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Category Archives: Gardening

The Mushroom Chronicles, Part One: Mushroom Memories

My original artwork, circa 1981

As a child, I was repulsed by the idea of eating fungal growth.  In fact, if my mom put mushrooms anywhere near the dinner table, I would declare in an ominous tone, “There’s a fungus among us,” and stare at them suspiciously as though their mere presence were a death sentence.  At some point I had been warned not to pick and eat unidentified wild mushrooms/toadstools, which instilled a bit of phobia in me.  I saw mushrooms as evil and poisonous, and I was not about to put my life in danger to taste those unattractive beige stems and pieces that came from a tiny can.

My disdain for mushrooms manifested itself not only in the avoidance of consuming them, but also in eliminating those that grew in the grass up north at our cabin.  There was the low-sitting grey variety that would produce a puff of smoke-like spores when stepped on, and the larger white ones that ones that closely resembled golf balls.  In an attempt to rid the yard of the insidious fungus, my sister and I started a little business called Gherkin and Sibling Mushroom Mutilators.  Our highly original motto was, “Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick.” I was about ten or eleven years old, and she was three years my junior.  I had nicknamed her Gherkin for reasons that I no longer remember.  Or maybe I was the Gherkin?  In any case, one of us was the Gherkin, the other was the Sibling, and we used large sticks to whack the hell out of all the mushrooms we could find.  We would then expect payment from our parents for providing this crucial service.  This was one of the many failed money-making ventures of our youth.

Over the years, I got past my dislike for mushrooms, and began to develop an open mind about them.  Didn’t the Smurfs live in mushrooms?  Perhaps that had something to do with my change in attitude.  Anyway, fast forward to about five years ago, when my husband and I were in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  I had progressed to not picking mushrooms off of pizza, and even indulged in the occasional mushroom Swiss burger or portabello sandwich.  We were at a tourist destination that happened to grow its own oyster mushrooms, and so we ordered a plate to sample.  To this day, I still can taste the buttery, garlicky smoothness of what is possibly the most pleasantly memorable snack I have ever had.

Lately, we have been noticing Grow Your Own Mushrooms kits popping up at home shows and farmers’ markets.  Intrigued that they are supposed to produce ‘shrooms similar in taste to oyster mushrooms, we decided to purchase one and give it a try.  Stay tuned for our fungal adventures…

Celebrate the Green

St. Patrick’s day is all about the green: shamrocks, leprechauns, and a sea of people in green clothing and beads downing green beer. (And celebrating a win for Michigan State in the March Madness tournament last night–go Sparty!).  For me, today was also about the green thumb and Opening Day of gardening season. Our unusually warm weather here in Michigan for the past week or so has caused my yard to begin greening up.  Tufts of grass several inches long have appeared in the backyard, and the grass has sent invasive runners into my flower beds.  I spent a good couple of hours this afternoon out in the glorious sunshine weeding a few of the beds and turning the soil.  I was tempted to keep going, but since my city does not offer yard waste pick-up for another couple of weeks, I decided just to fill up one good-sized container with weeds, and wait on pulling out some of the bigger stuff, like last year’s broccoli.  I didn’t pull it up in the fall, because on occasion I have had broccoli produce through January.  Although we had an exceptionally mild winter this year, the broccoli decided enough was enough and stopped producing right after Thanksgiving.   I was thrilled to have freshly picked broccoli to put on a veggie tray for Thanksgiving dinner, though, giving it just a quick rinse under the faucet before packing it up to bring to my sister’s house.  Who knew that small green bugs exactly the color of broccoli are still around in November?  I sure didn’t.  My dad was the lucky one to figure it out while munching on the crudités.  Twice.

The broccoli is a bleached-out, twisted skeleton of its former self, but other future edibles are greening up in the garden already.  A fresh tangle of chives has emerged from beneath last year’s growth, and my pot of mint is covered in a fragrant carpet of tiny leaves.  The garlic is getting tall, and the raspberry canes are beginning to sprout leaves.   I took a few minutes to sow some early lettuce seeds and sugar snap peas, which I didn’t get a chance to do last spring because the weather was so lousy.  I’m hoping this warm weather continues, even if it means having to cut the lawn while it is still technically winter.

So, with some hard work done for the day, it’s time to shower up, don some green garb and beads, and head out to celebrate the rest of St. Patrick’s day.  Cheers!

Growin’, Growin’, Growin’

We have a bit of a lull in the garden at the moment, as most of our veggies are in the flowering or just-beginning-to-ripen stages.  Thought I’d post a few pics that I took today instead of a recipe…a little snack for the eyes, rather than the tummy.

Holy Weeds, Batman!

After some crummy weather that included torrential downpours, I went out to survey the garden yesterday evening.  The rainforest-like conditions have caused everything to get huge, including the weeds.  Wow, were there a lot of weeds.  Because we garden organically, I have become used to dealing with weeds and bugs by hand.  I have also come to realize that pulling weeds is pretty darn good exercise.  I spent about a half-hour “exercising” and decided that it is time to re-mulch and put down the soaker hose.  Everything is splashed with mud from the rain, and the soil is running into the pathways.  A good topping of mulch should stop that, as well as deter some of the weeds. We have been using a soaker hose almost every year since we started the garden and found it to be successful in keeping the weeds to a minimum. In the heat of the summer, only the garden plants get watered–not the weeds.  Besides, things like tomatoes should not be watered from above, though Mother Nature has been giving them a pretty good soaking lately, and they don’t seem to be complaining.  So, after we finish the Mount Clemens Garden Walk today, we will be artfully arranging the hose to snake around the plants in the main garden and putting some fresh mulch down to cover it all.

Here are some things I noted on my own personal garden walk last night:

  • The zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes and sugar snap peas are all flowering.  We have a few tiny green tomatoes, and a one-inch zucchini.
  • The corn is knee-high–before the Fourth of July.  A critter hacked one of the stalks in half, though, which perturbs me.
  • A few of the raspberries are turning pink.  They will be ready soon!
  • Slugs are shredding the broccoli leaves.  Perhaps I should make some beer traps…
  • We have a purple bell pepper that is almost ready to be picked, and a green one that needs to turn red.
  • The strawberries are getting close to being done.  Some will pop up here and there all summer, but our big harvest is over.