Garden Notes –Friday 11.14.2008

We are at the middle of November, and I can hardly believe it. November?

It is a beautiful time of the year in the garden. I suppose you expect that I would say that anyway, regardless of the time of year. And that is probably true. Since nature is so miraculous, and mysterious, it is I suppose always up to us to notice the unending parade of the miraculous, and the unfolding mysterious. And to be rewarded with what we discover, and that great sense of …Marvelling!

Amazingly, the 2008 growing cycle is still –clearly– in process. My tall tomato plants –some as high now as 16 feet tall– are still bearing fruit, though I am now ripening some of the bigger ones indoors, in closed plain brown paper bags, where the ethylene gas they release, helps them to ripen.

A favorite breakfast or snack of mine is a few slices of bread with a couple of slices of deep-red tomato with a sprinkling of salt. Nothing could be simpler; nothing could be better.

Also still growing are my boxes of Arugula –that food of liberals, sneered Rush Limbaugh recently– and Mustard leaf. Two excellent salad ingredients, both with that peppery tang.
Another regular salad ingredient are my dandelion leaves –they plant themselves, and have full licence to grow wherever they choose. This of course is in complete contradistinction to the average lawn, for which the dandelion with its distinctive yellow flower and puffball constitute lawn-anathema.
I gather that you can be sent packing from your own home if you have some dandelion in your lawn.

I wash my salad leaves and then shred them with my kitchen scissors into a bowl, and add some oil, balsamic and a dash of sugar to dress the shreds: there is no denying the bitterness of the dandelion.

I have quite a bit of mint growing in different areas of the garden, and now am trying to persuade it to grow and cover a 10-foot trellis section. I want all-mint there –I have recently taken to drinking Mint Tea, and make it up in large batches.
Some of my mint has already reached –almost– bush status! I’ve never seen anything like it. It grows so easily and so quickly, and apparently will grow anywhere.

Some of you know that my garden has from time to time supplied me with wonderful wild mushrooms. Last year, and in the spring of this year, I had several harvest of the delicate Volvariella Speciosa, mostly in May and October.
But other than a few individual ‘shrooms, they have hardly manifested at all this fall. Mysterious! –but the mushroom is among the most mysterious of plants (if it is a plant; I’m not even sure of that.)

So –I missed my VS mushrooms. Who knows when I will see them next?
But I will be looking out.

But –amazingly– apparently the Mushroom Deities do not close one door but they open another.

And just about the time that my old VS crop would manifest, there –right over by those two Ailanthus/Tree of Heaven stumps, where we cut down two large and dangerously overgrown trees a few years ago– there was this large crop of a different mushroom, much more solid, with thicker stems and a bigger range of size, some approaching 5 or even 6 inches in diameter. The quite delicate gills (considering their size) were of a beautiful delicate pink-yellowish-orange.
Stunning. Especially how prolific they were, and the amazing way that the clumps of 5, 6 and 7 mushrooms grew out of the ground.
They did look so…edible.

Are you out of your MIND! –I hear you comment. Do you have a death-wish or what: swift and precipitate, gone just like that. Or slow and agonizing — writhing, stricken, staring, and dumb-struck.

Answer: No.

Yes I have eaten them. And yes, I am still here.

Here is my system of identifying. I have recently heard a mushroom expert interviewed by Lenny Lopate. He had just done a book on the subject of identifying North American wild mushrooms.

I found his exhaustive website with very helpful pictures, and also heard his iteration of the rules of being properly cautious.

In fairly good time I came to see that the mushrooms that I had found were not on the list of VERY POISONOUS mushrooms.
The next step was to cut a very thin small slice from the cap, and to cook it, by frying.
From this small slice, I took a very small section, and tasted it. I did NOT swallow it, but spat it out immediately after getting a quick sense of the taste.
I then began an indeterminate test period of observing myself –any odd symptoms developing, any pain, dizzyness, lapse of consciousness –that sort of thing?

Answer: No!

Just that lingering intense mushroom taste –best Portobello, of which it might have been an exotic version. Of course, all Portabello’s these days seem to be cultivated and somewhat lacking in field intensity.

In any event, I began eating my mushrooms –feeling rather blessed by their very provision. I don’t have to tell you that one of the very best ways to eat mushrooms is to eat them fried in bacon-fat with a slice or two of bacon.
With a sprinkle of chopped wild chive (also from the garden, and transplanted into several pots to see how they will do indoors over the winter.)

So good!

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