Monday, November 28, 2022

Wood ears and winter


A wood ear's point-of-view, during a recent forage class in Prospect Park. The wood ears studied the humans, the humans studied the wood ears.


The texture of fresh wood ears (species of Auricularia mushrooms) is extraordinary. Silky, soft, alive. And to eat? A little like oysters, in terms of slitheriness, but with a snap. They are one of the oldest mushrooms in cultivation. Maybe you've had them in spring rolls, or in a glass noodle salad, or in hot-and-sour soup. 

Medicinally, they work like aspirin, as a blood thinner. 

And they like logs and injured trees, surrounding us even in cities.


Their characteristic, textural snap works beautifully in meatballs (although...possibly anything works well in meatballs?), and I also add whole mushrooms to the pan-sauce because they act as pliant sponges for flavor. The Frenchman adores them. So do I. Neither of us had eaten them fresh until a few years ago. 


And now, in late November, the simmering and the bubbling, the kitchen-sounds of early evening in winter (is it winter, if it's late November? I never know), the scents of slow food returning, include these cool-weather 'shrooms. 

Read more about the mushrooms in my story for Gardenista (and snag my very easy and delicious one-skillet chicken and wood ear dinner).

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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Outside, now


This is Harris, our resident red-bellied woodpecker.

Harris is apparently the brand name for an ant poison. Their slogan is: Got ants? Get Harris. 

Woodpeckers love ants.

Also, apparently, the suet feeder that we put up in autumn.

Now you know everything.

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Books are Good Holiday Gifts:

66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life

Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine

Friday, November 25, 2022

I am...


Thankful for FDNY firefighters.


For blue New York skies.


For Sun Sai Gai, the best roast-duck spot, that has made it through the pandemic.


For the Tropics, on Mulberry Street in November.


For the fruit of cacti.


For Fuyu on Canal Street, and the vendor carefully handing me her recommendations.


For fresh rambutan.


For fragrant Thai bananas.


 And for tiny Mosco Street.

For a city of immigrants.

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Monday, November 14, 2022

Inside and Out

At this end of our apartment, despite a welcome skylight, the afternoon light has become somber. The last roses have been picked, the first ripe yuzu have arrived (these are from Bhumi Growers in New Jersey, whose trees live in pots. They are protected from freezing by greenhouses in winter). And in the shadows is a bunch of mugwort, drying quietly for winter use ins soups, stews, sides...


Outside, the suet feeder has some regular guests. We've named the downy woodpecker Pique, because whenever they land they announce: PIQUE! There is also a much larger woodpecker, which I think is red-bellied. Even though its reddest part is its head... Possibly to be named Harris. (There is a very unfriendly hardware store nearby with a permanent sign outside: Got Ants? Get Harris! And yesterday we received some ant visitors, who had to be discouraged. But now...we got Harris.)

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Autumn Walks and Picnics

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Candied crabapples

Crabapple season.

Birds prefer them after a real cold snap, when they are less tannic.


And I like them fat and tart, to be candied.
 

Get my easy candied crabapple recipe - plus an excellent cocktail -  on Gardenista. They're deliiiiiicious.
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Thursday, November 3, 2022

The creek in the Catskills

Every time I am here I feel this is it, this, here, this is the place, this is me, this is where I want to be. We sit on a rock for about an hour, with small forays up-river, and down. There are no trails. Just the water. The roaring. 

I imagine camping here, and realize at once that I would be frightened, all night. The sound of the water drowns everything. I would not, could not, hear a footstep, a crunch on leaves, on soil, on spring or on winter ground. The squeak upon snow or the soft depression of spring humus. I rely a lot on my sense of hearing. This true white noise would cancel everything, and that's fine if you trust there is nothing else to be heard, but I do not trust.  I am conditioned Jumpy. The Frenchman has spent nights on watch in extraordinary places because of my..."What's that!?"

For our hour we sit quietly and watch the water. We have known it -  together, always - in every season except summer. Knitted in ice, the valley guarded by icicles five feet long and hanging from ledges. In early spring, the tender, first spikes of ramps in the brown leaf litter, branches still bare. Later, when the cutleaf toothwort and the squirrel corn and the violets are in bloom. We stay away in populous summer. We don't know what it might be like, then. Swimmable. In early fall when the narrow road is hemmed by jewelweed we have stopped to watch hummingbirds feast.

Here in the leaf litter of late October sleep foam flower, wake robin, rue anemone, violets, squirrel corn - the spring ephemerals.


And here, from a car window in New Jersey, is the industrial sun setting on the brief escape that makes me wonder, every time, whether the Northeast might really, after decades, run in my veins.

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November Walks

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Red on grey - Gowanus Canal

Autumn is in the saturated Virginia creeper beside the opaque Gowanus Canal. The gray/grey cement factory behind it is one of the industrial remnants of the polluted waterway, now undergoing daily dredging (of the toxic gunk nick-named black mayonnaise) to the tune of many millions of Superfund dollars. 

(I just fact-checked my glib millions. It's $1.5 billion.)

I have always liked the Gowanus Canal, even in its oil-slicked state. When I lived in Cobble Hill, to the west of the waterway (we now live east of it) I sometimes walked across the Union Street Bridge to Prospect Park, or to eat at Al di La, and would see schools of minnows jumping in the water at night, leaping above the reflections of lights, perhaps chased by a larger fish. It seemed incredible that life persisted in that sluggish and dark passage.

Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) grows here, too, planted in a small, un-maintained park that came very close to dying this last summer, through rainless months. Its neighbors are serviceberry and bayberry, black cherry, and linden. In June I like to lead walks here, when the lindens are in perfumed bloom and the serviceberries are ripe.

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Wild November Walks