June 27, 2012

Just because it's cute, doesn't mean you should put it in your mouth.

Who knew that LBMs, or the catch all category of mushrooms called Little Browns, were the cause of most fatal mushroom poisonings in the USA.  This has been chalked up to their benign appearance (something so small, so bewitchingly parasol shaped couldn't be bad!), and unlike the amanitas or false morels,  they are so freaking available.  I am going to suggest foragers go to the experts HERE.  It's a link to the Missouri Department of Conservation's poisonous mushroom catalogue.  Very attractive, very informative, and a lot of interesting links about the woods, and how to make it out of them in without breaking your in or outsides)  

As for the LBMs you see up top, I am the opposite of bummed about their presence in the soil.   They are the fruiting body evidence that the mycelial culture that we deliberately introduced into our soil mix is still alive.   Paul Stamets, the revered mycologist and my former teacher, described mycelium as the internet of the soil, the facilitator of underground information exchange in between plants and the nutrient transfer from soil to roots.  Mycelium is a mass of single cell wide, threadlike structures known as hyphae, and the hyphae germinate from mushrooms spores (that powdery stuff that gets on your hands when you rub the gills of a mushroom cap).  It spreads under the ground like a spider web, mirroring the pattern of a cracked windshield.   In Oregon there is a mycelium matt that covers over 2,400 acres and may be the largest single living organism in the world.  In his book Mycellium Running, Paul Stamets says that this enourmous fungal mat had dispatched the forest above it multiple times to build up a soil layer for its future hyphae limbs.   How?, I have no freaking idea.    Go HERE to see Stamets talk about how he cured his stutter at 16 with psyilocibes, and to hear some incredibly hopeful information about how mushrooms are capable of repairing a great deal of the damage we have inflicted on our environments.  Stayed tuned for an attempt to grow edibles up top using wood palettes and the water run-off from the hood fans.   K

June 23, 2012

Glorious greens

Chef Matheson's generous and delicious "Roof Greens" presented last night at Parts&Labour.  No wallflower side salade.. this board dominates to feature a landscaped massing of sweetest carrots, green onion, lettuces, radish and nasturtium flowers sitting pretty next to rogish pecorino; all olive oil and herb doused.  Get your own. VT

June 5, 2012

This cellphone photo will not kill this bee?

After reading a great deal online about how electromagnetic signals from cellphone towers are killing bees, I came across this seemingly credible article on a Vanderbilt University website that suggests that those apidae eradication claims are way off base.  I'm not sure if I am selectively studying this because I want things to be ok.   
Their hopeful data - apparently the bees just get lost/sound drunk for a bit - doesn't excuse the fact that the manufacture of my phone components contributes to an environmental gong show that I can't qualify, but because of the Vanderbilt study I feel a little bit less like smashing my face through a clear glass window (thank you yoko ono).   Look at that bee shaking that chive flower down for its pollen!  Stick around little buddy.  Please.  

A Bag of Horse S#*t

You know, in its tangible form, it's really quite useful.   Contributing to a bumped up nitrogen ratio for the compost pile, this laugh riot weighed as much as a bag of water or cold butter (approximately 2 pounds a litre).  It was a challenge to haul up the ladder on my back, and I'm pleased to report I avoided soiling my pants.   This photo was taken from roof level, behind the compost pile, facing south towards Queen Street West;  one of the natural habitats of the unbagged variety.

Whoa, it's totally wild Sorrel. Thanks Rob from Bellwoods Brewery!

The chef taking over for Guy Rawlings at Bellwoods Brewery came up to hang a few days ago, and he identified the center bucket as a tasty member of the sour flavored sorrel family known as wild, or sheep sorrel.    We sent Rob, and his friend from Paris, home with a volleyball sized bag of our rampant mojito mint, and some Lemon Balm to help with the French ladies hangover.  The next morning there was a text from them that was sent at 4am.  It confirmed that the Lemon balm had helped, and that mojitos were successfully piled on top.  

Too good to beer true.

Something has been eating the hop plants, and now I know that it is this little guy, the caterpillar of the Hop Merchant Butterfly.  The final product of all this destruction is an outrageously beautiful monarch, but this is my first time dealing with a member of the Limacodidae family up top, and I have the feeling that Ed Lawrence's pest management/dish soap spray isn't going to cut it when it comes to eradicating these athropods.  
This guy knows a lot about dealing with hop pests, and if you want to see some extremely far out shots of caterpillars up close, go here.    I did a lot of hand caterpillar picking yesterday,  and cut back any hop leaves that looked even remotely colonized by eggs or caterpillars, so we will see how things go.

  The most interesting thing I learned about this pest, besides its amazing name, was that it only feeds at night.  During the day it will roll itself up in the hop leaf like a slumbering burrito of doom, and wait until evening to punch holes in things with its face in the pursuit of its future wings.  Pretty freaking respectable.  We will see who makes it through the summer in better shape, they, me or the hops themselves.  

Profit in thee margins

Turns out you can make side money off plants that blow in on the wind.  
The  edible"weeds," that have volunteered in the bins appeal to chefs because they are both uncommon and highly flavorful, and they usually have nutritional qualities above and beyond cultivated varieties of greens.    
 From top to bottom you see lambs quarters, the stalk of a watermelon radish that couldn't hack the heat blitz last week, decided to skip the delicious bulb production part of its reproductive cycle  and, "bolt," up into this stalk that supports the flowering part of the plant;  It tasted like a radish and a rapini had a tender baby.  The pink purple flowers are the actual radish flowers, and the pale cream flowers at bottom are arugula flowers.  All of these blooms taste like their parents, with the added bonus of making you feel like a freaking millionaire for having eaten such an ethereal portion of a plant.  Best jams! 

June 1, 2012

Harvest Round 2/Plants want to grow, so let them.

When Patty and I (the bread baker at Woodlot), pulled the tarp off the compost pile last month, we found this tiny deer tongue lettuce rooting in this slab of rotted cardboard.   I transplanted it to one of our sub-irrigated bins, and four weeks later it is the size of a basketball, and part of the second large salad harvest for Parts and Labour.  You can see it in the bottom left corner of the black bin below.  Awesome.