When I first read this story, I imagined that it had to be something of a fluke. First off, there was the impressive number of lobsters; how does one hide 91 spiny crustaceans in one's clothes? Second, there was the simple improbability of the crime. It's hard to imagine that a lot of criminals have attempted to steal lobsters through concealment in clothing.
When one googles "stealing lobster," the vast majority of hits focus on lobster poaching. Even a brief perusal will convince one that this crime is very serious, at least for the denizens of Maine, and the punishment is pretty severe. If the police catch you, you're looking at serious jail time. If fishermen catch you...well, let's just say that you'd probably prefer that the police catch you.
One of my favorite wild teas is Spice Bush, Lindera benzoin, a shrub or small tree that is of the laurel family that grows in the Eastern half of the US. The twigs and young leaves make a very nice herb tea with an unusual and very pleasant, spicy flavor. The berries, both green and ripe red, can be used as a cooking and baking spice; and they are somewhat reminiscent of allspice. The plant is very easy to recognize from the leaves, and berries in the fall. But all you have to do is pluck one leaf and crush it to be positive. The beautiful, spicy aroma is unforgettable. I often would crush up a bunch of leaves and rub my face with them because they smelled so good.
Spice bush makes a great ornamental garden shrub, as well as hedges, and attracts butterflies in the spring. When I was in college at SUNY Stony Brook I used to walk into the woods behind my dorm and collect the twigs in the spring and summer to make a fresh tea. But I much preferred it in the fall when I would put aside a huge stash of the twig ends to dry, and gather around half the ripe berries from each bush. During the winter I would use the twigs for herb tea, and the ground berries in cooking, or added to the tea for a little extra oomph
"Wildman" Steve Brill , a wild edible and medicinal foraging teacher who I know from NYC says this about Spice Bush. Every now and then "Wildman" would come to our campus to lead "wild walks." I knew the woods inside out from combing them for all types of wild edibles every day and would show him a few of the locations of interesting plants, but I never showed him my best places since then everyone would know as well. These secret spots of mine I saved to show a few really dedicated members of the Wilderness Club to pass along when I graduated.
Filed under: Wild Edibles
The mallow family contains several plants we see growing wild. Common mallow is the one most easily found, and was growing all over my friends Adirondack farm. It seems to love disturbed soil and likes to grow along fences, barn walls, curbs, and other obstructions. Relatives include cotton, okra, hibiscus, and durian. The original marshmallows were made from a plant actually called marsh mallow by boiling pieces of the root of the plant in water, adding sugar and whipping. Then, the thick, white confection was dropped in spoon fulls onto waxed paper to dry into candy.
The kids and I spent 3 days last week in the Southern Adirondacks. A family friend, who is quite an outdoorsman, and experienced birdwatcher, purchased about 40 acres a couple years ago near Hinckley Reservoir in upstate New York. He has been telling me that I need to come up for a visit, and we finally took him up on the offer. One thing that he mentioned in advance of the visit was that he wanted me to show him what was edible on his property. The next several posts will all be from that visit.
While I was on the mushroom foray with the Maine Mycological Association last week I was on the lookout for several mushrooms that are easy to identify and always edible and safe. Ones where i couldn't screw up and poison myself. Sure, most inedible or poisonous mushrooms will only make you sick, or wish you were dead. very few are toxic and will kill you. But being conservative in my mushroom foraging is smart, and I recommend to everyone not to eat a mushroom, even if you are 99% sure it's safe. You have to KNOW 100%, preferably with an expert helping you positively identify a type the first few times.
That said, there are a few mushrooms that are so unique, safe, edible, and good; that even a newbie can approach them with a large degree of certainty. But even in these cases I can only be responsible for myself. So please educate yourself and go mushroom hunting with those who are experienced. Or else just pick, identify, but don't eat.
One type of mushroom that is easy to identify is the Puffball. There are quite a few types, but if you have a guide you can pretty easily tell which are which. When immature or mature they are round balls anywhere from 1/2" to a foot or more in the case of the Giant Puffball, Calvatia gigantea. The Giant Puffball has even been known to grow much larger and a huge blob five feet and 55 pounds is on record. I found some small Pear Puffballs on my foray, and someone found a 6" Giant Puffball and were kind enough to give me half. Just remember that there are some types of poisonous puffballs out there, and that immature Amanita's can look like a puffball from the outside. Although if you cut them in half you can see that the Amanita has the outline of the developing mushroom, but a puffball is solid white all the way through.
Filed under: Wild Edibles
In the second part of this series I showed you photos and identified a few of the mushrooms we found during a short walk in the woods with the Maine Mycological Association. We collected a few specimens and took them back with us for when the group met as a whole. Everyone else had collected a few samples of interesting mushrooms as well, and we laid them out on two picnic tables. All told there were around a hundred or more different types of mushrooms collected in a forty minute foray. I was completely amazed at all the mushrooms that were found in just one park.
Wild Mushroom photo gallery A
Chasing the wild mushroom: Part Three- A(click thumbnails to view gallery)
One of the mushrooms names, and looks, as well as other attributes became permanently burned into my mind, and nose. This is the Stinky Squid, Pseudocolus schellenbergiae. It has an absolutely fetid, disgusting, odor that reminds you of rotting squid guts. Actually, fermented squid guts don't smell anywhere near as bad. trust me, I've eaten them many times. But you couldn't get me to even think about getting a Stinky Squid mushroom near my nose, let alone mouth. They can be smelled many feet, sometimes yards away. It is not recommended to try to eat a Stinky Squid mushroom. Repeat, it is not recommended to try to eat a Stinky Squid mushroom. It is of the Stinkhorn family of mushrooms, all of which, stink. For many of the Stinkhorn family it is not known if they are edible. I guess no one was brave enough to get past their odor. Smart. I placed the Stinky Squid first in the gallery below. Too bad we don't have Smell-o-rama available for our blog, but then again, maybe that's a good thing.
Wild Mushroom photo gallery B
Chasing the wild mushroom: Part Three- B(click thumbnails to view gallery)
Filed under: Wild Edibles
The other day I spoke about my interest in wild mushrooms. I showed you photos of the patch of 'shrooms at my local post office, and how it made me want to find out more about the various fungi that have been popping up all over the area this summer. I pulled out my wild mushrooms guides and tried to identify which were which, and learned that mushrooming is a lot more difficult to do safely than I realized. Also my guide books all seem to be a bit on the old side, with the newest two published in 1980 and 1981. So I ordered several brand new ones including the Audubon guide, Petersons guide, and others. But I didn't want to wait for them to arrive, so I contacted the Maine Mycological Association (MMA) and got a calender of events so I could forage for wild mushrooms with a group of experienced hunters.
I arrived early at the meeting spot in a park a half hour drive away on the Sunday of the MMA foray, and chatted with the 4-5 people who were there. Soon more people arrived, and more, and more. In all there were around fifty avid mushroomers gathered to gather. I immediately attached myself to the the assistant of the expert organizing the foray, and along with two others we headed into the trails through the woods.
I am going to let the photo galleries tell the story. The abundance of mushrooms, with their colors, shapes, and sizes, was amazing. We only walked through the woods for around 30-40 minutes and saw so many different types. I didn't have the time or inclination to identify all of them at the time, as I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information. I was focused on hearing what the experts had to say, and taking photos. I will try to identify as many as possible from their photos and list them in the galleries, but many times the only way to get a strong identification is to actually have the mushroom in front of you. Let these photos be an introduction to the myriad of mushrooms hiding out in the woods and fields all around us.
Wild Mushroom Photo Gallery A- The first 15 minutes of our foray.
Chasing the wild mushroom: Part Two - Through the woods-A(click thumbnails to view gallery)
Filed under: Wild Edibles
As I've mentioned before, up here in Maine has been the wettest summer I have ever experienced. Until the past few days it has been overcast and rainy every day for 41 days, with only two semi-clear ones to break up the wet. I've been feeling like a mushroom at times and even wondered if fungus was going to start growing here and there on me. Over the past month I've been watching the local post office, not for mail, but for 'shrooms; which grow there in plenty.
One day I noticed a few white mushrooms, then the next a few orange ones joined them, then some yellowish brown ones joined the party. And a heck of a party it is, I pulled out my mushroom field guides and tried to identify them. I got so caught up it this that I contacted the Maine Mycological Association and got their calender of events. After messing around for a few days with the post office 'shrooms I joined them for a foray into the woods, chasing the wild mushroom. I'll tell you more about that mushroom foray in part two of this series.
I have always been fascinated by wild mushrooms. My dad talked about going mushrooming in the forest when he was a boy growing up in Europe. My mother avidly craves mushrooms, but never went mushrooming herself. Both my mom and dad warned me repeatedly about how unsafe it is and so I guess it stuck. I never did more than buy field guides about mushrooms, which I barely cracked open until this week. This is strange because I am a fanatic about foraging for wild edible and medicinal plants. I have a M.Ed in Outdoor Education, am a licensed wilderness guide, and an Outward Bound Instructor. When I was out in the wilderness I tried to live of the land as much as I could and constantly studied about wild edible and medicinal plants.
Filed under: Wild Edibles
Red & White Clover are both edible raw in salads, as cooked greens, and more. The young and tender shoots and greens can be tasty, but older ones can get tough. Just stick to ones that look fresh and haven't gone grass-like and you should be fine. The flower heads are nutritious and full of protein but they should either be soaked in salty water for a few hours or briefly boiled or cooked before eating; so that they are easier to digest. Eating them raw is usually not as good an experience. I like them stir fried or sauteed until well done, or lightly battered and made into fritters or tempura. I find that the saltiness of the tempura dipping sauce works well with them. If the blossoms seem past their prime, or even going to seed, all the better. Because then you can dry them and grind them into a protein rich and nutritious flour. Just don't try to cook and eat them unless they are soft and fresh, or they will be quite unappetizing.
I was personally introduced to them when I was studying wilderness survival, and one day we had to prepare and eat them every way we could. It wasn't a high point of the week long course, but not the low point either.
One time when I was leading a three week trip in the wilderness and it was near the end of the course. Most of the food was gone and we had been living off the land for a few days. Most of spices were gone, as well as the staples, but we still had a liter bottle of soy sauce and of cooking oil, that had been hidden at the bottom of a food pack; and a few pounds of biscuit mix. I sent half the students off to pick berries. Raspberries, Blackberries, and June Berries; all of which were growing near our camping spot that night. The rest I split up and asked to go into the meadow and pick the biggest, fattest, best looking red clover blossoms they could find; as well as any wild onions. That night for dinner we had Red Clover fritters, some with wild onions, some plain; dipped in a sweetened and spiced soy sauce. For desert were fruit biscuits. Everyone ate until they were full, a hearty appetite the best sauce of all.
Filed under: Wild Edibles
While many people enjoy noshing on fresh blackberries and raspberries that the pick along roadsides and on the edges of abandoned fields, not many know how good an herbal tea the leaves are. Mildly astringent, they are quite refreshing. A teaspoon of honey makes it more so.
Besides an interesting tisane, it has medicinal benefits. According to the Peterson Guide to Medicinal Plants, years ago it was commonly used for stomach pains, diarrhea and dysentery, to strengthen pregnant women, as an aid in childbirth, for menstrual problems, and as a wash for sores and infections. Talk about a cure-all.