From Garden to Kitchen

Today's harvest

The toy garden continues to delight me.

I have thought that maybe it’s providential that the camper is out of commission for a while.  If it were up and running, I wouldn’t have planted my late little vegetable beds and would have missed out on the primal sense of accomplishment that growing one’s own food provides.

Today I weeded and tied up sagging tomato branches.  I also encountered one of the heartbreaking displays of nature’s balancing act.

Tomato hornworm with parasitic wasp cocoons

I noticed that one of my tomato branches showed telltale signs of the presence of a tomato hornworm.  Then I found the worm — covered with the cocoons of a parasitic wasp which effectively turns the caterpillar into an eating machine on their behalf until they devour their host.

But back in the kitchen, all I felt was the joy of cooking good fresh food.  I had originally planned to do a traditional meat and veggie dinner, but as I looked at all of the fresh garden goodies, I changed my mind.

Vegetarian feast fresh from the garden

My neighbor had given me several ears of corn from her garden.  So I steamed it, scraped the kernals off the cobs, and made real creamed corn — with butter, cream, and lots of pepper.

I had several yard long beans in the refrigerator, so I combined them with the ones I picked today, steamed them for 3 minutes, then battered and deep fried them for a special treat.  (This turned out to be a very high fat dinner!)

I wanted to make eggplant parmesan, but didn’t have the right cheeses, so I dipped slices in egg, then in a bread crumb-parmesan mixture with oregano, celery seed and thyme, fried them, covered them with buttered bread crumbs, then topped it with freshly grated parmesan–and served it topped with fresh diced tomato.

Goodness to come

Last of all, I sliced little pickling cucumbers from the garden and added a dash of ranch dressing.  We love pickling cucumbers because they are so much crisper than salad cucumbers, and they are just the right size.

Life is wonderful–even though we are temporarily without a camper.

Hen of the Woods (Maitake) “Bacon”

Hen of the woods mushroom "bacon"

Hen of the Woods "bacon"

I’ve been working dried maitake mushrooms into our menu lately for their awesome medicinal properties.

I reconstitute them for 20 minutes in warm water, then use the tough stalks to make broth, and the more tender tips in other recipes.

The broth is great for cooking brown rice in and for making gravy.  The mushroom itself can be a little chewy, so I cut it in thin strips before cooking.

hen of the woods mushroom broth

Maitake mushroom broth

The other day I wanted something different, so I cut the caps into small strips, then fried them until crisp, sprinkled them with salt, and drained them well on paper towels.  They were very savory — intensely flavored — and would work wherever you would normally use bacon crumbles — over scrambled eggs, in salads, and my favorite–sprinkled over mashed potatoes and maitake gravy!  They are superb, and addictive!

I did one batch in virgin olive oil with a little butter, and other batch in peanut oil with a little butter.  The peanut oil batch was definitely the best!

bolete

Here's the bolete in my earlier post in its mature stage. Inset is when it was younger.

Here’s an update on the bolete I wrote about in my last post.  I found a fully mature version near where the others grew.  The cap has changed to brown.  The only way you can tell it is the same mushroom is by the stalk and the yellow pores.

The interior of the mature mushroom — stalks and cap — were riddled with bugs, though.  I will spare you a photo of the gory details.

I normally stick to chanterelles and boletes, and avoid gilled mushrooms except for a handful of distinctive ones that I know are safe.  There are so many dangerous ones that it’s not worth taking the chance on misidentifying one.  But I thought I really ought to branch out and start trying to learn more about them.

So I photographed these mushrooms in several stages of growth.  They had white spore prints.  I believe they are in the Amanita family — a family that has many fatally poisonous members.

amanitas

Amanita family mushrooms

Our weather is predicted to be in the 90’s for the next two weeks, at least.  So I won’t be out doing  much mushroom hunting until it cools down a little.

P.S. David Fischer has identified these mushrooms for me as Amanita “close to A. rubescens,” as far as he could determine from my small photos.

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