I’ve always been a fan of the fungi. When I was younger I loved the way they looked, with their whimsical shapes and kaleidoscope of colors. Unfortunately though, there was never much mycological activity at the horse farm I grew up on other than the occasional package of white or brown button mushrooms from the grocery store, or running over a fairy circle with the tractor while mowing the horse fields.
However, in the woods behind our little house on the hillside, there is an abundance of mushrooms to be found and foraged. Armed with the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Mushrooms, I have discovered great joy in walking through our woods with a purpose.
This week’s foraging included pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon Pyriforme), which are charming little mushrooms that remind me of toasted marshmallows. Feather-light with a soft, springy interior that’s a bright, creamy white, these puffballs are edible and tasty, both raw and cooked.
For those who might go out and look for these little gems after reading this post, please make yourself aware that there are poisonous impostors known as pigskin poison puffballs, which can be easily distinguished with the help of a field guide. The critical element in identifying edible puffballs is cutting them half and confirming that the interior is a clean, solid white with no evidence of gills.
Inspired by the fantastic ideas of the Forager Chef, I sliced my newly-acquired puffballs and mixed them with some sliced portabella mushrooms from the fridge to round out a mushroom sauté that would accompany the day’s purchase of sweet country sausage. The next day we used them to boost a jar of store-bought pasta sauce. Both meals were a genuine success. If not for the rule of thumb that you should always leave behind more mushrooms than you take, I would snip off the whole swathe of puffballs and make soup.
Have you ever cooked with puffballs?
My very first tomato plant was a hybrid variety that I bought on impulse at a flower fair in the last few weeks of my senior year in college. I named it Mater, and it lived quite happily in a large container on the back porch of our house, safely ensconced in a shiny new tomato cage.
The next year, there was Mater the Second and a few squash plants. The year after that, there was Mater the Third, and even more vegetable plants. What began as an impulsive little purchase had grown into a steadfast interest in gardening. I think the tipping point was the year I realized that if I bought seeds instead of plants I could get so many more plants for a fraction of the cost!
Because my Mater and its back-porch progeny did well with a tomato cage, I assumed that the legion of tomato plants I was starting from seed would also do well in tomato cages.
Naturally, then, I thought I was so clever when I bought 20 used tomato cages off of Craig’s List for $20. What a deal, right? They sell for anywhere from $2.00 – $8.00 per cage, depending on where you’re purchasing them, and here I was buying them for a dollar a pop. I was sure I had scored a brilliant bargain, until this happened:
The tomato cages started falling like dominoes under the weight of my ripening tomato bounty and some were straining so hard against the weight of the plants that they had split apart at the seams.
Evidently, even determinate tomatoes can out-grow a tomato cage, and when paired with loose, sandy soil like what I had in my raised garden beds, the plants will literally pop the cages right out of the dirt! Rebar reinforcements help, but after this summer of #tomatofails I plan on relinquishing the tomato cages, too.
My single digit years were full of fanciful stories and sagas that unfolded in loopy pencil script across pages and pages of paper purloined from my parents’ office. Teen years bespoke of journaling about everything and nothing, and dark, brooding poetry full of teenage angst. College years still included courses in creative writing and great literature.
Yet, somewhere along the way I lost my way. I stopped writing for the love of writing and only wrote for the toils of law school and work. Legal writing in particular, with its precedent and polemic, is like an over-baked cake. No matter how much spice or icing you smother it with, it’s still dry and unappetizing. Law in real life in not nearly as good looking as it is on television.
So my hopes for this blog are twofold. In addition to rekindling my writing, I hope to inspire others who (like me) are teetering on the fence of making a great change in their life.
In my case, my fiancé and I moved to Vermont, where we have no family, no relatives, no friends, and no appreciable ties to the community. Heck, I don’t even own snow tires! But my compass was pointing me in the direction of slower, more simple living and so here I am. Cooking up a new story for myself from my little house on the hillside. I hope you’ll join me at the table.