Sunday, August 16, 2009

drop and give me your best photo!

This month's photo contest at Gardening Gone Wild is all about perspective. David Perry challenged his readers to get down on the ground and shoot from knee-level or below. He wants shots that evoke a visceral response, shots that look at a (perhaps common) garden object in a way that's fresh and unexpected.

This is a challenge after my own heart. I carry a rain poncho in my camera bag so I can get down & dirty with whatever subject catches my eye, even if it's rained the night before. Who wants to miss a great shot just because the ground is a little squishy?

This copper beech is in my sister Sarah's yard. It's a magnificent tree from any angle, but when you're lying on your back, looking up I-don't-know-how-many-feet, the sense of exhileration and vertigo is remarkable. I took tens of shots, but this one pleased me most. I think the placement of the out-of-focus trunk in the upper right quadrant adds a sense of dizziness.

It's a noble tree that dwarfs us all.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Is it still considered foraging...

if you find them in your front yard?

Last year I discovered black chanterelles (Craterellus fallax) in the moss near our ferny verge. There were only a few, but I felt enormously lucky to find this delicacy in my own yard. This year the crop is enormous and I was positively giddy as I picked enough to fill the dehydrator. I dried some for myself, some for friend/colleague/mushroom mentor Gary Lincoff, and some for a certain fellow forager who just happens to have a birthday this week... Not all mushrooms dry well, but the flavor of black chanterelles is intensified by drying and the texture of the re-hydrated mushroom is excellent.

Purple-gilled laccaria (Laccaria ochropurpurea) is abundant throughout what passes for our lawn; a combo of grass, weeds, and moss is apparently perfect for mushroom cultivation! Most field guides deem it edible but without a strong flavor of its own. It has a thick, meaty texture and takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with, which in my case is usually onions, bacon, and cream. One of my lo-cal specials.

As if that wasn't enough, I'm pretty sure I've found cinnabar-red chanterelles (Cantharellus cinnabarinus). Talk about giddy! This is a first for me, and I'm not 100% sure of the i.d. yet. (Actually I'm as sure as I can be on my own but I'd like outside confirmation.) The only possible poisonous look-alike is the Jack o'Lantern mushroom (Omphalatus olearius), which I've found before:

They look TOTALLY different to me, plus the growing conditions are also very different. Jack o'Lanterns grow in clumps, at the base of tree trunks or on underground wood. The chanterelles grow in moss or grass, in open oak woods. While you may find many in a single location, and even 2 or 3 growing together, they don't form hefty clumps like the JoLs. The chanterelles are also much smaller, and the color is different. Sadly I haven't been able to get a spore print, perhaps because of all the rain. I left some in situ (a weedy slope between oak woods and country road) and will try another spore print next weekend. For now, I've dried the probably-chanterelles and wait impatiently.

I'm also still trying to i.d. this white bolete. It doesn't bruise blue and the spores aren't red or orange (two general clues that a bolete isn't edible) so chances are it's a tasty one. I found three in the moss/lawn, about 10 feet from the woods (primarily oak, beech, & pine). Even though I know there are no boletes out there that will kill me (how reassuring!), I'd rather wait and get an i.d. before I chow down.

With all this excitement I hardly got anything else done this weekend, but that's ok. Mushrooms are an ephemeral crop; postpone the harvest and you may return to find only the slimy, insect infested remains of what once was glorious deliciousness.

Any and all assistance with identification is welcome!

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