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Morel Madness and Creamy Morel Pasta

Ever since I returned from New Zealand I’ve been hearing tales and seeing pictures of abundant morels popping up all over northern California. We had tons of wildfires in California in the last two years and are having a very rainy spring thanks to El Niño, which means a perfect storm for morels! Morels are known to pop up in recent burn scars, and since I just graduated with my PhD from UC Berkeley May 15, I finally had time to head to the mountains and poke around for these elusive earthen treats myself!

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Burn scar from the King Fire

We headed up to the Sierra Nevada mountains in California to check out the burn scars from the giant King Fire that scorched over 97,000 acres of land two years ago. Spring in the Sierras is beautiful and we saw tons of dogwoods blooming.

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Dogwoods blooming

We knew we were onto something when we began to see the burned ground carpeted with these cute little orange cups, Geopyxis carbonaria, which are associated with wildfires.

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Cute orange cups of Geopyxis fruiting in the burned duff!

Morels are quite elusive, and it took us a while to find what we were looking for, but in the meantime we enjoyed our tromp through the beautiful Sierran conifer forests.

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Posing with a giant Jeffrey pine

Before we could find any of the delicious elusive treats, we had to survive some infamous Sierran inclement weather first – it started to hail!

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Hailing in the Sierran conifer forests

We were beginning to lose hope, and then finally Vince found the first morel of the day!

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Vince grins with delight at the first morel of the day!

It cold and hailing, but that instantly melted away when I found my first morel – so much glee!

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Me posing with my first ever California morel!

We were getting so much hail that we considered turning around and heading back to the car, but those thoughts quickly melted away after Brian found the mother lode!

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Brian posing with his morel finds!

We were all infected with the morel fever which kept us warm despite the continued hail.

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Hail in our hair and we don’t care! We got the crazy mushroom eyes!

At a certain point it began to hail so hard we decided it was indeed prudent to return to the car..

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Shivering in the pouring hail

We still found some morels poking out from under the hail as we tromped back to the car!

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Can you see the morel poking out from under the hail?

At the end of the day, it was totally worth it!

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The morel catch of the day!

Flying high with the morel mushroom fever, we could not wait to prepare a feast to highlight our mushroom bounty. We made a quick stop at Berkeley Bowl on our way home from the mountains to gather ingredients. We decided to cook a creamy morel pasta served with salad, green beans, and fresh baked sourdough toasts (courtesy of Vince) topped with burrata cheese. After admiring our catch of the day, we set off to clean and cut the morels.

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Morel bounty!

The first step was to cut and sauté the morels in butter.DSC07537

 

In the meanwhile, chef Vince prepared the green beans. I just love the morels on his t-shirt peeking out from behind the cupcake apron! It’s a good look, don’t you agree?

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My sister and brother-in-law, who are big board game fans, gave me this Morel board game as a gift. The premise is that you are walking through the forest, hunting for morels. We thought it was a perfect activity for fellow hunters Brian and Alex to do while Vince and I prepared the pasta. Here they are deeply involved in the game sitting with the salad, green beans, toast with burrata, and cherries that we got to accompany the creamy morel pasta.

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Can’t get enough of hunting for morels! Playing the Morel board game while the morels cook

The next step of the pasta after cooking the morels to golden brown perfection is to chop up two shallots and plenty of garlic and sauté them in butter until they also turn golden brown.

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After the shallots and garlic are cooked, add in the heavy cream, then the mushrooms. The mushrooms permeate the cream with their flavor and it is sooo good!

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While the mushrooms marinate in the cream, onions, and garlic, cook the pasta and grate the parmesan cheese. Once the pasta is cooked, mix it in with the creamy mushroom sauce.

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Creamy morel pasta with shallots, garlic, cream, and morels

Next, add more parmesan to the pasta!

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Adding way more parmesan to the pasta

Thanks to my fellow hunters for helping me find this awesome morel bounty!

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Cheers to my fellow hunters – Brian, Alex, and Vince – about to enjoy the morel mushroom feast!

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The salad and green beans complemented the creamy morel pasta perfectly. It was definitely a meal to remember! Now let’s go hunt for some more morels!!!

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Salad, green beans with slivered almonds, and creamy morel pasta!

Ingredients for creamy morel pasta:

  • Morels
  • fettucine pasta
  • heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • two shallots
  • lots of garlic! to taste
  • parmesan cheese

Fungi Foodie finally gets her PhD!!

After 6 long years, I have finally been awarded my PhD from UC Berkeley! My dissertation is entitled “Patterns and Processes of Ectomycorrhizal Fungal Ecology.” Here I am happily wearing my academic robes after graduating on May 15!2016-05-15 11.56.27 HDR-3

Many of you may know my advisor Professor Tom Bruns, who helped to inspire the mushroom passion in me. He was a wonderful mentor and taught me the ins and outs of mushroom ID! So you can rest assured that I know what I am doing when I go out and forage for mushrooms!

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Posing with my advisor Tom Bruns in our academic regalia

Here I am posing with my wonderful parents, who flew in from LA to watch me graduate. Thanks mom and dad!

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Mom and dad posing with their newly minted PhD

My parents were gracious enough to throw me a graduation party, and my main criteron was that I had delicious mushroom themed cupcakes. I gave James and the Giant Cupcake images of what mushrooms I wanted and told them of my vision, and they did not disappoint!

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Cupcake mushroom garden!

Can you identify the mushrooms on my cupcakes?

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Ramaria araiospora (pink coral mushrooms) and golden chanterelle cupcakes!

I was inspired by my trip to New Zealand to include these beautiful blue Entoloma hochstetteri, which many of my friends I made in New Zealand sent me pictures of because they are so charismatic!

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Entoloma hochstetteri beautiful blue New Zealand mushrooms

And of course I had to include the ever so photogenic Amanita muscaria

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Amanita muscaria red velvet cupcakes

Interspersed with salted caramel and peter pan mushrooms, they made a beautiful cupcake mushroom garden.

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Salted caramel, Amanita muscaria red velvet, and peanut butter Peter pan cupcakes

It was truly a mushroom cupcake garden fit for Dr. Fungi Foodie :)

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Thanks Laura for coming to celebrate with me and my cupcake mushroom garden!

And of course, I have to show off all my new mushroom schwag. My friends know what I like :)

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Mushroom themed graduation presents – I love them!

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New Zealand Mushrooms! Part 2

Thanks for your enthusiasm about my southern hemisphere posts! My last post was about New Zealand north island mushrooms, but now we are going to embark onto the south island! As some of you may know, my PhD speciality is on fungi symbiotically associated with pine tree roots. Introduced pine trees make up a big proportion of New Zealand forests, and foresters were not able to get the pine trees to grow until they co-introduced the obligately mutualistic fungi along with the trees. Thus, much to my surprise, I recognized a lot of the mushrooms that I saw in NZ because they were northern hemisphere mushrooms that were co-introduced along with the pine trees. So you might start to see some photos that look awfully similar to my California mushroom hunting in Point Reyes National Seashore.

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Posing with some beautiful Amanita muscarias. Am I in California or am I in New Zealand?

Amanita muscaria is probably the most recognizable mushroom species of all time. It is the fly agaric, or as my Swedish friends taught me, flugsvamp, recognizable from Mario Brothers, Alice in Wanderland, or the amazing manicure I got for the Ecology of Soil Microorganisms conference in Prague. It is a very photogenic mushroom and I had a lot of fun posing with it as I happened upon them in a hike in Arrowtown near Queenstown, New Zealand.

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Having fun posing with these beautiful Amanita muscaria

Amanita muscaria is interesting because it is very invasive in the southern hemisphere and grows in huge abundances like I have never seen in the northern hemisphere. It would be really interesting to study its invasion ecology! But that’s a little too esoteric for this blog…for now I will just mention that they get really really big in the southern hemisphere, and they are everywhere, but don’t let their beauty trick you into eating them. They may look very appealing, but without proper detoxification they will make you really ill.

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Big, beautiful New Zealand Amanita muscaria

The most fun part about mushroom hunting in New Zealand was watching my new traveler friends that I met from across the globe get psyched about mushrooms. Check out my Dutch friend Julia taking pictures of mushrooms. I got everyone into the mushroom fever!

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My Dutch friend Julia can’t help but get sucked in to the mushroom fever!

My Spanish friend Claudia, who I met while traveling in Peru, moved to New Zealand several months ago. She now lives in Queenstown, and when I got there she took me and Julia on this amazing hike called the Sawpit Gully Loop in a cute little town near Queenstown called Arrowtown. It truly is a small world, after all!

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Julia and Claudia hiking the Sawpit Gully Loop in Arrowtown

It had been raining a lot in the south island, which was a bummer for my friends who were hoping to partake in the adrenaline activities New Zealand is famous for, but it was great for mushrooms! We found so many species on this hike and I recognized all of the genera because they were all associated with the introduced northern hemisphere pine trees.

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Julia, Claudia, and I, pumped on the mushroom fever :)

Here is a fun New Zealand species of Agaricus that I found hiking around the grasslands section of the trail.

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New Zealand Agaricus

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Hiking through the pine forest section, of course I found lots of Suillus because they are specialized to associate with trees only in the Pinaceae. Suillus are recognizable by their very slimy caps which is why they are commonly known as slippery jacks.

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Slimy Suillus commonly known as slippery jacks

Suillus is a good genus to be able to recognize if you are lost in the woods because it is highly abundant (I literally saw thousands in New Zealand) and edible, although not particularly delicious. It has tubes instead of gills, often has an annulus (ring around the stem), always grows near pine trees, and often has a very slimy cap.

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Underside of the Suillus

Mushroom identification requires you to utilize all of your senses. To that end, smells and tastes are very important forms of mushroom ID. I had all sorts of fun introducing my new friends to smelling and tasting different genera of mushrooms to learn their diagnostic features. For instance, Hebeloma is distinctive for its radish like smell.

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Hebeloma smells like radish

Inocybe on the other hand is described as smelling spermatic. Can you guess what that smells like?

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Inocybes

Another genus that was very common in the pine forests in New Zealand was Lactarius. Lactarius is known for it’s milky lactates that can often taste spicy or make your tongue burn. It’s ok to lick a small amount for identification purposes. I promise it won’t kill you :)

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Lactarius lactates milky latex

A beautiful mushroom that I was very excited to see was the Hygrocybe singeriIn California these mushrooms are very common in redwood forests. They are so beautiful and colorful and slimy they are very fun to find in the woods. They are decomposer mushrooms that you can often find growing in leaf litter.IMG_4912

Hygrocybe singeri is recognizable because it stains black when you touch it.

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Hygrocybe singeri stains black when you touch it.

For me, by far the most exciting find of the day was the hundreds of very edible Coprinus comatusThis mushroom, also known as the shaggy mane, is part of a large group of mushrooms called the inky caps.

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Tons of Coprinus comatus AKA the shaggy mane

Inky caps are called that way because their spores are very black and the caps slowly melt and eat themselves (called deliquescing) to disperse the spores.

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Inky cap deliquescing and releasing its black spores

You want to eat this mushroom when it is young and white, before it has started to deliquesce.

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Young Coprinus comatus, in perfect condition for eating :)

Look how happy I am to be surrounded by tons of edible shaggy mane mushrooms :) Cheers NZ!

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New Zealand Mushrooms! Part 1

I’ve been a bit remiss about posting here but as it turns out writing a dissertation is a bit time consuming…and so are world travels :) As a treat to myself for finishing up my dissertation, I spent the month of March traveling in New Zealand. I swam with dolphins, took a helicopter ride over Mount Cook, did tons of hikes, met incredible people, and much to my excitement found tons of mushrooms! On my first day in New Zealand I was lucky enough to be taken around by my friend and fellow mycology PhD student, Renee Johansen, who interestingly enough I met while doing field work in Canada. Renee lives in Auckland and drove me around to some amazing sites where we saw giant Kauri trees, waterfalls, beautiful beaches, and you guessed it… tons of mushrooms!

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Giant Kauri trees

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Beautiful black sand beach Piha

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Kite Kite waterfall

Of course seeing the Kauri trees and the black sand beach and my first of many waterfalls in New Zealand was amazing, but then I noticed these yellow mushrooms carpeting the moss..

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I thought they looked awfully familiar … very similar to the yellow foot chanterelles I know and love from Mendocino. I saw those diagnostic blunt ridges and I knew that they must be some New Zealand species of chanterelles!

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I checked with Renee’s advisor Dr. Peter Johnston and he confirmed that it’s a New Zealand species called Cantharellus wellingtonensis. I saw them everywhere around Auckland! Unfortunately I was not able to try them but if anyone has tried them please let me know what they taste like! The other extremely exciting find was I found a stinkhorn in the wild!

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New Zealand stinkhorn!

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I also saw these gorgeous orange mushrooms everywhere in New Zealand. Apparently they are invasive but they sure are pretty :)IMG_3650

On my second day in New Zealand I went north to the Bay of Islands and took a hike to the Haruru Falls.

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Haruru Falls in Paihia

The waterfalls were beautiful but it was a two hour hike to get there and on the way we found tons of mushrooms!

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Beautiful New Zealand Bolete

I was pretty excited to see some ectomycorrhizal fungi all over New Zealand – I found a Thelephora, Rhizopogon, Tapinella, and some sort of pretty Bolete.

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Stay tuned to see all the other beautiful mushrooms I found in New Zealand!

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Mushroom hunting in Point Reyes!

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Showing off the beautiful purple Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis mushrooms! Photo by Akiko Carver.

In the last few weeks it has FINALLY started raining in California! Huzzah! That means I can start posting pictures of my local mushroom hunting adventures rather than having all my mushroom hunting pictures come from Oregon. My advisor, Tom, my lab mate, Akiko, and my co-GSI (graduate student instructor), Vince, and I went out mushroom hunting in Point Reyes National Seashore last week to collect mushrooms for the California Mushrooms final.

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The ground carpeted with Pholiota velaglutinosa

The ground was absolutely COVERED in mushrooms. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an abundance of mushrooms in a single location before. There were huge swaths of ground covered in Pholiota velaglutinosa. This is what it looks like up close!

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Pholiota velaglutinosa. Photo courtest of Vince Wu.

This would have been a good spot to study fungal competition because there were huge areas of ground covered in Pholiota and then right next to it were mountains of Gymnopilus, another wood decay species, but there was very little intermixing between the species.

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Ground covered in Gymnopilus, another wood decay mushroom

These are all wood decay mushrooms competing with each other for the wood chips that were covering the ground next to where they had obviously done some recent tree felling and wood chipping. Interspersed with the Pholiota and Gymnopilus were huge swaths of Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca.

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Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca

These mushrooms can be super sneaky because they are known as the false chanterelle. From afar they can trick you and you get excited thinking they are chanterelles, but they you pick them and see that they have gills instead of dull ridges and are usually much brighter orange and have inrolled margins. What do you think, did it trick you?

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Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca, AKA the false chanterelle. Did it trick you? Photo by Vince Wu

After tromping through the wood chips and glorying in the masses of wood decay (and unfortunately unedible) mushrooms, we left to the oak forests in search of ectomycorrhizal fungi. We came across some beautiful Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis which are in mutualistic relationships with the oak and pine trees in Point Reyes.

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Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis Photo by Akiko Carver

While these mushrooms are technically edible I personally have never eaten them before. I just love to admire them for their beauty. Look how purple!!!

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We found tons of little mushroom treasures! Here is my tackle box that I use to protect the smaller and more delicate mushrooms while we are tromping around. Can you recognize any of these species in this box?

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Tackle box filled with dainty mushroom treasures

While hiking around we stumbled upon perhaps the most exciting find of the day – a veritable forest of Amanita muscaria!

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Forest of Amanita muscarias! Photo by Akiko Carver

These are the typical fairy tale mushrooms famous from Mario Kart and for giving Alice her trippy experience in Wonderland. They are also stunningly beautiful.

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Amanita muscaria. Photo by Vince Wu

We pretty much couldn’t contain ourselves from the excitement of finding so many beautiful mushrooms. Here is my co-GSI vince doing his best Gollum impression.

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Vince doing his best gollum impression

Luckily my lab mate Akiko is also a talented artist and came up with some creative photography ideas. Thanks Akiko Carver  – this probably should be an ad for Berkeley mycology, no?

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Should I be the new face of Berkeley mycology? Photo by Akiko Carver

We really had fun with Amanita muscaria photography. I wouldn’t recommend eating them raw unless you want to vomit, hallucinate, and have terrible diarrhea and stomach pains, but aren’t they beautiful??? I did actually eat them at David Arora’s house, but there is a fancy detoxifying process that involves boiling them in water for 7 minutes, dumping the water, boiling again for 7 minutes, then dumping the water again, before you can cook and eat them.

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Amanita muscaria art courtesy of Akiko Carver

We were seriously so excited to find so many beautiful mushrooms that we were all pretty much buzzing from a mushroom high. Mushroom hunting is so fun! Bolstered by the exciting forest of Amanita muscaria find, Akiko and Vince were adventurous enough that they were willing to climb this steep hill in search of more mushrooms. See kids – we worked hard to collect mushrooms for your exam!

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My co-GSI Vince and my lab mate Akiko trampling up a steep ravine in search of mushrooms

While we did not find any prized edibles, we still had a lot of fun collecting mushrooms in Point Reyes, and we found a lot of interesting mushrooms for the California Mushrooms final. Hopefully the students agreed! Thanks to Akiko and Vince for help with the mushroom photography and for wonderful mushroom hunting companionship :)

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Rich porcini gravy

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This post is dedicated to the beautiful king bolete Boletus edulis. We found a few gorgeous young specimens while crawling through the bramble in the Oregon dunes.

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In my previous post about the Queen bolete I mentioned that you can identify boletes beause they have brown bun shaped caps, tubes instead of gills, and fine reticulation on the upper part of their stems. They are super buttery and delicious and add an amazing flavor to any creamy dish.

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Below is another recipe courtesy of my mycology buddy Roo! Roo made a delicious vegetarian porcini gravy to serve on top of biscuits and mashed potatoes at a dinner party.

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Luckily, the porcinis were amazingly maggot free! They were small but we were lucky and got them nice and young before they had time to attract bugs. Roo chopped them to a nice even dice and set them in a bowl. The first step of the gravy is to chop up an onion and a bunch of garlic.

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Then you sauté it in A LOT of butter.

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Once the onions and garlic are starting to brown add the mushrooms.

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OMG yum this looks so good! I want this in my mouth now!

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At this point add a handful of flour.

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Stir it up with the flour for a while until the flour finely coats the ingredients.
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Then start slowly adding in vegetable stock letting it incorporate little by little as you stir so the gravy does not get clumpy.

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Add the broth slowly and keep stirring for a few minutes.

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Add broth until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Then let it simmer on the stove for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors develop.

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This potluck was amazing and had so many delicious foods! Here is my plate loaded up with goodies with the porcini gravy covering my mashed potatoes! Yum!

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Ingredients:

  • porcinis – as many as you can find!
  • 1 onion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • half a stick of butter
  • handful of flour
  • 1 pint vegetable broth

Sauté 1 onion and 5 garlic cloves in half a stick of butter, then add the porcinis and sauté until they released their juices. Then add a handful of flour to make a roux, and brown the flour (add more butter if needed). Then slowly added about a pint of vegetable broth, stirring in each addition thoroughly. Then just let it simmer for ~30 min or so, to let the flavors blend. Thanks to Roo for the recipe and professional photographer Brian Jones for most of the cooking photos!

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More mushrooms in Oregon: the coast, dunes, and city parks

As the drought dragged on in California this fall I longed for rainier pastures in Oregon. Fortunately my friend Roo who is also a PhD student in mycology lives in Eugene where mushrooms are abundant! After having so much fun and finding chanterelles in the Cascades the last time, I returned this time to look for Porcinis and Matsutakes on the coast in the dunes.

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Mushroom hunting along the Oregon dunes

To me it’s a pretty irregular sight to associate mushroom hunting with sand, but don’t you just love this photo of Roo walking across the dunes with his mushroom basket? Turns out the dunes are a great place to go mushroom hunting! Plus you get awesome views of the Oregon coast. Not a bad place to hunt, right?

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Oregon coast

We walked around for a while and came across some lovely giant Amanita muscaria. Unfortunately they were a bit soggy and difficult to take home but they sure are pretty.

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Amanita muscaria or the fairytale mushroom in the woods

In addition to mushroom hunting on the coast we also did some city mushroom hunting in Eugene at a local park. It was a beautiful park with so much green peppered with yellow fall colors.

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Fall colors in Oregon

While we did not find any edible mushrooms in the park we found some really cool little guys including these cute little Calocera cornea jelly fungi.

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Calocera cornea covering a dead log

We also found some fun ascomycetes called Xylaria hypoxylon decaying wood. Can you guess why their common name is the candle snuff fungus or more ominously dead man’s fingers?

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Xylaria hypoxylon AKA dead man’s fingers or the candlesnuff fungus

There was lots of dead wood in this park so we saw lots of interesting wood decay mushrooms including this really cool polypore Oligoporus caesius commonly known as the blue cheese fungus.

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Can you guess why this is known as the blue cheese fungus?

Roo is really into wood decay mushrooms and ascomycetes in the Xylariales in particular so he spent lots of time poking around dead logs.

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Roo poking dead logs for ascomycetes

I was particularly impressed by this jelly fungus/polypore called Phlebia tremellosa that was all over a dead log. I’ve never seen this mushroom before and it was so slimy and jelly like.

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Phlebia tremellosa covering a dead log

It also had cool pores on the underside. It’s hard to describe the texture but it was quite jiggly and fun.

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Pored underside of Phlebia tremellosa

This was quite an awesome city park and had some lovely giant Douglas fir trees in it. Aren’t they majestic?

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Giant Douglas fir tree in Eugene park

So I know what you are thinking – nice pictures and nice mushrooms of mushroom hunting on the Oregon coast and in Eugene, but where are the edibles??? While we unfortunately did not quite find the bounty that I was hoping for, we did happen upon a few king boletes Boletus edulis in nestled under the bushes in the forests on the Oregon coast.

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Boletus edulis the prized king porcini

Perhaps more exciting, I found this baby nestled under a manzanita bush. Get excited for the next couple posts where I post about what we cooked with the porcinis and matsutakes!

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Tricholoma magnivelare the American Matsutake

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Oyster mushrooms and porcinis in class

Despite the extensive drought in California, some prized edible mushrooms are sneaking their way into my classroom. As mentioned in a previous post, I’m teaching a class at UC Berkeley this semester called California Mushrooms. Students bring in mushrooms that they find hiking around the local forests or on campus, and we identify them in lab. Imagine my delight when this giant pile of oyster mushrooms walked into my classroom a few weeks ago!

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Whenever we get a sizable collection of edible mushrooms in the classroom we cook them so that all of the students can try them. Oyster mushrooms, also known as Pleurotus ostreatusare not necessarily the most prized mushrooms because they are not that scarce. Unlike chanterelles and porcinis, which are ectomycorrhizal fungi and are mutualistically associated with trees, oyster mushrooms are saptrophic fungi that make a living by decaying dead material such as wood. This is an easy environment to reproduce in culture so oyster mushrooms are cultivated and thus readily abundant. You might have seen them in your local grocery store. Or you might be seeing them on downed logs while hiking around in the forest, which is where my student found them in the woods in Marin county. 
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We cleaned and sliced up the mushrooms and prepped them on our handy wooden cutting board in lab. As you saw in the chicken of the woods post, we have a set up where we bring in a portable hot plate and cook mushrooms in the fume hood.

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We like to cook the mushrooms simply in butter and add salt so the students can taste them in their purest element. I do enjoy oyster mushrooms but I will admit that they are not the most flavorful.  However, oyster mushrooms would add great texture and meaty flavor to a stir fry or an egg dish.

IMG_2484Chicken of the woods, which I wrote about in my last post, has been coming in a lot as well as it is a common parasite of Eucalyptus trees on campus and in Albany and Berkeley. Since they are so tasty and were such a hit in the previous class, we decided to cut those up and cook them as well.

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Don’t they add a lovely color? Here are the oyster mushrooms all cooked up. You can see we use pretty fancy flatware in class…

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Now of course the students love trying all new mushrooms but I was especially excited when we got our first porcini! Alas it was only a single mushroom that was found by one of the students hiking around in Mendocino, but I had to cut it up for students to try since it is such a prized edible.

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Porcinis are ectomycorrhizal fungi, mutualistically associated with trees, so they must be foraged in order to find them because it is a really difficult environment to recreate in culture. Many mushrooms in the genus Boletus are lumped into the edible category of porcinis, but the one that we had in class was the queen bolete Boletus regineus known for the white bloom she has on her cap when young. Mushrooms in the genus Boletus are distinctive for having tubes instead of gills. Remember my post about hedgehog mushrooms where I mentioned that mushrooms in the genus Hydnum have spiny teeth instead of gills? Mushrooms have evolved all sorts of awesome mechanisms for dispersing their spores!

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Porcinis are identifiable due to the brown bun shaped caps, the tubes, and the reticulation, or netting, on the top of the stem. Can you see it? As I mentioned previously, porcinis are a rare find and are super delectable so I was very excited to cook it in class.

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As usual, we kept it simple cooking it in the frying pan with butter and salt. Porcinis are delicious in egg dishes, gravy, soups, many Italian dishes, and would likely add a rich buttery flavor to any dish. They were super buttery and delicious! Here’s my co-TA Vince enjoying mushrooms in our lab.

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Here are the students gathering round to try the mushrooms! Bon apetit!

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Chicken of the woods

Gorgeous Laetiporus water color by Roo Vandegrift; source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/werdnus_roo/11058420284/

Gorgeous Laetiporus water color by my talented friend Roo Vandegrift; source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/werdnus_roo/11058420284/

Laetiporus gilbertosinii, affectionately referred to as the chicken of the woods, is one of those mushrooms that you don’t really have to be an expert to identify. It is a bright orange shelf fungus and in Berkeley commonly grows sticking out of Eucalyptus trees. The Eucalyptus trees may not be very happy to host it (it’s a disease), however, lucky the mushroom hunter who passes by an infected tree! These mushrooms are nearly impossible to misidentify, as nothing else looks anything like it. However, CAUTION must be used when eating this mushroom because it must be cooked SUPER WELL in order to eat it, otherwise you will likely get sick. If you do find it, and you cook it super well, it is an extremely flavorful, meaty mushroom.

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Only eat it when it is in the young and soft bright orange/yellow stage

This semester I am currently teaching a class in mushroom identification to Berkeley undergrads called California Mushrooms. These lucky students get to go outside and hunt for mushrooms for class! If they are super lucky and we find some good edibles, we cook them in class for everyone to try! My next couple posts will likely feature my students and various mushrooms that we try in class.

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Do not eat the mushroom when it is in the old dried up stage

For chicken of the woods you only want to eat it when it is in the young, soft, and juicy stage. You will not be able to eat it if you find it in this hard, dried up stage. Luckily, some students brought in some fabulous young and juicy specimens to class so we got to try them in lab! Here is our fancy cooking set up in the fume hood of the teaching lab.

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Cooking set up in the teaching lab

You want to be careful with this mushroom and only eat it when it is in the really young, soft, and juicy stage. Isn’t is a gorgeous orange/yellow color?

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Chicken of the woods at the perfect soft and juicy ready for eating stage

Before cooking the mushrooms, we brushed off the dirt with a brush and sliced it up into fairly thin slices, so it cooks evenly.

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Can’t get over the gorgeous yellow orange colors of this mushroom!

Since we were in the teaching lab we just cook up the mushrooms so everyone can try them, so you won’t be getting any fancy recipes from me in the posts about my class. However, I’ve heard they are really good in tacos!

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Cooking the mushrooms in butter and salt

We cook them up in their purest form – with butter and salt! Again, this mushroom can get you sick if you don’t cook it super well so make sure it is nice and browned before eating it and only eat small amounts at first.

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Gorgeous browned chicken of the woods in butter

How delicious do these little nuggets of mushroom goodness look? The mushrooms were super flavorful – they actually tasted a lot like cheddar cheese.

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Students were super excited to gobble them up! Here is my advisor doling out the mushrooms.

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Are you jealous of my California Mushrooms students?

Please feel free to leave recipe suggestions in the comments below!

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White chanterelle and kale quiche

I know you have all been waiting on pins and needles to find out what we made with the Oregonian chanterelles. Well now you finally get to find out! We made a quiche!

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Gorgeous white chanterelles (Cantharellus cascadensis) that we found in Oregon!

I know next to nothing about pastry, but turns out Roo spent 6 months training as a pastry chef while in college! He has so many skills hidden up his sleeve. I definitely could not have made this delicious recipe on my own, but thanks Roo for teaching me how to make the perfect pie crust. 

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Roo measuring out the flour for the pie crust

Apparently it is essential to own something called a pastry cutter if you are to be a pie crust aficionado. In absence of a pastry cutter, Roo says you can use two butter knives. The object is to mix up the flour with the butter so that the butter and flour incorporate while still saying separate. Sounds tricky, right? It is also imperative to use tools and not your hands so that the butter stays cold. Apparently the secret to a good pie crust is keeping the butter cold until it hits the oven, so there are lots of waiting steps where you let the dough “chill out” the in the freezer.

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Roo mixing up the butter and flour with the pastry cutter

After incorporating the butter and flour, slowly add 4 Tbsp of water a tiny bit at a time until the dough hits the consistency of corn meal.

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Pastry dough is so simple! Just flour, butter, and flour. Make sure it hits the right consistency before rolling it out!

Once the dough hits the right texture, knead it and roll it into a ball. Then stick it in the freezer to chill some more. Pastry dough can be made in advance and frozen for weeks this way.

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While the dough chilled in the freezer, we took the opportunity to hit up the local coop and buy eggs and onions for the filling. Once we got back we started to roll out the dough. Roo couldn’t find his rolling pin, so we got creative with our tools.

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Being resourceful and rolling out the pastry dough with a glass!

Make sure to clean off the counter top really well and spread out some flour before rolling out the dough. Once it’s rolled out evenly, gently place it in the pie pan.

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Pastry dough lining the pie pan

Cut off the edges with a butter knife and make fun pastry treats with them :)

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Roo says it’s important to put parchment paper over the dough and weigh it down with something like dry beans to prevent air bubbles from forming. Then stick the dough in the freezer while you cook the insides of the quiche!

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Weighing down the pastry dough with dry beans before placing it in the freezer

We started off our quiche filling by chopping up an onion and letting it caramelize in butter. Then we added 6 garlic cloves. So much flavor!

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Caramelizing onions for the quiche filling

While the onions cooked I cleaned and cut up the chanterelles. God they were gorgeous!

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This wasn’t going to be some frou frou wild mushroom quiche that you get at a restaurant that has 2 little pieces of mushrooms that you have to search out. No, this quiche will feature loads of meaty mushrooms!

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Delicious mushroom, onion, and garlic filling for the quiche!

We added the mushrooms to the onions and garlic and let them get nice and brown. Once they got a bit brown, we added some salt and pepper.

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This next part was a real treat for me – we cut 3 kinds of kale straight from the garden! I live in a bit of a concrete jungle so this was quite a novelty for me to have freshly cut greens.

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Three kinds of kale fresh from the garden!

How beautiful is this kale?

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Once we had cleaned and chopped the kale we braised it in olive oil for a few minutes.

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Kale braised in olive oil.

Now we were finally ready to start putting together the quiche!

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Roo says it is important to line the bottom of the crust with cheese to keep the crust crusty when the quiche cooks. He dropped so many nuggets of pastry knowledge!

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It’s important to line the bottom of the crust with cheese to keep the crust crusty!

After cheese we layered in the garlic, caramelized onions, and chanterelles. This quiche is nice and shroomy so skimping out on mushrooms here!

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No skimping out on mushrooms in this quiche!

IMG_2426Next, add the kale on top of the mushrooms.
IMG_2430At this point, we whisked 1 cup whole milk with 3 eggs and poured it on top of the mixture.
IMG_2431Then bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.
IMG_2433Cutting into it you can see the thick mushroom layer! Roo says it was his best crust he’s made it years! There you go, now you can make bakery quality pie crusts from now on :)

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Sun in my eyes but excited to eat this quiche in the lovely garden where the kale grows!        Photo credit: Roo Vandegrift

Ingredients:

Pie crust:

  • 6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1.5 cups flours
  • ~ 4 Tbsp water
  • extra flour for rolling the dough

Filling:

  • 1 large onion
  • 3-6 cloves garlic
  • mushrooms
  • kale
  • jack cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
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White chanterelle and kale quiche. Photo credit: Roo Vandegrift