
The reason I say this turtle is a mister is a pretty excellent turtle fun fact. Male painted turtles have extra long claws on their front feet. They use them to stroke the female’s face during courting. And this young man had claws for miles. Were I a lady turtle, I might be blushing.
Turtles always strike me as devastatingly serious. If turtles could talk, I’d believe everything they said.Erin O’Brien
Prefer to listen to the story? Click the image above to hear the narrated version of this blog entry.
This is Scrappy. A wild eastern cottontail rabbit who has been visiting our property most evenings, all spring and summer. We can tell Scrappy is Scrappy and not other rabbits because Scrappy is missing a chunk of one ear. Which is how Scrappy got his name.
(We think Scrappy is a he, though we don’t know for sure. And however Scrappy rolls is alright by us.)
Lately we’ve noticed that while Scrappy frequents all parts of our yard, he seems to favour the clover-y grass near the chickens. And since there is clover-y grass all over our yard, we finally started to wonder: perhaps it’s not the clover that’s the reason Scrappy is there, but… the chickens?
Scrappy and our Wyandotte chickens tend to be in the yard at the same time. Our chickens live in coops that are attached to enclosed and reasonably spacious runs. We open the doors from the runs to their yard area — currently quite a bit more exposed to predators — only when one of us is outside. We try make time for this, even on busy days. The “old guys”, sometimes also known as “the little guys”, tend to come out in the morning. They’re the bantams from our original flock, and they’re much more advanced in years, so they like to go to bed early. (Our little 9 year old silkie SooZee in particular keeps a tight 4PM or earlier bedtime.) The chickens that make up the younger flock, all Wyandottes, stay up much later, closer to an 8PM or later bedtime.
Our Wyandottes are fond of rummaging around in and trimming the long grass, so we often refer to their yard time as “running the lawnmowers”. As in “do you have time to run the lawnmowers today?” The lawnmowers usually get run first thing in the morning, and again in the later evening. And Scrappy fairly consistently shows up somewhere in the yard right at Wyandotte o’clock. Not only that, but though he has his run of the yard, Scrappy also tends to work the clover on whichever side of the fence happens to be nearest the Wyandottes.
The other night, Neil and I had our last work meeting of the day outside, so the chickens (and us) could enjoy the beautiful evening. The chickens, and us… and Scrappy. Who not only appeared out of nowhere when we let the chickens out, but also went to the yard nearest them and settled down in the grass for a nap.
I think our flock might have an honorary member. If he lays eggs… do you think they are chocolate?
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,Emily Dickinson
One clover, and a bee.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Just had my first sighting of emerald ash borer. We knew our ash were infested, but I’d never seen the actual beetle before.
I looked down while I was in the garden and noticed a shiny bug on my shirt. Did a little googling to confirm and sure enough, it was an emerald ash borer. It was much smaller than I’d pictured. Only about half an inch long.
I know I’m on the tall side, but I don’t think I’ve been mistaken for a tree before…
Though it’s no fault of the beetle that it was transported here and is now wreaking havoc on Ontario’s ash, I did squish it. Sorry about that, my shiny friend.
No matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all the salient facts about any one of them.Aldo Leopold