Archive for the ‘Mushrooms’ Category

Hunter-gatherer, me

May 25, 2015

Well…gatherer, anyway.

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A perfect specimen of Agaricus augustus.

I’ve been piling small sticks and prunings under the fruit trees in the food forest (called ‘chop & drop’ in permaculture) and they’ve rotted down to produce a rich black soil, which is where this was growing. There are others just appearing. I’ll let them develop fully before I pick them. Because they’re appearing intermittently, I’m choosing to dry them and store them for later use. There have been more appearing this year than any other. That’s a good omen. I must be doing something right.

But oh, how I wish I could find them like this. What a meal they would make! :

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(image from mykoweb.com)

April update

May 12, 2015

Hard to believe it’s May already; I’m wondering where autumn went. We don’t seem to have had many of those lovely warm days I remember from past autumns.

The Sweet Wattle is flowering all through the bush, filling the air with a beautiful scent :

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I picked the first mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes of the season :

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The mushrooms actually came from the hugelkultur bed; it’s nice to think that as the underlying wood rots down, it’s providing me with some extra food.

The New Girls have continued to lay well, with at least a dozen eggs a week between them. I thought the they were going off the lay, preparing for their winter rest, when egg production dropped down a bit to 9 a week, but then this appeared, all 136 gm of it. Ouch! I bet that hurt! :

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This Japanese seedless mandarin is covered in fruits, the only problem being that they have almost no mandarin flavour and are as sour as lemons! :

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I’m thinking the only way to deal with them would be to preserve the segments in a sugar syrup, perhaps with some spices to make up for the absence of mandarin flavour. Ideas anyone?

The blueberry has donned it’s autumn foliage :

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The oca is growing well and the tubers will be harvested as soon as the foliage dies down in winter :

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The asparagus fern needs to be allowed to die back to return nutrients to the root system, then it can be cut back and the beds fertilised in readiness for the spring crop :

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This is an alpine strawberry in a wicking box. I sprinkled some corn salad seed around it. I think I overdid it a bit! :

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The pepino in the wicking box is still producing fruit :

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The wombok chinese cabbage in the wicking box is growing well, but not looking like producing the expected tight central cluster of leaves. I was hoping to make kimchi with it, but if it doesn’t do its thing the chooks are going to have a ball pulling these massive leaves to bits :

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Preserving mushrooms

November 26, 2014

They’re not the cheapest food to buy and I love them, so when I see them on special at the supermarket, I’m quick to snaffle up a bagful.

Because they dry so well in the Excalibur dehydrator :

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Ready to store :

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When I take them out of the dehydrator, the smell is unreal. Drying seems to really accentuate that beautiful mushroom flavour.

I use them in soups, casseroles and risotto. I don’t bother to rehydrate them, just toss them in as they are.

July update

August 1, 2014

It wasn’t the sort of month you’d write home about….cold, wet & windy, so I spent much of it hibernating inside by the wood fire. I did manage to get some inside jobs done, the most important being making and finishing the new chook coop for the new girls I hope to get in spring. I also did some work (necessarily outside) on the new secure run to house them and the coop. There’s an ongoing post about the process in the drafts folder, which I’ll post when the whole project is finished.

I wasn’t picking much in the way of food. There are just a few tamarillos left and I need to keep some of those for seed. In the greens department I picked silver beet and also warrigal greens. This has taken off again thanks to the rain:

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I haven’t used it much in the past, but I must say I’m warming to it as a steamed green. Plus it makes an excellent groundcover and the rabbits don’t touch it, which earns it 10/10 in my book. I saw a recent TV program where an aboriginal chef steamed it lightly in butter and added a sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg, something I’m going to try (for those who may not know, it’s native to Australia).

The yacon finally died back and I dug it up. There isn’t a photo, it was so bad. Just one decent-sized edible tuber and almost no vegetative tubers. Lack of food and summer watering was probably the reason. I’ve replanted the meagre lot of vegetative tubers in a spot where they’ll get shade and more summer water. I don’t want to lose it altogether, or I’ll have to buy more tubers. This is the harvest in better years:

The edible tubers are the elongated brown ones and the vegetative tubers are the knobbly pink ones with the white tips, which are the developing leaf buds.

My delivery of shiitake mushroom spore plugs finally arrived during the month, thanks to Bernie from Not Something Else blog who contacted the supplier on my behalf through their Facebook page (I don’t do FB). I had selected a couple of logs from recently-fallen large eucalypt branches and set about drilling the holes for the plugs (the instructions said, “using the drill bit supplied”. Oh, right…only it wasn’t).

Easier said than done. The drill labored and stopped. I thought it had died. I tried again with a fully-charged battery. No go. No wonder they call them hardwoods. Eucalypt and some softer timbers are nevertheless recommended for shiitake logs, but I don’t have access to poplar, elm, willow or birch, so this needs to be rethought. If I use a partially rotted, therefore softer log (plenty in the firewood pile), then I run the risk that it will already have been colonised with foreign fungi which will out-compete the shiitake. Maybe all the problems I’ve had are telling me that growing shiitake mushrooms is not my thing. I’ll do something with it, just don’t know what, yet. In the meantime, the spore plugs are languishing in the fridge.

The solar panels produced 110.4 kWh for the month, 16.4 kWh more than for June. I’m hoping it will keep going up from now on. I still managed to send 75.6 kWh to the grid and imported 91.3 kWh from the grid. All up cost for the month, including credits, service charge and GST was $36.45. That service charge is the real killer. I need to send a bit over 3 kWh per day to the grid just to cover it. My April bill, which was wrong (again!), still hasn’t arrived with the corrected amount of credits and I was due for another meter read on 28th July. What’s the betting that will be wrong, too? I’m heartily sick of dealing with energy retailers.

I’m heartily sick of rabbits, too. I have a row of 10 wicking boxes placed up on polystyrene fruit boxes to keep them away from the long-eared pests, who demolish anything at ground level. It has worked up to date, but I’ve noticed a couple of very large rabbits running around. They’ve obviously been able to jump right up onto the wicking boxes and have demolished about 2 dozen plants…mainly celery, bok choy and kale. I was absolutely ropeable and now have to put a wire fence around all the boxes. What really irritates me is that there’s a huge breeding burrow on a neighbour’s property and he won’t fill it in. I’ve managed to stop them breeding here by filling in every attempt at burrow-digging. It’s bloody annoying when others just don’t care.

The bok choy was looking so good, too. This is the best of what was left and will probably recover:

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So will the celery:

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And maybe the kale:

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It continued to rain. Melbourne’s average rainfall for July is 49 mm and we got 124 mm. Still very soggy right down the back.

I was given a couple of chokos a few weeks ago and I put them on the kitchen widow sill to see if they would sprout. One did:

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I’ve put it in a pot to grow on a bit before planting out. This is my second go at growing chokos. I killed the first one, many years ago, probably by putting it in an unsuitable spot and forgetting to water it. I think the rabbits might have been implicated, too (when are they not!). I’ll try harder with this one:

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I’ve had this patch of Queensland arrowroot down the back for ages. I’ve never done anything with it, cooking-wise. It gets little or no water in summer, so it doesn’t thrive, but then it hasn’t died either:

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I’ve dug up a few tubers to propagate and will spread it around a bit more and experiment with cooking the tubers.

Well, that was July. Here’s hoping August brings some more warmth. Meanwhile I’m off to make another batch of kimchi.

Cheesed off!

June 14, 2014

This isn’t a post about cheese.

It is really about being cheesed off (angry/annoyed/fed up).

I read this post about growing a shiitake mushroom log, by Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture and decided I’d like to give it a go. There were three suppliers of mushroom spawn linked to (the third didn’t post to Australia). The two that did were:

I looked at both sites and chose the second one, ordered a batch of shiitake plug spawn, paid by credit card then sat back and waited for the card that told me AusPost had a parcel for me to pick up.

Over two months later and I’m still waiting.

I’ve checked the status of my order and it says ‘processing’.

I’ve emailed twice and haven’t had an answer.

I’ve tried ringing the freecall phone number at the site and I’m getting a ‘cannot connect’ message.

So I’m cheesed off. Mightily. I want my $48.50 back.

(Note: this is no reflection on Kirsten from Milkwood. I’m sure the link was given in all sincerity).

 

Aaahh…autumn!

April 17, 2014

Calm, sunny days. Gentle rain. Plants greening up and putting on new growth. Lots of work to do and lots being done. Not too hot to work. The nicest time of year in Melbourne.

The potato onions are going bananas in a wicking box:

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This year I’m trying leeks in a wicking box:

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When I’m growing them in the garden, I don’t build the soil up around them (to produce white stems), I use mulched bracken. It’s much cleaner and means no dirt gets between the layers of leaves. Because the wicking box isn’t deep enough to do this, I’ve added a ring of plastic gutter guard around the edge. That way I get 6-8 inches of mulch around the stems. The bracken helps to hold them upright as well:

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I finished potting my strawberries into their wicking buckets:

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They’re sitting on an upturned plant stand on the deck, on recycled fridge shelves. The legs of the stand sticking up don’t look very attractive until you realise they’re in just the right place to support a net at fruiting time. Voilà:

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With the end of the tomato season, I move on to my winter vitamin C source…the Valencia orange. They’re small this year, because of the lack of summer rain, but there are plenty…enough for a vitamin C hit every day:

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Speaking of tomatoes, there’s just one plant still going. It was given to me late in the season which is why it’s still fruiting. It’s called ‘Checkmate’. I can’t find anything about it on Google, but look at what it just produced:

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The big one weighed in at 368 g and the other at 277 g. I hope the flavour is as big!

The first mushie of the season. Only a tiddler, but I will use it in a risotto with some of it’s bigger (purchased) cousins. I don’t think there will be many this year. We just didn’t get the early autumn rains:

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I’ve removed the corn crop and mulched up the leaves, which went straight back on the bed they were grown in, as should happen, so that the nutrients the corn took up as it was growing are returned to the soil:

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Don’t be fooled by those pie-in-the-sky schemes that propose to burn crop wastes for energy or turn them into ethanol so we can still drive cars. Keep removing nutrients from the soil and eventually it won’t grow anything. Of course in the industrial agriculture version, we just add chemical fertilisers—nitrogen made from natural gas (fossil fuel) and mined phosphorus (which is running out), and so on. The chemical load in the soil eventually kills the soil fungi which help the plants take up nutrients and you’re back to square one—depleted soil that won’t grow anything (and in the meantime you’ve run out of fossil fuels and phosphorus).

I didn’t get much of a yield from the corn plants. The male flowers appeared well before the females and had dropped most of their pollen before the girls appeared. I stopped wasting water on them when the weather got hot. I should’ve kept going, because they did set some cobs, but they were small and the poor fertilisation was evident. The last of the carrots (the tiny ones), in the next door bed, were picked as well:

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My seed-grown quince tree flowered well last season and set a lot of fruit, but most of it burned or dropped off in the summer heat. The tree didn’t receive any water over summer, so I wasn’t surprised. But two fruit miraculously survived and grew to a good size:

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They were a beautiful unblemished yellow (which hasn’t come out well in the photo) and were equally unblemished inside, unlike the ones I usually buy which, I think, come from local backyard trees. I’ve stewed them for breakfast.

Celery and dandelion in a wicking box for winter greens:

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A lush crop of nettles growing in the shade under my tubestock plant stands. When I’m watering the tubes, the nettles get the overflow of water and nutrients. I just have to remember not to brush up against them when I’m wearing shorts!:

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Dutch Cream potatoes are growing well. There are two other batches like this—Desiree and Kipfler. Now that I’ve found a good way of preserving potatoes, I don’t mind how many I grow:

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Last year someone gave me some fresh figs. I can’t resist sowing all sorts of seeds, just to see if they’ll germinate. They came up easily and quickly, so now there’s a baby fig tree in the food forest:

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I sowed bread wheat again this year. It germinated easily and a batch of self-sown chickweed decided to share its space. No problems; I’ll gradually weed it out for the Girls. It’s chook caviar to them:

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This is Warrigal Greens aka New Zealand Spinach. I don’t use it much (so many other greens to choose from), but it makes a good ground cover and keeps the weeds at bay:

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I’ve started sowing brassicas. There are still cabbage white butterflies about, but if I leave the seedlings in the polyhouse they get leggy. I wanted them in full sun so they’d be more compact, so I made a wire box to cover the seedling pots. I watched a butterfly hovering above in frustration—she could smell them but she couldn’t get in. Ha! Score—me 1 butterflies nil. These are four different kale varieties:

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Well, that’s my autumn garden. Just to prove I’m not sitting inside playing computer games!

Time for something new

April 4, 2014

I’ve done wicking boxes. I’ve done chooks. I’ve done swales and hugelkultur. I’ve done drying food. I’ve even done solar.

It’s time for something new.

I’ve had several major projects on the backburner for ages. They include:

Making cheese: I make cottage cheese; that’s easy. I want to do more involved stuff like hard cheeses.

Fermenting: I make kimchi and yoghurt; that’s the extent of my fermenting skills. I want to extend ferments to other foods.

Build a rocket stove: I have electricity and gas for cooking. Both fossil fuels. Both with a limited future. I have kindling wood coming out of my ears. A rocket stove would make me independent of fossil fuels.

Bees: There aren’t many bees in my garden any more, even when there are plenty of flowers. Pollination is an important bee service. Maybe I could improve that situation with my own hives.

Most of these need work to get up and running, some minor, some considerable.

For hard cheeses, I’d need a full cheesemaking kit, including a cheese ‘cave’—a small refrigerator with a thermostat able to be set to proper cheese ripening temperatures. The only bit of kit I have at the moment is a cheese thermometer.

Fermenting would be easier to get up and running. I already have Sandor Katz’s excellent book on the subject:

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Rocket stove? Where to put it? I’d need a proper undercover outdoor cooking area. There’s only the carport at the moment and while there’s room, it’s not perfect and I don’t want to rush into anything without serious thought.

Bees? I don’t want to do beekeeping as it’s done at the moment. I want the bees to do what comes naturally and the closest thing to that is a top bar or Warre hive. I like woodworking and I reckon I could make my own top bar hive. I’d still need protective kit and probably should take some lessons.

There’s one other project that has taken my fancy lately, thanks to some excellent posts from Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture. Growing my own mushrooms. A shiitake log, to be exact. I have eucalypts and can provide fresh-cut logs. It’s only a matter of buying the special spawn, inoculating the logs and waiting for the mushies to grow.

Looks good doesn’t it? I can almost smell them cooking:

This week, Kirsten has another post about shiitake cultivation and increasing the vitamin D content of the mushrooms by putting them in the sun. People yes…but mushrooms! Who’d a thunk it?

And if I needed any more persuading, I opened my copy of Australia’s new permaculture magazine, PIP, which arrived yesterday, and there was another article from Milkwood about shiitake logs. Something is pushing me in that direction. I think I’ve found my new project.

Bread & cheese on a wet day

June 13, 2013

We had 47 mm of rain on the first day of June; just over the June average for Melbourne. Then another 23 mm by the end of the following week, 20 mm last night and it’s been raining all day today. The gauge is visible from the bathroom window and it looks like another 20 mm so far. The 3 pools at the rear of the property are brimming. I’d be happy if I was a duck but I’m not. The chooks are disgusted; they’ve been confined all day to the only bit of their playground that’s covered by a tarpaulin and their holes are just puddles. But not muddy ones thankfully; the soil is sandy and water drains quickly, so I don’t expect any cases of chookfootrot.

It was obvious no outside work was going to be done today, but I had a batch of bread lined up to make and also some cottage cheese. I’m making the cheese weekly now, using the recipe from Green Gavin’s e-book, Keep Calm and Make Cheese. It’s a bargain, downloadable from Gavin’s blogsite for just a few dollars, as are his other e-books.

The bread turned out fine:

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As did the cheese. Here it is draining in the sieve:

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From a litre of milk I get 200-250 gm of cheese, depending on how long it drains. I keep and freeze the whey to use as stock:

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The cheese has a lovely fresh taste and it’s free of all the additives in the commercially made stuff. One day I’m going to have a go at a hard cheese.

Out in the garden, I’ve been making more hugelkultur beds from sticks, raked-up litter and leaves. The bed I made last year has been invaded by fungi which is good because it means the underlying wood is being broken down:

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I’ve been adding wood ash and chook poo compost to the bed and I’m hoping to get a good crop of pumpkins from it this summer.

The garlic and potato onions I bought from Yelwek Farm earlier in the year are growing well. The garlic took a long time to eventually sprout but it’s OK now:

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These are the brown potato onions. The nets are to keep the blackbirds off. Their constant digging is driving me crazy:

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There’s not much else happening at the moment. It is winter after all. I’ve planted Sebago, Desiree and Kipfler seed potatoes and still getting lots of greens and two (small) heads of broccoli. It’s almost the winter solstice and time to think about what tomato varieties I’ll be sowing this year. I may wait another month and start sowing in July. Time to get out the seed bank and do some sorting out.

Today’s lunch

May 5, 2012

It was only yesterday that I said in an email to a friend that I hadn’t yet seen any edible mushrooms on the property this year.

This morning I went down into the back corner to collect dead stuff to burn off and found these:

These are Agaricus augustus. It is edible and I’ve found it and eaten it in the past without any problems  (like dying—a major problem, you’ll admit). Notice the spot on the top where I’ve scratched away the surface skin to check if it was a yellow-stainer, the related, but poisonous species, Agaricus xanthodermis, which is said to smell strongly of phenol or kerosene when cooked. When you cut into the flesh or stem of these, the flesh turns bright yellow almost immediately.

I fried mine in a little butter (they smelt good, like commercial  mushrooms) and had them on a roll for lunch:

This is the fungi book I use for identification. It’s by Tony Young. There are plenty of books and websites on edible fungi out there. It goes without saying to be very careful about eating any fungi unless you are sure of its identity:

Here’s how I go about identifying this species:

  1. See mushroom. Say “aha!”.
  2. Pick mushroom and look at gills. If pink>pinkish-brown, reserve for further ID. If white, or some other colour, throw away. Say “damn”.
  3. Remember that the poisonous yellow-stainer has pink gills, too.
  4. Cut through stem and scratch surface of top. Wait to see if flesh turns bright yellow.
  5. If not bright yellow, reserve for further ID. If bright yellow, throw away. Say “damn”.
  6. Look for pattern of small semicircular markings on top (field guide says concentric circles but here they’re semicircular).
  7. If correct markings present, take inside and reserve till mealtime.
  8. Slice mushrooms and gently fry in a little butter. Smell while cooking.
  9. If smell like phenol or kerosene, throw away.  Say “damn”.
  10. If smell rich and wholesome, like commercial mushrooms, place on steak or toast and eat, remembering (just in case), that Will is made and financial affairs are in order.
  11. Enjoy!