11.1.16 Legends of the Fall

Barn 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife (except this one by bette blau)

 

We saw leaves go to glory,

Then almost migratory

Go part way down the lane,

And then to end the story

Get beaten down and pasted

In one wild day of rain.

 

So wrote Robert Frost, in his poem "November." And to be sure, we've had those days here. On the heels of a killing frost last week came a smattering of snow that turned into icy rain before ushering in warmer days. A little green still clings on in the garden, as you can see above. I just harvested lots of mint and sage, both of which are drying now and will be used in my big batch of garden tea: lemongrass, lemon verbena, lemon balm, mint, anise hyssop, scented geranium, lavender, sage, chamomile, calendula and rose petals.

 

Dear friends and supporters, if you have not yet heard, I have relinquished my role in Fish &  Bicycle. The official language is this: 

 

Laura Silverman is leaving Fish & Bicycle to pursue other projects. She is proud to have helped create the vision and fully endorses Juliette Hermant as she brings this much-needed Catskills venture to life.

 

It's all true and yet says nothing of my heartache. I fear disappointing you, but I trust you to extend your kindness and compassion when I need it most. I hope whatever other projects I pursue allow me to do the things I love and share them with you.

Marsh 790 xxx
marshing ahead

Where do you go in times of confusion and sadness? Since my childhood days, I have always felt most comfortable and comforted out in nature, and that has not changed. Daily walks in the forests and fields bring me to life. The marsh, recently filled with brilliant color, is now fading into its winter glory. Gone are the scarlet shocks of cardinal flower and the electric blue dragonflies, the fiery maple leaves and the yellow hickory. In their place is this muted study in decay, beautiful in its own right.

Green woods 790 xxx
green giants

Deep in the woods, there is still enough moisture to keep things glowing green. Moss creeps over stone and wood; ferns defy the frost.

Freshpuffballs 790 xxx
have a puff

I am envious of more southern-dwelling foragers still coming upon choice edibles, as the incredibly dry summer limited my finds. Not a single lion's mane or maitake for me this year, though I did enjoy my first giant puffballs! Turns out they have an incredible texture, like a cross between a marshmallow and soft tofu. Pan-fried, their exterior turns crisp while inside they remain lush and creamy. Those above are the smaller variety, Lycoperdon pyriforme, commonly known as the pear-shaped puffball or stump puffball or, yes, the wolf-fart puffball.

Drypuffballs 790 xxx
dry spell

By this time in the season, they are dry and, when disturbed, readily waft clouds of dark spores (perhaps this is where the fart allusion comes in). I often pounce on them with the vigor small children reserve for mud puddles.

Reindeermoss 790 xxx
who's the moss?

Commonly known as reindeer moss, this is actually a lichen. I only recently learned that lichens are actually a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. Apparently, this type is an important food for reindeer and thus the name, though if you squint it does look a bit like antlers.

Inkycaps1 790 xxx
fungal affection

My deep love of—some might say obsession with—mushrooms extends beyond those I can eat. Every manner of slime mold, shelf polypore and crust fungus is equally fascinating. Relatively little is known at this point of the true biodiversity of fungi, though estimates range from 1.5 million to 5 million species, with only about 5% of these having been formally classified. Boggles the mind.

 

These, above, are inky caps (Coprinoids), most of which have gills that liquefy as the black spores mature. In an interesting twist, inky caps are also known as "tippler's bane" because they interact negatively with alcohol. Results can be as minor as indigestion and as major as death from heart attack. Yet another great reason to be a diligent student and cautious forager.

Ink 790 xxx
nice ink

As you can see, they really do produce a watery black ink as they break down.

Inkycaps3 790 xxx
decomposition 101

I kept these around for about 3 days to clock their progress but had to dump them when they began to exude a rather horrid fishy smell.

Turkeytail 790 xxx
cold turkey

I collect turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) and dry it to use medicinally. I also combine it with other mushrooms, including reishi, chaga, shiitake, turkey tail and birch polypore in tea or soup. They make a powerful immune booster and also fight virus, bacteria and parasites. True story: G and I ate some meat that left us feeling very, very poorly. After having contracted parasites several times in the past (mostly while traveling in the Third World), we both recognized the symptoms, including bloating, gas, irregular stool and general gastrointenstinal distress, especially after eating. We sipped large mugs of this black, slightly bitter tea for just two days and fully recovered! Magic mushrooms, indeed.

Wolfsmilk 790 xxx
bubble yum

I'm deeply saddened that my iPhone5 did not manage to focus properly nor capture the actual color of this amazing specimen: wolf's milk slime mold. I saw these small bubbles (half the size of a blueberry) clustered on a log and dared to pop one, only to see it ooze an even more brilliant and unexpected color. These were an intense, "unnatural" bubblegum pink and others were fluorescent orange.

Tiny white 790 xxx

I was not able to ID these (Jack Barnett, are you out there?). I even tried googling "tiny white fungi" to no avail. They are miniscule and breathtaking.

Exmaitake 790 xxx
birth to earth

These tiny white mushrooms—possibly pleated inkcaps (Parasola plicatilis)—were growing on the site of last year's maitake. You can see decomposed shreds of it still there! This old oak stump is usually a guaranteed spot for me...sniff...

Pores 790 xxx
pore little me

The way you start learning about mushrooms is by reading and exploring. As you go, certain defining characteristics begin to reveal themselves. Some undersides have gills, others have pores, still others are smooth and some even have "teeth."

Shrooms 790 xxx
mycological evaluation

Another step in identifying is determining the color of the spores. You do this by leaving the caps on top of a paper that is dark enough to show pale spores and light enough to contrast with dark ones. (The young birch polypores and turkey tail are not being spore-printed, just sharing the same tray.)

Spores 790 xxx
spore house

What I thought were edible honey mushrooms turned out not to have the white spores I anticipated. Good thing I checked or I'd be writing this from the grave! A little gallows humor for you on this All Saint's Day. But please do remember the forager's aphorism, "When in doubt, throw it out." (For more on foraging, check out my article, Foraging: A Love Story, in the fall issue of Edible Hudson Valley.)

 

What I won't be throwing out is this spore print, whose wabi-sabi beauty reminds me to cherish the unexpected and move without fear into the unkown.

 
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26 Comments

Yes, I'm here! Wishing the best for you, as always, in all your chosen endeavors! The pic you tagged me in appears to be the remains (peridium) of a slime mold. I have no idea though for naming it. That's the dried-out form of this mold's spores. Autumn is upon us; lots of drying going on here (and everywhere). Winter is time for reflection and preparing for spring! Do it!
Jack Barnett on November 1, 2016 at 8:25 am — Reply
Thank you, Jack! I knew you would have an idea. Reflecting away...
laura on November 1, 2016 at 8:54 am — Reply
heavenly pics, Laura..... look forward to the read. Have you come upon any puffballs in your area? Plethora of puffball this year at lake in Sw Ont. Best Charlotte
Charlotte on November 1, 2016 at 12:22 pm — Reply
Yes, read on to learn that I ate my first giant puffballs this year - incredibly delicious! xo
laura on November 1, 2016 at 1:10 pm — Reply
Laura--What wonderful pics of mushrooms. And all of your words, and Frost's, transpose me to the autumnal world you have inhabited for a few weeks. As I sit in the arid desert of Nevada not far from the Vegas strip, knocking on voters' doors. Your world is a pleasant distraction. Next year, maybe I can coax you two to come to Portland to go pick gobs of Chantarelles!
Chris Beck on November 1, 2016 at 12:36 pm — Reply
Tempting indeed! xo
laura on November 1, 2016 at 1:09 pm — Reply
Sorry sorry to hear the news. I know how hard it can be to put your heart into a venture and not have the answer you would like. In time you will look back and see this with a better perspective. The hard part is letting it go. It will get easier with time. I'm sure you have gained something valuable that you will be able to carry with you going forward.
Rob on November 1, 2016 at 2:01 pm — Reply
Thank you for these words, Rob, they are a tonic. xo
laura on November 1, 2016 at 9:01 pm — Reply
What a glorious email/blog. We have just finished a beautiful winter in Perth. I do miss your regular blogs. Glad when they come. Thank you so much for today's. Janet
Janet on November 1, 2016 at 8:33 pm — Reply
Planning to post more regularly again now that my focus has changed!
laura on November 1, 2016 at 9:01 pm — Reply
Oh, and another thing. In Fremantle, Western Australia there are a couple of young men growing fungi in used coffee grounds then redistributing them back to the restaurants.
Janet on November 1, 2016 at 8:36 pm — Reply
You Aussies are always on the cusp! I loved reading about Brothl café in Melbourne...
laura on November 1, 2016 at 9:02 pm — Reply
Glorious Photos! As they say, nothing ventured nothing gained. Let nature heal and guide your soul's yearning. xo
suzinn on November 1, 2016 at 11:40 pm — Reply
I'm hoping exactly that will happen, Suzinn! xo
laura on November 2, 2016 at 1:59 pm — Reply
Welcome back Laura! I missed your regular blogs and am hoping they will begin again. We're off to Ecuador on November 15 and I'm looking forward to writing again. I miss it too.
judy blankenship on November 3, 2016 at 11:53 am — Reply
Safe travels! Can't wait to read about this year's transition. xo
laura on November 4, 2016 at 9:37 am — Reply
May the powers of Mother Nature strengthen us all and heal us when we need. Happy foraging!
thefolia on November 3, 2016 at 2:51 pm — Reply
Hear, hear! xo
laura on November 4, 2016 at 9:38 am — Reply
Hi Laura, I love this post and smiled this morning when I came upon a massive mushroom attached to a fallen tree stump (seen on a hike with the dog), but was too chicken to remove and attempt to identify it. Anyway.....someday, perhaps. Wishing you the best---E
Elissa | PoorMansFeast on November 3, 2016 at 5:43 pm — Reply
Elissa, snap a pic, post it on Instagram and tag me so I can drool over your finds! xo
laura on November 4, 2016 at 9:39 am — Reply
If I have leaned one important thing in my life it is this: We are always where we are supposed to be at the moment we are there. Embrace the joy. Embrace the sadness. Feel balanced and strong in the knowledge that change is the only constant. Tess
Tess McKeegan on November 4, 2016 at 10:48 am — Reply
Yes. Yes. Yes! xo
laura on November 8, 2016 at 6:59 am — Reply
Laura, you are incredibly brave for listening to your gut and doing what is best for you, despite all the force that comes with the plans and efforts of the past. You have immeasurable gifts...your ability to connect with nature and the food that sustains us is an obvious one. And through your writing and photos, you help us, your readers, connect to these forces as well. Thank you for your openness and sharing...you're an inspiration.
amy montgomery on November 8, 2016 at 10:25 am — Reply
Thank you for these kind words of encouragement, Amy! xoxo
laura on November 13, 2016 at 8:47 am — Reply
Have just been catching up with your last few posts here, Laura. I know the difficulty of turning away from something you've dreamed large. Rob and I will tell you our battle stories one day about trying to open a fine food store in Montreal. We lost a lot, but learned the courage of fools in the process. Your voice is beautifully strong and vibrant in your recent posts, it's as fortifying to me as mushroom tea. Much love, David
David on November 13, 2016 at 8:12 am — Reply
David, your words are a tonic and your support so comforting. xo
laura on November 13, 2016 at 8:48 am — Reply