Wood Blewits – Look ‘Fer Em

B;ewitsTwenty years ago Coleman McCleneghan piqued my interest in mushrooms. That fall, I discovered a complete fairy ring of Wood Blewits around a medium sized cedar tree in a local cemetery. I e-mailed her, all excited, and she said “Too bad!” Why? “That’s the signal that mushroom season is about over where you are.” I hope that’s not always true, because I am finding them now, and Honey Mushrooms are just beginning to show buttons, six weeks later than last year. I found these yesterday.

A good description of Blewits, Clitocybe nuda, AKA Lepista nuda can be found at: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/clitocybe_nuda.html. In addition to Michael Kuo’s description, Bill Roody, Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians,  notes that they can be found in rings. My experience is varied, but I have a tip if you want to find some, and don’t know where to look – look for a dead hardwood tree, preferably oak, that is “shedding” its bark in a pile at the tree base. Blewits LOVE that debris, and if you turn the slabs of bark over you may find mycelial mats that will amaze you. Sometimes you can see the Blewits growing right out of the mat.

BlewitSporeI’ve been reading some discussions on the Asheville Mushroom Club forum, and it seems others are currently finding them. True, a beginner must be sensitive to possible confusion with several species of the Cortinarius genus, but check the spore print, don’t eat singles (pick when they are in groups). Even then, I have found a batch that were difficult to distinguish because the caps fade with maturity and the gills also turn more brownish. This is a cropped section of a spore print made on aluminum foil. To my eye, it fits Kuo’s description exactly.

Edibility? My experience is that it’s a matter of personal preference. Google “wood blewit recipe”. http://www.mushroomtable.com/recipes_blewits.html has several and The Forager Chef at http://foragerchef.com/sauteed-blewits-shallots-and-tarragon/ has several good recipes. I’m going to try one my self, after I go out in my garden a grab some tarragon.

Escargot, Morels & Ramps Soup

Several soupyears ago, Ellen and I had escargot and morel soup at a restaurant in Indianapolis – can’t remember the name of the establishment. Since then, I’ve been searching for a recipe. I seemed to remember it being the consistency of oyster stew, but all I found were cream soup recipes. Maybe that’s what we had.

So, this weekend I took the base for a cream soup and added my own touches, substituting morel rehydration water for some of the chicken stock, and ramp bulbs with their lower stem for garlic & scallions, and then added ramp powder. It turned out excellent, but it’s vey rich and filling, and makes a meal in itself. I served four 8 oz. SoupRampsservings - two for supper and two for lunch the next day. Realistically, with a meal, figure six 5-ounce servings

Note: I save my dried morel stems and grind them into flakes for later use. You make ramp powder by drying leaves in a dehydrator and then grind them in a small coffee grinder I usually use someone else’s grinder, like the coffee room grinder at work :-)
I’ll make it again in the spring with fresh ramps, morel water ( from rehydrated morels) that I will freeze this winter, and then use fresh morels for the recipe.

2 cups chicken stock
15 dried morels, stems removed, rehydrated with 2 1/4 cups warm water for 30 min
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup whole milk
handful of ramps, chopped ( I used 8 small ones, frozen this spring, with tops removed)
ramp powder
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 6-oz can escargot, drained and halved (2 cans if you like)
1/4 cup onion, chopped
6 tsp butter, divided 4 & 2
sea salt and white pepper

Chop morels into pieces same size as escargot.
Combine morel water, chicken stock, onions and morels in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

In another saucepan, melt four tablespoons butter over medium heat gradually stirring in the flour until smooth.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in the milk and cream.  Return to medium heat and cook stirring constantly, until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir mushroom- stock into sauce.

In a small pan, heat the remaining two tablespoons butter and add escargot, ramps, parsley; sauté for 2 minutes.  Add to soup along with wine.
Adjust the “garlicness” by with garlic salt. Then add salt, pepper, and ramp powder to taste.


Fowl Weather – Chicks & Hens

That’s right, Chicken of the Woods and Hen of the Woods. In my Oct 1 post, I was lamenting the fact that September was the driest September on record with 0.18 inches of rain, and October coming up is usually the driest month of the year, averaging 2.14 inches. On Fri the 3rd, we got 1/2 inch, and then the rain began steady on Monday all the way to today, Sunday, except for a break on Wednesday so we could see the “red moon” from the eclipse. So far, the tally at my house is a little over 3-inches of steady rain or drizzle. Forecast is another rain event before drying out this Wednesday. So, it has been a wet 10 days.

Thursday, after hunting with no luck for two hours around the house I had to go to a chick3county commission meeting, and decided to drive up a creekside road on the way. I almost twisted my head off when I saw a line of orange extending from the creek up the bank. Chicken of the Woods on a moss covered log – my favorite kind because moss holds moisture. After jumping out of the car and sliding down the wet bank three times to (1) get my camera, (2) unload my mesh bag, (3) bring another bag full up, I ended up with a little chick2over 30 pounds of the freshest and most tender chicken you could ask for.

SmallHenThe next day, Friday, I had to go to Knoxville, and on the way home (on a whim) I made a desert run near the house. I was going to check out an “oyster log”. I needed oysters for a recipe I was working on. I found a small Chicken beside the trail and decided to leave it until Saturday to see how much it would grow. I know this is against my philosophy of “leave no man behind”, but I did because it was so close to the house. Then I cut into the woods and found a small Hen at the base of a 6″ white oak snag. I left it to grow also, but first I marked the tree/snag with flagging tape.

Hen3Moving on toward the oyster log, I was looking around and spotted two white clumps at the base of a large oak. Moving closer, I was excited to see two more Hens. Although they appeared washed out by the rains, they were, in fact, in excellent condition – six pounds together. So, I now have four Hens for the year.

Went back Staurday and the Chicken had doubled in size and was still tendet. The Hen was the same diameter, but the “fronds” were fuller and more convoluted. I sautéed some for Ellen when I got home, and she pronounced them the best mushroom she had ever eaten. Now, this woman has eaten a lot of morels over the years. Must have been just in the moment.

Today, Sunday, I went out in my nearby woods and got another batch of fresh chicken, a couple of Hericeum, and a lobster. The odd thing is that since the rains began, I have not seen an oyster. Maybe later in the week after it clears.

soupSo, the weather has been great for fowl. Later today I will be putting some of all the mushrooms in a “wild mushroom pot pie”. I got the recipe out of Garden and Gun magazine. I’ll post the recipe in a few days. Yesterday, I made escargot, morel and ramp soup. It’s a rich creamy soup that fills you up. I’ll be posting this recipe also. I used the ramp powder I made up this year, along with ramps that I froze. Worked out great..