gardening

There’s More than Meets the Fung – eye

Its December, the last remnants of Chanterelles are leaving your taste buds. The first freeze is here. Just a few weeks ago mushrooms were everywhere! They were in your cedar chips, in your lawn and between. You’re curious about them, that’s why you’re reading this. You know some of them are super poisonous, some are super delicious, some are super medicinal and some are super fun. You are afraid to pick and eat them because of that lethal thing I mentioned – don’t worry so am I.

Foraging for mushrooms often takes a little more experience than foraging for edible plants as there can be a lot of false identification. For that reason I am not here today to talk to you about identification.

You’re asking, well then why the hell are you here? I’m here to talk to you about why Fungi are more important then just their delectable edible bodies.

Fungi are in the streets, on the internet, and in the market. Those fungal networks: think of em like the dark web of our soil. A Matrix of interconnected webs spanning miles beyond miles. Alright Neo are you ready to take the red pill?

Connected to that little mushroom you saw yesterday is a network of mycelium that can span so far that one of the biggest organisms on the earth is a fungi. These networks have symbiotic relationships with the plants growing above ground, this relationship is called mycorrhizae. They exchange nutrients and knowledge. Wait knowledge? What do you mean knowledge?

Scientists have proven that mother trees use these networks to send nutrients to saplings and communicate- sometimes to different species even. I know, you’re like whoa! Hold on to your horses cause it gets better.

Fungi are not only the highways for the the transportation of nutrients, they are also like the markets making those nutrients more readily available for plants. So instead of having to travel deep into the soil with its roots or break down some complex compounds, fungal networks do that for them. Look at that fungi making nutrients more available for plants. So now you’re asking, what do they get in trade? They get carbohydrates! We all want sugar right?

Now that you know mushrooms are so important for your garden, what can you do to encourage fungi in your soil? Lets start with what not to do. DON’T use pesticides. Don’t use too much nitrogen or phosphorous rich fertilizers/composts. Don’t till your soil. Don’t mono crop. Rotate them crops yo.

If the land you use is new to you I suggest assuming its been compromised. Most garden shops will have something to help perpetuate that amazing mycelium. A startling 80% of land plants have a symbiotic relationship with fungi and I’m willing to bet most of the plants in your garden do too.

So now you’re like, well I don’t grow a garden I don’t care. Well there’s even more to meet the eye with fungi then just soil health. Mushrooms are being studied in the treatment of breast cancer (turkey tail mushrooms), the filtering of pollutants and the creation of new biodegradable packing materials. Soon we’ll be able to say good by to styrofoam.

Fungi are responsible for my three favorite things: beer, bread, and cheese…mmm fermentation. So next time you see that little fruiting body called a mushroom popping up remember that’s the tip of the of the iceberg.

Want to learn more about mushrooms? I’d suggest checking out Paul Stamets and Susie Simmond TED talks to start.

 

Nichole Criss
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe
Social Media Manager
Chaco CanyonThere’s More than Meets the Fung – eye
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Weeds You Could be Eating: Part Deux

Backyard Liver Tonic

It’s mid summer and here I am, back again for “weeds you could be eating part deux.” Don’t mind the Hot Shots reference.

So it’s early August, you’ve already harvested lambs quarters, nettle, berries, and all those other plants, you know, the vegetables you intentionally planted. The summer days are getting shorter but hotter. Your apples, pears and plums are getting ready to be picked. Your neighbors apples, pears and plums are getting ready to be picked, by you, because they never do anything with them anyway, but you really should ask permission instead of sneaking over in the middle of the night. No judgement here.

 

Oh my dandelion,

it has taken over your front yard, your side yard, and just about everything in between. You haven’t mowed it down because it’s bringing in so many local bees that are doing their pollinating thing and making your harvest possible. Well good news the whole dang plant is edible. Lemme tell you a little bout dandelion. Dandelion, taraxacum officinale, is packed full of vitamin A, C, calcium and is quite the liver tonic. You can make tea, you can make wine, you can make soup, you can make salads, you can make medicine and just about everything under the sun. Dandelion flowers make a great wine, you may need a lot of flowers, or can be added to any mead or wine to add complexity. The root of dandelion can be boiled in place of any vegetable or roasted and ground in place of coffee. The leaves of dandelion can be quite bitter when raw so I would suggest cooking them before ingesting, maybe try them in soup. Not only is dandelion good for you it’s good for the soil too. Dandelion roots break up the compact soil (ahem grass lawns)  and aerate the earth. Their deep roots pull up nutrients and make them available to other plants.  Only since the idea of grass lawns have dandelions been looked upon so poorly. I think it’s about time we change our perception on Dandelion.

 

A good alternative to fish oil supplements.

Purslane do your dang thing.

We may have just missed the cut off for Purslane as its starting to get bitter in my garden, but just in case you still have a little left. Purslane, portulaca oleracea, often used as a ground cover, is an edible plant that grows low to the ground. Purslanes succulent leaves are delectable and high in omega-3 fatty oils so no need to take that fish oil, yuck. You can chop the stems and leaves as an addition to any salad or cook them and add them to any soup or vegetable dish. Next spring throw down some purslane seeds on your broccoli bed and have a living edible mulch.

 

Sorrel Sorrel,

what ever will be will be.  Mountain Sorrel, oxyria dingyna, and Sheep Sorrel, rumex acetosella,  are both edible and both grow around these parts. Sorrel leaves are edible and can be added to salad or sandwiches. The leaves can be sour so I would not suggest ingesting too many leaves or making an entire salad out of them.

Just like any foraging adventure make sure you know %100 before you ingest. Common names can be misleading or misused and many plants have not so edible or even poisonous look a likes. If you are not sure, use a reference manual to help identify or don’t eat it.  That’s it from me this week. What wild edible plants are you eating, how are you preparing them and what do you suggest?

 

Nichole Criss
Chaco Canyon Cafe West Seattle
Assistant General Manager

 

Sources:
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Pojar and Mackinnon
The Foragers Harvest, Samuel Thayer
Gardenguides.com
Ediblewildfood.com
Chaco CanyonWeeds You Could be Eating: Part Deux
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