Garden notes: The Return of Volvariella Speciosa

volvariella speciosa

volvariella speciosa

They’re back! Volvariella Speciosa! Delicious!

I’ve just had five days of VS, my “resident” wild mushroom. I remember from last year that the first “crop” came some time in May. This year, they began popping up on May 2nd, and many more of them than I remember from last year.

I don’t think there is anyone who really understands the growth cycle of “wild edible mushrooms”, but I’m beginning to learn from simple observation. We had an old apple tree that Todd’s grandfather had planted when he came to Staten Island in 1970. In the last few years it became somewhat diseased and weakened and Todd cut it down.

The remaining stump has become a focus of Volv. Spec. growth, and a crop of some 50-60 mushrooms popped up in the first week of May.
There are a few other “centers” in the garden, and you can be sure I will be watching them for VS activity.

In addition to the apple tree stump, there was another interesting “site” nearby. In the last few years I have been struck by the luxurious growth of a very large and vigorous weed, with magificent green foliage.
I encouraged it last year by watering it regularly, and it returned the compliment by growing very high indeed –easily over ten feet tall. Since “weed” is defined as “unwanted plant growth”, I suppose that strictly speaking, by definition, this was not a weed.
When it lost all its foliage in the fall, I determined to preserve the dried stalks in situ, simply out of interest to see what it would do in 2008.

Well, I don’t quite know the answer to that yet, but it did furnish me with something of a clue as to its providential approach to things. The several stalks –perhaps as many as a dozen– were, as it happened, arranged somewhat in the outline of a circle.
Guess what! Right in the middle of that circle was another very crowded growth of Volvariella Speciosa, maybe as many as sixteen. I took that as a definite thank you from my friend.
I’ll try to get the name of the un-weed, and discover some of its properties.

Recipes: Cooking with VS.
Just like with most special ingredients, I have discovered that this mycological delicacy works best in simple preparation, and I have used it sliced or scissor-chopped, sauteed in lightly garlicked olive oil or butter, or a combination.
And since another wonderful garden ingredient is flourishing right now –to wit, Wild Chives, I took it as a broad horticultural hint that the two might go well together.
They do!
Together they make a great and simple pasta sauce which go awfully well with some fusili and grated Pecorino, and a glass of white wine.
Plus, of course, a wild dandelion leaf salad.

That’s five star cuisine right there, and all for free.

If that is not Purest Providence, I don’t know what is.

Which brings me to another connected concern –the language of the “holier-than-thou” set.
This thought occurred to me last year. It seems to me that I encounter more that my fair share of this “God will Provide” irritating labelling. (The karmic explanation for this would of course be that since I am still irritat-able, there is a need for further exposure on my part. OK –I’ll buy that.)
My particular reaction was to one or two individuals who went all-holy on me when I told them of my Volvariella Speciosa experiences last year. God Will Provide, they intoned, and yes, they adopted that annoying holier-than-thou tone to go with it.

As it happened, there was another mycological “miracle” in my garden last year. Just up behind the house, near some really fine dandelion plants that I spotted and was in the process of digging up — “borrowing” from my neighbor Fred.

There they were!

More wild mushrooms! A different kind –a dramatic clump of bright orange mushrooms, about thirty of them, each one of them managing to find some space to put their fleshy coneheads, viv-a-vis their immediate neighbours. A triumph of fitting together. The whole had a Tolkien-esque middle-earthian presence, a rather menacing aura, that I nonetheless would find it difficult to articulate.
The stalks of these mushrooms were longer and twisted, it is true. But it was the dramatic deep-orange color that was, at least for me, its most effective warning. Toxic-toxic, it seemed to warn, a little like a police-siren, come to think of it.

And indeed, it proved to be the case. When I began googling this new-to-me orange mushroom, I quickly established its distinctly un-providential properties,
And perhaps it was the name of this mushroom that settled it for me —Boleta Satanas (I think I’ve got that spelling right). That’s right –Satan’s Mushroom!!!

Can you believe it? God and Satan! Right there in my garden! Testing me in my all-too-human vulnerabilities. Volvariella Speciosa v. Boleta Satanas!!! One providing nourishment and simple pleasure: the other seeking to deceive me and poison me.

A question: If God will provide, what will Satan do? Kill me? I suppose.

But let me suggest another proposition. If we were to say that among the properties of the toxic BS mushroom, was –say– the cure for cancer, would we still call it Boleta Satanas?

Food for thought, indeed.

And careful with that providentiall palaver –watch what you say.

[A NOTE: The SSP Blog had not been very active in recent weeks. My Sleeping Sickness still persists, indeed has gotten worse. My previous sleep patterns of five-hours-is-enough has been absolutely shot to pieces. I’m not sure what the answer is, but the effects are fairly undeniable.

Next week, on Saturday 17th, I will be at the West Village Fair on Commerce and Barrow streets. I don’t have my exact location yet, but I should be easily located through the fair staff, and the fair booth.
A word of warning: I will be there only until 4 pm. I am attending the Memorial for Gould Hulse the same afternoon.]

So –to all my friends: forgive me, but I will try to be more in touch over the next days.

While wasting away at Stone Street, I have however almost finished a poem, “An Early Memory: The Piano”
Watch this space.]


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