Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lonesome Pines

    In normal years past I have had some difficulty finding Pine mushrooms (Tricholoma magnivalare) with any degree of consistency.  This is obviously not a normal year!  I had been told recently by a women who sells mushrooms for a living that every ten years or so there will be a bumper crop of these mushrooms.  I'm beginning to think she was telling the truth. 
Disclaimer: (It's a noted fact that mushroom gatherers have been known to stretch the truth on occasion)
     So far this year I have managed to collect around 25 pounds of these gems and I have broiled, baked, fried, sautéed, steamed, dried and frozen all those that weren't full of worms.  Oh yes ...  did I mention that insects love these things also?  There is nothing more disheartening than cutting into the stem of a Pine and seeing a bunch of little worm holes. 
     Now I know of people that ignore this fact and cook them anyway claiming the added protein is actually good for you but I'm not one of them ....  Most of the protein that passes my lips (at least intentionally) was very recently clothed in feathers .... not housed in a cocoon!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bear's Head Edible?

Took a drive to Cathedral Grove today hoping that the "touristy types" had retreated for the season so we could spend some time looking for mushrooms.  We were right on time.  There were only 3 other vehicles in the parking lot and not a sound of a critter under 20 years of age ...  Heaven!  Must be getting old as the sound of children's voices is like a thousand fingernails screeching on a blackboard.  We hadn't walked far when we came across our first Herecium abietis (Bear's Head) which was really quite small.  This second one took quite a bit longer to find but it was worth the wait.  They really resemble icy frozen waterfalls.  Finally a chance to taste one.  If this is my last post then you know the damn thing killed me ...

Hopefully --- To be Continued ....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

You know you've had a great day when you manage to come home with three Cauliflower mushrooms (Sparassis radicata).  I think I only managed to find 2 all of last year and we found three in one day today. 

If you have never tasted mushroom soup made with one of these then I suggest it's time you add the experience to your "bucket list".  They really do have a unique flavour and smell.  The hard part is cleaning the damn things.  They are usually full of coniferous needles and spiders.  But if you don't mind the extra protein then you don't have to be too fussy ....  besides ....  just how bad could spiders taste anyway?

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Silence Of A Waterfall

    The quiet and solitude of a corner of my property.  How can something as noisy as a waterfall that fills the late summer air with it's sound create the feeling of total silence?  It's as if the normal sounds of the neighbourhood are being masked to the point of completely disappearing.

  Then the quiet is shattered by the sound of a rock smashing into my fence.  One of these times I'm going to get lucky enough to hit that damn cat that comes to taunt my Koi ....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Just Pineing Away

Finally!!!  It's taken me a couple of years to find a decent amount of Pine mushrooms (Tricholoma magnivalare) but today made it all worth the wait.  My wife and I had been out looking for a Cauliflower mushroom that I had left to get bigger 2 weeks ago when I came across a small fortune in Pines.  When I got the bunch home and weighed them I was surprised to find I had collected 7 pounds and 10 ounces of them.  Damn!  I may have to buy a couple of more trays for my dehydrator to accommodate this bounty.

You know some days just ARE better than others.  This was a very good day ....

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Comforts of Home

The comforts of a die-hard mushroom picker.

A little carrot ..
a little celery ..
a little onion ..
a couple of diced chicken breasts ..
a little chicken stock
flour for thickening
and a FULL pound and a half of fresh picked Chanterellles!!!

Cover with an appropriate crust
brown until golden ...
Open the Chardonnay ...

What else is left to do on earth?  MMMMmmmmm  As I said .... Comfort food!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My "Honey" Do List

  This mushroom has been on my "list" for some time and this weekend I finally found a tree sporting a bunch in great shape.  This is Armillaria mellea also known as the Honey Mushroom.  It is a parasitic mushroom and often times will kill it's host tree.  They are normally seen growing on the ground around the base of the tree but this group I found was several feet up from the base.  An indicator of this mushroom is the persistent ring that is still on the stem at maturity.  The books list the taste as mild to bitter so I will soon find out if this is as edible as I have been told.

  Once again....  enough butter, salt and pepper would make even mud taste good.  Or so I've been told.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


   One doesn't have to walk very far into the forest to find one of these.  Amanita muscari is not one of the mushrooms that one wants to ingest unless you are are in a hurry to test the whole "afterworld" theory.  These can do you permanent damage but they DO look inviting.  Maybe if I used a LOT of butter ....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stocking Lake Walkabout

  It's been over a couple of weeks since I last visited Stocking Lake south of Ladysmith so I thought the wild flowers that we saw that time would be nearly full grown.  I was wrong.  It's been so dry that they haven't quite matured yet but they still are worth a look.  The Gnome plants (Hemitomes congestum) were almost completely matured as seen in the first photo here.  We found several more of these plants on our walk but this one was the best of the bunch.  For a plant that is supposed to be somewhat rare we were surprised to find so many.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where There's Smoke There's

SALMON ...  at least in this household.  The northern rivers on Vancouver Island are once again full of returning Pink salmon and for the price of a salt water license one can "collect" four of these silver protein bundles.  What better way to guarantee your daily intake of Omega 3 oils?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Work Work Work ...

   Spent all day patching the waterfall for my koi pond when I'd much rather be walking a trail in the bush.  I've been bypassing the waterfall using the black pipe to the right of the picture for all of last winter and my wife seemed to think it was time to get it fixed.  The patching material I bought was supposed to set up in 15 minutes so the directions said to only mix small quantities.  An hour later it still wasn't completely set so it took all day to complete what I thought was going to only be an hour job.  Serves me right for starting the job.  The damn koi don't care weather the water came over the rocks or out of a pipe so why should my wife.  Anyway we'll see if the level in the pond has dropped by morning.  If so then I didn't get all the leaks patched. 

Anyone think I'll make it to winter before I have to start patching again?

Friday, July 16, 2010

The REDS Are Coming

    I've lived on Vancouver Island for more years than I care to remember and I witnessed a spectacle last night for the first time.  I've heard all the warnings in the past  about red tides that make it unsafe to collect food in the ocean when this event occurs.  Well this is what they look like "up close and personal".  I had been invited to a BBQ in Chemainus and as soon as we walked out on the deck we were witness to this view.  Our host happened to mention that we were having crabs as appetizers that he had caught the day before right in front of his property. 

Wonder if he believed that I had just become a vegetarian a couple of hours before ....

Crab Cocktail?

This is the second time I've gone to Nanoose Bay to collect clams and come across a dead crab.  This one was almost 6 inches across the carapace and had no obvious signs of injury.

Not big enough to have died of old age ... 
No visible damage ...
Do crabs commit suicide?  Obviously not by drowning ... 

A moment of silence ....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Caffeine Free?

  Mid-July in Nanaimo and the roadsides are covered with this flower right now.  For those that like their coffee decaffeinated this is certainly the time to do some collecting.  This striking blue flower is known as Common Chicory (Cichorium intybus) but is also known as blue sailors, succory and coffeeweed. 

The cultivated varieties are grown for their leaves or roots which are baked then ground for a coffee substitute or additive.  As you can see in the photo above they have huge roots for such a small plant.  I'm still looking for someone who has tried these "wild" or "common" plants in their coffee.  
  Hmmmm ... Anyone interested in the franchise to supply Timmy's  .... 

Sunday, July 11, 2010


   A look back at a great day picking Lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum).  This is not actually a mushroom but a parasite that has completely engulfed it's host mushroom.  There are those that are concerned about eating this because it is impossible to identify exactly which mushroom was the host.  Generally it is either a Lactarius (milk cap) or a Russula such as Russula brevipes.  Be that as it may they are widely eaten and enjoyed for their seafood-like flavour.  It's obvious looking at them where they got their common name as they really do resemble a cooked lobster.  If they do have one drawback it's got to be how difficult they are to clean.  Lucky for me this is where I call on my wife to get involved in my passion. 
She washes I dry .....

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Indian Pipe and Catch Of The Day

     It looked like a good day for a walk in the bush.  The forecast was for a very warm day so a walk along the edge of a lake promised at least the hope of cool breezes.  We hadn't walked for long when we came across a small cluster of of emerging Gnome plants.  They look so tasty it's hard to restrain myself.

     We hadn't walked another hundred yards when we came across some very small Indian Pipe (Montropa uniflora)beside the well worn trail.  We could see where some of them had been crushed by the careless footsteps of other hikers.  It really amazes me how people can miss something so obvious to those who aren't legally blind.

And then we found the "Catch of the day" ...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Collecting In Columns

   Remember those ads several years ago for columnar apple trees that had been bred to simply produce fruit in the smallest area possible?  Well they really do work.  This tree is over 6 feet tall and just over a foot wide.  As you can see there is no shortage of apples this year and all my other "normal" apple trees have hardly any fruit on them.  I was sure with the shortage of bees around this spring that it would not be great for fruit but this tree seems to have ignored that problem.  Only one final hurdle ....  what will the fruit taste like?  I mentioned within hearing distance of the tree that if the apples aren't superb that I'm firing up the chainsaw.

Apple wood is good for smoking salmon isn't it?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Organic ---- Farmers?

   What an opportunity!  Visiting Nanaimo's downtown farmer's market gives unsuspecting yuppie shoppers yet another reason to dig deep in their pockets for another piece of plastic to pay for overpriced "organic" goods.    Also can someone please explain to me what a foot massage has to do with a "farmer's market"?
    And while I'm on this rant can someone explain to me why local produce is almost twice the price of local stores?  Is anyone else aware that local produce should not have shipping costs added to it's price?  Shouldn't that make it somewhat less expensive to bring to market than the same type of produce that was just shipped in from Australia?

Just asking ....

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Early Harvest

    One of the favourite days around this household is "garlic harvest" day.  It's been a cool lousy spring/early summer but the size of these garlic heads indicate they grew well in spite of the weather.  I wish someone could tell me when the hell "global warming" is coming to Vancouver Island. 
     A few days drying in the sun and then into a cool dry area where they will await their turn to be sacrificed on the culinary alter.  I've yet to find a recipe that couldn't be improved with at least one clove of garlic.  Excluding sorbet of course ....

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Garden Gnome?

    You just never know what you are going to find if you spend time walking in the bush.   Commonly called the Cone  plant or Gnome plant this pink beauty is truly amazing.  It's real name is Hemitomes congestum and is not all that common.  Count yourself as lucky if you happen to come across one and especially one that is as well lit as this one ....  Now back to looking for mushrooms!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Frozen Waterfall?

   A trip last fall to Cathedral Grove which is located on the Port Alberni highway resulted in the find of the year for me.  It was the first time I had seen a Hericium abietis (common name Bears Head) outside the pages of a mushroom identification book.  My picking partner and I had crawled over the fences that lined the main walk and headed off into the surrounding bush.  I know ...  one should always stay on the marked paths but that day we wanted to check out greener pastures.  We had only walked about 100 yards when I spotted this little specimen.  If it had only been a bit larger I would have taken it as these are supposed to be delicious. 
Next time a little butter, salt, pepper ..... 

Thursday, June 17, 2010


    For anyone who has spent any time travelling the back roads of most logging divisions you are bound to have come across what is commonly called "Orange Peel" fungus.  Aleuria aurantia looks very much like someone has just peeled a very ripe orange and strewn the peels on the ground.   Most books list it as Non-Poisionous which makes me feel better because I've eaten some of these raw. 

    All they need is a bit of rinsing then slice them for a salad or any other dish that calls for mushrooms.  They have two drawbacks ... it takes a LOT of patience to get enough to make it worthwhile AND they are out at the same time as Chanterelles.  Which would you target? 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Last Gasp?

   It has to be a sign of stubbornness when one refuses to give up even though all the "experts" tell you that the Oyster mushroom season is over.  After a couple of post about flowers I just had to take a walk around one of the local parks to see if I could find a suitable pairing for a thick juicy steak.  I would have preferred several Morels or at least a handfull of Chanterelles but both really are out of season around Nanaimo ( If you disagree then I'm more than willing to  inspect your proof otherwise).  Now a quick rinse to wash off the snail spit (off the mushrooms not me) and open a fresh bottle of white wine ....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Down the Well Worn Garden Path

     While on the topic of flowers I might as well post a photo of an orchid we bought from a nursery in Kamloops over 30 years ago and has been growing in our yard ever since.  If you look very close in the centre of the photo you can see one lone flower of Cypripedium reginae (Showy Lady Slipper Orchid).  It boasted three flowers several years ago but is obviously in decline due to the encroachment of all the other plants my wife just had to have.  Ten minutes with a weed-eater should solve the problem for the short term ...  do I really want to have to make my own meals for the rest of my life?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lotus pinnatus Or Con Job?

   The first I read about this flower was on the blog hosted by The Gabriolan which led me to a posting in the Nanaimo Bulletin.  As everyone should know lining the bottom of a bird cage with the aforementioned "newspaper" seems a tad redundant but I pressed on anyway.  There was one paragraph that caught my eye though:
"Friends of Harewood Plains is hosting a tour of Harewood Plains Saturday (June 12) at 10 a.m. starting at the end of McKeown Way. The 1.5-kilometer walk takes about two hours and solid footwear is required. "
   We met up with half a dozen other people at the mentioned location and off we went to see this spectacular flower. 

We had only walked a couple of hundred yards when our guide took us off the trail to show us the first of several patches of this flower.
Now I'll be the first to admit it's a pretty little flower but!!!  This is what all the hoopla is about?  This little flower was named Nanaimo's floral emblem?  (Insert sound of palm slapping forehead)  Why the damn thing isn't even edible ....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pretty In Pink?

    Ok now that you have "collected" these critters what to do with them?  Pink salmon are notoriously soft and don't have the longest shelf life so they need quick processing.  Personally I'm partial to anything smoked so I decided to try a recipe for "Indian Candy".  I had heard mention of this treatment some time ago but I waited until my sister-in-law sent us some real maple syrup from Ontario. I found a recipe online and modified it slightly to my taste.

1/2 Gallon water
1 cup pickling salt
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup of real maple syrup
Stir all together until sugar dissolved
Clean and dress salmon.  Cut to preferred size
Put fish in brine for 48 hours.

Basting liquid:
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
Smoke fish for 8 to 10 hours, basting frequently,  or until very firm but NOT leathery.  You are not making jerky here.

Mention casually to your spouse that you have read on the Internet that smoked fish has been known to be carcinogenic ....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Even mother nature screws up occasionally.  On the right of the picture is a normal wild asparagus.  To the left rear is another normal asparagus.  In the foreground is an asparagus that was one inch across (metric types do your own conversion here) and flatter than a watery pancake.  I'm betting the genetic tampering here was the result of 60 or more years of airborne effluent from our local pulp mill....
     With most sou'easters blowing pollutants directly over Gabriola I wonder how many free range three legged chickens  there are ....

   One final word...  the asparagus tasted GREAT!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Alluring Or Overdressed?

   Recently I have been asked a couple of times why I like to spend so much time wandering in forested areas.
    This photo might help to explain the draw .... the sun that day was just at the right angle and I could see the outline of it's body right through the "clothes".  It was as if it wasn't wearing anything at all ....

   Oh wait ....  wrong blog!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Anyone For Chinese Food?

    Not all of my "collecting" takes place in the outdoors.  Sometimes ingredients are only found in truly unique places.  Like this spot in Victoria ....  known locally as Chinatown.  On our last trip there we found some very great tasting mushrooms that are only grown in Korea.  We will return!
   Interestingly we also witnessed several women buying food in the stores and paying the owner with what was obviously NOT Canadian money.  That money was not put in a till but quickly dropped into an open box under the counter.  Is anyone collecting taxes on these transactions or does the Canadian/BC government even know this is happening?  Does this bother anyone besides me?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Boil Or Bile?

This fungus, a slime mold, which is commonly referred to as dog vomit" or "cougar vomit" was a common sight last year on most of my mushrooming trips.  Does it really matter what it is called?  Under any name it looks disgusting ....  or so I thought until I saw the video below and realized it's a living "breathing" thing.  Now all I have to do is find a suitable recipe and I will be happy.  Anyone for lunch?

Yellow Slime Mold Timelapse from sesotek on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bear With Me

Collecting food can sometimes be a real challenge but for those that are determined to succeed the idea is to just never give up.   I suppose I could learn a thing or two from my competition here as he seems to be willing to cross any line to get his just deserts.

I just never seem to hang around for as long as it takes to get the choice bits whereas this  bear is obviously more determined than I am.

I suppose I have to learn to stretch outside my comfort zone if I'm going to reach the heights that this fellow has attained.  After all isn't the ultimate goal to get that great tasting collected meal? 

Besides who doesn't enjoy hanging out in the outdoors ....

Saturday, May 29, 2010

James Bond Movie Title Or Just An OCTOPUS?

I would have kept this little guy if I hadn't previously read the following instructions on how to prepare Octopus:

1) Turn the octopus inside out just as you would do with a pair of socks.
2) Clean the octopus under warm running water for approximately one minute.
3) Remove the beak (little hard ball found at the centre), the eyes and the ink sack.
4) Turn the octopus right side out again.
5) Boil the whole octopus in enough water to cover it entirely. Most octopus cook within one hour. A good way to determine if it is ready is by inserting a knife blade where the octopus head meets the legs. If the blade yields with no resistance the octopus is done.
6) Rinse the octopus in cold water and remove the slimy parts.

Imagine if we had to turn cows or chickens inside out in order  to clean them ...  All those that would have become Vegans raise your hands .....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fact Or Fiction?

   I'm assuming that all those that live by the sea have heard the ol' wives tales about only harvesting oysters during the months that have an "R" in them ...  For those that live too far away to have heard of this myth one of the reasons is/was that during the "non-R" months the oysters are spawning and therefore not at their prime.  Another reason was that it was thought to be too warm to safely collect and then transport them.  As you can see here my picking partner doesn't give a damn what the myths are ....  It's May and we just finished picking dinner off the beach at Nanoose bay.  Fresh oysters and clams do make a tasty meal. 

Just the same I'm a little concerned that we came across three fairly large crabs that were dead on the beach ....

Maybe there IS something to the myth?

Monday, May 24, 2010

In the Eye Of The Beholder?

 They look so damn inviting and photogenic they just have to be edible .... right?   Well if you read the literature on Amanitas it should be apparent that all that looks good isn't always good for you.  On the top is Amanita muscaria which has an edibility description of:  *** poisonous containing both sweat-inducing and mild hallucinogenic poisons which can cause delirium and coma ***.  Next is Amanita pantherina which has an edibility description of:  *** very poisonous, sometimes deadly ***.  The first words of caution that I was given when I started to collect wild mushrooms was "learn the poisonous ones FIRST!"  The rest may only make you slightly ill if you have an allergy to them.  Best advice I have had in some time ....

Friday, May 21, 2010


    We could hear the buzzing before we got to the nest and it was obvious the wasps weren't happy about us being so close.  My "shrooming" partner couldn't resist I guess and to my amazement he gave the nest a poke with his hiking stick.  It's been a few years since I moved that fast but when I saw about fifty cranky wasps come tumbling out of the bottom of the nest I was on my way ....  DAMN fast I might add...
       As we continued on our way I pondered on just how much inbreeding had occurred in his lineage.  There's more than enough ways to get hurt while out hunting mushrooms without inviting a bunch of angry wasps into your airspace.  The one thing we did agree on was how weird it was that they had built their nest on something as unstable as a fern frond.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oysters Anyone?

   Not the seafood type of Oysters but just as tasty ...  and the price is right.  While not exactly free when you take into consideration the current price of gasoline  but well worth it just the same.  Not only do Oyster mushrooms  look good but they pair exquisitely with most foods.  Also one must keep in mind the benefit of all the exercise you get tracking these critters down which at times can be very difficult! 
After all they don't just grow on trees you know ....

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sand in The Diet?

   Nothing like a little grit in one's diet to aid the digestion.  It's May in Nanaimo and the low tides are during the daylight hours making clam harvesting much more enjoyable than stumbling around the beach in the dark.  With a limit of 75 clams per person it's not hard to make a very tasty and thick clam  chowder.  My trusty "Wally World" garden rake direct from China that I bought for four dollars  makes a perfect "clam gun" and even the lead laced paint doesn't seem to bother the clams.  Now all that is needed is to get up a good head of steam and find that bottle of seafood sauce in the back of the refrigerator .... 

Just exactly how many calories is in one of these little dioxin catchers?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Fly" Fishing?

It appears I'm not the only one that is spending time in Colliery dam looking for a free meal. This heron must have heard that fisheries had recently stocked the dams with the usual 10 to 12 inch trout and was determined to "collect" his share. (  I know ....  an assumption on my part that it was a male).  As I walked by the look he gave me was ....  " I could outfish you while standing on one leg ...."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Saskatoons or Serviceberries

   As a child spending summers on my grandparents farm in Southern Alberta I had spent many a day picking pails full of Saskatoons.  Recently I spotted a bush for sale in a nursery south of Duncan and had to have one.  Last year I harvested about 20 berries off that bush and decided to get another couple of bushes this year.  Shortly after the bush came into flower this year I happened to be walking along a logging road looking for Morel mushrooms and came across this bush.  Damn!!!  That's a Saskatoon bush in the wild.  I had no idea all the years I have lived here on Vancouver Island I could have been picking wild Saskatoons ....  The really good news is they have way more antioxidants than a good shot of Crown Royal ....

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Who Needs Organic?

The first "found" food of the season. It's been spring for a couple of weeks so it was time to take a walk and collect some of these tasty morsels. They are almost sweet at this time of the year and this is only the beginning.

Now the important question .... Cook or eat raw?