Chanterelles & Bear Encounters

Scrap Kitchen 22- Attempts at camping, mushroom foraging and chats with young farmers

Things are all over the damn place. I'm writing this on a Thursday for one, due to our new farming schedule which necessitates working farmers markets and taking on more responsibility. I'm writing this from my phone, for two, there was an incident with some water and my laptop last Sunday (hence no Scrap Kitchen then). It's in rice, it's in my prayers, the local tech repair will soon be sought out. And for three, last night I tried to camp and a bear, a literal black bear, came within 6ft of me and ravaged the tent and it's contents.

We were taking all precautions, bear box, nothing smelly, all that. And the bear was there anyway. To be fair, it's their home more than mine, even at a designated campsite, I am the trespasser in their space. Also the “days since last bear incident” sign now needs updating.

Anyways, before the incident with the cute but unfuckwithable bear, we were having some really interesting chats with former apprentices. About their ongoing farming projects, the lack of vegetable diversity and the absence of an Asian supermarket for at least 200 miles. It was really interesting and helpful to hear from people who had not only worked at the same farm as us, but what they had done next. Of course, eventually it came down to the age old question; how do you get land?

With the average “worth" of people my age being in the negative, due to student loans and credit culture, this question keeps popping up. How do you get land? How do you make enough money to buy it? Should you even buy it? How do we seize land for community projects (in a non-colonialist way)? How do you fund the exorbitant cost of farm starting?

Guerilla gardening is one option and great one at that. Working with class traitors, i.e. people with land and a willingness to redistribute their wealth, is another. There are also local council schemes, which I'm definitely going to be looking into. But also for all its boasting of supporting urban farms the US government has just $4m available in grants annually, compare that to the $25 Billion in subsidies for mass agriculture. The carbon-fueled, genetically-susceptible, planet-fucking order of the day.

All that is to say that young farmers, despite knowing what they are up against, are hopeful. They have to be. We all do…

The tarot card for this week is the seven of wands, the defence of position and the challenges faced when in the spotlight. Here, though caught unaware you must distinguish yourself from the completion, or throw down the tools you have in common and decide to work together. Ask yourself: what am I defending? How can I see the underlying unity in my “competition”? Where is my other shoe?

Last week, before the decent of water onto my laptop, came the decent of water onto Colorado. I woke to the sound of the river for the first time in months, risen and silty brown. The rain, combined with a subtle chill, meant that suddenly, it was the perfect time for mushroom foraging. So out we went, up Kepler pass, at the advice of our local mushroom guy in the search of Boletes, Hawk’s wings and the elusive Chanterelle. At first it felt completely aimless or just like stumbling around. Then we got used to it, to the telltale signs; to the damper air feel of mushroom areas, colours peeking between leaves, just enough sunlight, and the search was on.

Chanterelles, a beautiful yellowy orange mushroom collects in the shade, near living trees. They have a symbiotic relationship with the root system, sharing nutrients and working together. They also like rocky outcroppings. Their most recognisable feature is the vainy gills on their underside, all dusted with bright yellow spores. Once you have you're eye in, they are simple to spot.

But so are their lookalikes. False chanterelles, which it turns out half of our haul was, have thinner deeper gills. Their tops are darker brown, they from larger clusters and most importantly grow on dead wood, not living. Even knowing most of this information it's easy to pick the wrong one, but instead of being delicious in a creamy pasta sauce, these bad boys will give you the shits.

This is not to induce mycophobia, but more as a simple warning. Always have several ways to ID something you are foraging, especially mushrooms. If you're just starting out, get a second opinion. Hell, get a third. It's better to compost the whole haul than be on the toilet for hours, or worse.

Another part of foraging is harvesting honourably. We came across many a chanterelle patch, clear cut to the ground, and those made me irate. The forest is not your supermarket, foraging is an ongoing relationship, a conversation, between you and every other being that is trying to survive. Leave mushrooms for all the non-human beings too. Or face my wrath.

As for recipes, the chanterelles have been dried gills up to absorb as much Vitamin D as possible, to be useful in the winter months. The same was done for some wonderful wood ear mushrooms which are much easier to identify. I once found a recipe for tincture laced wood ear, where they are rehydrated with tincture (or booze) then dipped in sugar, but I have all but lost it. This is on the just-wing-it list once they dry down more. From wood ear you can also make salad and delicious hot and sour soup.

Our first flushes of peppers came in this week, from shishitos to large roasting ones. As a way to preserve the peppers I have been make romesco sauce, freezing and roasting them. Fruit wise we are still working through peaches and I truly can't wait for the apples I see forming on the 100 year old tree near our greenhouse.

The podcast this week is from Emergence Magazine and Gina Rae La Cerva about tracing the legacies of wild food and cultural heritage.

Thanks to everyone who is reading this, sending me info and commenting. Sharing these posts, and even liking them, goes a long way to getting them seen by more people. And every person who saves a little more seed and forages a little more food is a step closer to self sufficiency. So thanks for all the support, hope you're week is less hectic then mine was.

Until then, stay scrappy


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