Thursday, September 30, 2010


Jimsonweed, a k a Jamestown weed, mad apple, devil’s trumpet, locoweed, stinkwort or thorn apple, is a strikingly gothic-looking plant with seedpods that could have inspired the creator of “Little Shop of Horrors.” It has toothed leaves, stems that are reddish-to-dark eggplant in color and lovely trumpet-shape white or lavender blossoms, as long as a finger, that open at dusk. Found along roadsides, ditches and open fields in most states, including New York, where it grows as far south as Staten Island, it’s listed as a noxious weed in Pennsylvania and banned in Connecticut. An informal poll of writers from the Writhing Society at Proteus Gowanus described the plant as smelling like peanut butter, skunk cabbage and someone’s childhood cottage, but the first time I sniffed it, I thought of tahini.
Jimsonweed has trumpet-shaped white or lavender blossoms that open at dusk.
JimsonWeed Pictures, Images and Photos

Much of the literature and testimony surrounding Datura stramonium and related species, including D. meteloides, D. wrightii and D. innoxia, point to its psychotropic, hallucinogenic and narcotic properties, where it is inextricably linked to shamanism (in Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan”) and even zombies (from Wade Davis’s “Passage of Darkness” and “The Serpent and the Rainbow”).

Some of the no-joke side effects from ingesting jimsonweed read like a 1970s public service announcement warning against angel dust and PCP: dilated pupils, racing heartbeat, hallucination, delirium, combative behavior and in severe cases, coma and seizures.

In 1676, British soldiers sent to Virginia to quell Bacon’s Rebellion ingested Datura stramonium in a boiled salad and remained in a stupor for 11 days. More recently, in 2008, a family in Maryland was poisoned when they mistook it for an edible garden green and ate it in a stew.

Written testimonials for Datura on the Erowid Web site , under titles like “Truly the Devil’s Weed,” “Nightmares in Flux” and “This is Madness,” include delusions of phantom cigarettes, conversations with imaginary friends, amnesia, blurred vision, a desire for cold showers and other irrational behavior. It’s no wonder that Amy Stewart devoted an entire chapter to it in her book “Wicked Plants.”
Farm (2007 07 22) - Jimson Weed Pictures, Images and Photos

According to Daniel E. Moerman’s “Native American Medicinal Plants,” some American Indians use jimsonweed topically for wounds and inflammation, and there are reports of it being used as a treatment for asthma. But because of the plant’s more negative plant-human interactions, most folks are understandably wary of it, and many parents have been advised to root it out of backyards and gardens.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


It is apple harvest time here in Maine...Here you have it .
Apple Blossoms Pictures, Images and Photos

A mature apple tree looks like a grandmother of a tree: small in stature,writhing limbs and with grey, crinkly bark. this tree does not impress with its habitus, yet we learn to love it from an early age, not just for its wonderful fruits, but because it is perhaps the most ideal climbing tree found in the temperate climate zone and just about every child will sooner or later become intimately acquainted it. Despite its humble posture, we can't help but notice the apple tree when spring arrives. Before the leaves are showing it is covered all over in a glorious beautiful dress of pinkish white flowers, abuzz with delirious bees. Once the flowers have dropped off we again pass it by without paying it much attention, but come September it is laden with shining, golden red apples that are impossible to resist. Even crab apples, whose fruit are much smaller (and tarter), look tempting.

It is estimated that there may be as many as 20000 cultivated varieties, each with their own distinct flavour, shape, smell, crunchiness or succulence, though nobody knows the exact number. Sadly, most of them are endangered as they tend to be heirloom species, confined to just a few gardens. The average supermarket only carries about 5 varieties.
apple tree Pictures, Images and Photos
Crab Apple

The apple tree is an important source of nectar for bees. Later, its fruit provide much nurishment to all sorts of small wildlife.

The apple tree is so widespread that it is almost impossible to pin down its origin. Charred remains of prehistoric crab apples found at archaeological sites throughout Europe bear witness to the fact that wild apples, or crab apple, as it is also known, has been at home throughout central Europe since Neolithic times. The first cultivated varieties probably reached northern parts of Europe with the Romans. Today apples are grown in all temperate regions of the globe.
History & Mythology
Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden

The apple tree is perhaps the most mythical of all trees - is it not supposed to have been the demise of all mankind, way back at the beginning of time? Actually, it is highly unlikely that the forbidden fruit that gave us knowledge of good and evil was in fact an apple, since this fruit was unknown in Egypt and Palestine at that time and early Bibles merely mention 'a fruit'. However, long before the Christianity was born the apple tree was already widely adored as a symbol of immortality and the apple was regarded as the sacred heart of the Goddess of eternal life. In Cletic tradition the western paradise, where the souls of the Blessed go, was known as Avalon, the isle of Apples, guarded by Morgan, the Queen of the Dead.

Although the Neolithic lake villagers of central Switzerland already feasted on Crab apples, it appears that the Romans popularised the cultivated varieties in central and northern Europe. The Romans too, associated eternity with the apple - alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the two symbols that encapsulate existence, were represented by an egg, symbolic of the origin of life (alpha), and an apple, the symbol of eternal life and resurrection (omega). And thus, each of their feasts would start with an egg and be finished with an apple. Wild boars (pigs and boars are sacred animals of the Great Goddess,) were roasted with an apple in their snout to represent eternal life and resurrection.

The apple is a fruit of Venus/Aphrodite and it bears her signature, the five pointed star. Among gypsies it is an ancient tradition to cut the apple horizontally to reveal this mystical sign of the Goddess. In Greek mythology we are told the fateful story of Paris, who was given the impossible task to settle a dispute between three Goddesses by choosing one above the others whom to present with a golden apple, inscribed 'to the most deserving'. In the end it was Aphrodite who won him over, if only with a bribe, as she promised him the hand of Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman alive on earth at that time. Unfortunately that beautiful young woman was already married to another and when Paris ran away with her he inadvertently started a chain of events that lead to the Trojan War.

In China, by contrast, the pictogram for apple has the synonymous meaning of peace. Thus presenting someone with an apple is to say: 'peace be with you'.

Botanical Drawing, Malus ssp.In time, apples became associated with erotic love and for many centuries artists used them metaphorically in their works. However, when Christian tempers started to run rampant, the apple became a symbol of the devil, of temptation and evil, a symbol of sinful love of the flesh. Thus, apple became 'malus', which means bad, and the apple tree became a tree of witches. Apple trees are also the most common host trees of Mistletoe, the sacred plant of the Druids, although the Druids favoured Mistletoe that grew on Oak.

Once upon a time Halloween was more than a spooky fun day for kids. It was celebrated as the pagan New Year, to mark the time when the life force retreats into the womb of the earth, to regenerate and restore its powers, only to be reborn again the following spring. How fitting then that this festival should be associated most of all with apples, the sacred fruit of eternal life and resurrection. Apple bopping games and other customs are remnants of ancient pagan traditions that allude to gaining eternal life of the soul.

During the time of the apple harvest apple farmers traditionally engaged in the custom of 'wassailing', a kind of tree blessing that invoked the fruitfulness of their trees, chased off any evil spirits or demons that might have liked to steal their fruit, and gave thanks for the harvest. This was celebrated with good quantities of cider and apple cookies as well as with fireworks or gunfire.

Apples have also sometimes been used as a form of divination, to tell the probable fortunes of young hopefuls in their pursuit of love and happiness. The procedure requires the person to cut the apple horizontally. The fortunes are told by interpreting the numbers of seeds that are visible and whether or how many of them were cut in the process.

Cider, hot spiced apple wine and baked apples or apple crumble all featured strongly among our seasonal favourites at this time of year.

But apple traditions are not all as old as 'ye old heathen times'. The greatest 'apple hero' of all times was born in the American legendary figure of Johnny Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed is said to have spent his life planting apple trees across the land, to pursue his vision of a country filled with these glorious trees. He is also said to have talked to animals and never carried arms, even when walking alone in unknown territory. He was accepted by the Indians and respected by settlers and managed to mediate various conflicts between the two sides. He certainly lived an eccentric life, but in the end his dream was fulfilled.

Apples are very healthy fruits and the English adage 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' still carries a lot of merit. But more about that below.
Medicinal uses;

Parts used:

Flowers, Fruit, Peel


Flowers in spring, when they are fully open and free of dew,
fruit in September/October, when they are ripe.
Traditionally, farmers will harvest apples in the last quarter of the moon - otherwise they won't keep as well.
This old farmer's wisdom makes sense, since water levels within organisms are highest at full moon and lowest at the new moon, making fruit less likely to rot.


Apple Blossom (26K)Apples are a wonderful, healing food, easy for the body to digest and able to correct over-acidity of the stomach. They are particularly rich in pectin, a soluble fibre that forms a jelly-like substance, as any jam-maker will know. Pectin, available in its purified form, is used to help set marmalades and jams. In the body it helps to regulate digestion, forms a protective coating in the intestines and soothes inflamed tissues. Thus, apples can be used to treat both diarrhoea and constipation. They are also highly recommended for balancing blood sugar levels, as they prevent those dangerous spikes and lows. Apples are cooling and anti-inflammatory. They are wonderfully refreshing and thirst quenching during convalescence, especially when suffering from feverish conditions, coughs and colds. Apple tea, usually prepared by infusing minced fruit or peels (organic, please!) in hot water, is not only a delicious drink, but also increases uric acid elimination and is helpful as a supportive remedy in the treatment of arthritic and rheumatic conditions as well as rheumatoid kidney and liver disease. An apple diet is recommended for gout, constipation, haemorrhoids, bladder and kidney disease. An apple at bed time improves the quality of sleep and helps to control night sweat.

Bees love the nectar rich apple blossoms in spring. The petals can be infused as a tea to treat feverish conditions, especially those that affect the upper respiratory tract. Apple blossom tea also soothes and calms the nerves.

Apples cider vinegar is also excellent, not just for salads, but for a whole host of health conditions. It is very rich in calcium and can help to improve calcium deficiency related problems such as loss of concentration and memory, weak muscle tone, poor circulation, badly healing wounds, general itchiness, aching joints and lack of appetite. Apple cider vinegar detoxifies by supporting the eliminative function of the kidneys. Thus, it is a helpful supportive aid for arthritis, gout, rheumatism and skin conditions. It is also beneficial for sinusitis, high blood pressure, migraine, chronic exhaustion and night sweats. To make use of this healthful elixir, dilute one tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 6-8 oz of water. This may be sweetened with honey.
recipes (1K)

There are endless numbers of delicious recipes that turn apples into any number of sweat or savoury dishes or drinks. But even plain they are simply delicious.
Baked Apples:

A simple way to enjoy a quick apple treat is to bake them whole. Cut out the centre that contains the seeds and fill it with musli. Sprinkle a little Cinnamon on top and dribble some honey into the hole. Place on a baking sheet and bake until soft enough to spoon. Serve with plain yoghurt.
Grated Apple

A wonderful side salad: grate an apple and a couple of carrots. Squeeze a lemon over it and add some currents to the mix. Simply divine.
Spiced Crab Apples

* 3lb good crab apples
* 2lb sugar
* 1 pint vinegar
* 1 root ginger, grated or bruised
* Pared rind of ½ lemon
* 2 inch cinnamon stick
* 2-3 cloves
* 1 tablespoon pimento (allspice) berries, whole

Wash the crab apples well. Place the vinegar and sugar into a saucepan Heat while stirring, taking care not to burn the sugar. Add the fruit. Place spices into a muslin bag and tie well- add to the fruit. Cover the saucepan and cook on low heat until just tender. Remove fruit with a siphoning spoon and pack into sterilized jars, leaving a little space at the top. Remove the muslin bag from the vinegar and strain the liquid. Return to the heat and continue to simmer, uncovered, until it has the consistency of syrup. Pour hot over the fruit in the jars so it covers them by ½ inch. Seal tightly and store in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks before use.
Ginger and Apple Chutney

* 2 dozen large tart apples such as Bramleys or Boscopp
* 1lb sultanas or raisins
* 2 lb brown sugar
* 3oz mustard seed
* 1 fresh chilli
* 1 level dessertspoon turmeric pdr
* 1½ oz ground ginger
* 1lb Spanish onions, cut in half and sliced thinly
* 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with a little salt
* 1½ pints vinegar

Peel, core and slice the apples and slice the chilli. Put all ingredients together into a saucepan and simmer on a low heat for 11/2- 2 hours until well cooked to a pulp. Allow to set overnight.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Solomon's Seal

Solomons Seal Pictures, Images and Photos
Variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum falcatum 'Variegatum' formerly P. odoratum 'Variegatum' or P. odoratum var. thunbergii 'Variegatum') loves shade to deep shade, & moist humusy soil.

The species ranges from Europe to Asia; the variegated form is of garden origin, from Japan.

Though the root has been used as a potato-like food source, & shoots prepared as a kind of asparagus, the whole plant but especially its roots & berries are sufficiently toxic that it can be dangerous to prepare, though harmless if properly & entirely well cooked.

Solomon's Seal If a rhizome is disturbed, divided, or separated from the parent plant in autumn for propogation purposes, it can be slow to recover, producing only a little foliage for the first year or two. When it has finally readied itself to take off, it becomes a stunning clump of graceful arching maroon stems lined with white-edged foliage.

The variegated form can be a little smaller than the regular species, often remaining in the fifteen to twenty inch range of height, but larger is possible in time. Once the rhizome has reached its way all about the area, the clump will erupt in spring three or four feet wide.

By then it will be too aggressive for anything nearby that is small to coexist, though hostas hold their own perfectly well, & Solomon's Seal does not displace anything larger, having evolved to live in the shelter of larger shrubs & trees.

It is grown primarily for the foliage, since the cream-colored flowers are small dangling bells mostly hidden on the underside of the long arches of large leaves. These graceful two-foot stems of leaves are useful in flower arranging.

Despite that the flowers are not as showy as the foliage, they are even so very pleasant in May, small bells hanging in pairs under the arching stems at each leaf axil. A bit of green speckles the tip of each bell.

Solomon's SealIn England Solomon's Seal is sometimes known as David's Harp, after medieval religious art which portrayed David with an instrument hung with metal bells (similar to the plant's dangling blossoms) struck with hammers. This is not the usual image evoked of David's biblical instrument, but it is seen on such monks' art as in the Plock Biblio parchment of 1148.

So too a Psalter in the Arundel collection has an illumination for the Eighty-first Psalm (which speaks of the harp) showing David striking a row of silver bells with hammers, this having been a Saxon influence of what David played. Wind chimes are likewise sometimes called King David's Harps.

In authentic Jewish sources, as well as most Christian, the harp really is a harp & not a belled instrument. But reproduced here is an illumination from the Gallican Psalter of 1470 showing David playing the bells (but with his harp leaning on a stool behind him, & lutes on the wall) & enclosed in vines.

The reason for its more common name is not entirely certain, because assigned to the plant a great long while ago. The predominant theory regards the starchy rhizome which grows each year another branching segment, with a "scar" left between each segment.

This root-scar is thought to be the reason for the name "Solomon's Seal," the plant sealing itself at each juncture leaving a mark some have likened to a Star of David. Additionally, it was once believed that juice from Solomon Seal roots possessed this same capacity to seal wounds of battle, just as it sealed its own wounds.

Solomon's SealPart II:
King Solomon & His Signet Ring
A tale of King Solomon & his seal is worth retelling, drawn in part from Mirkhound's Rouzat-us-Safa, & Tabari's History.

Djarada, the daughter of the legendary King Nubara of India, raised an army against Israel, & was killed in battle by King Solomon. King Nubara's daughter was forced into King Solomon's harem. She so despised her father's slayer that she wept constantly over her fate.

To appease her, Solomon allowed her to keep an idol of her father & worship it in her chambers. Public criticism caused him to change his mind. He broke Djarada's idol, punished her for idolatry, & underwent pennance for his own weakness in catering to his wife's sorrows & whims.

Leningrad CodexFrom Djarada's point of view, the slayer of her father could not even keep a promise to permit her her own faith. But Solomon adored her for her beauty &, hoping finally to win Djarada's affection, loaned her the signet ring by which he ruled, upon which was emblazened the six-pointed star of his & King David's realm, shown together with the Tetragramaton which spelled out the secret name of God.

Or according to others, Djarada held the ring for Solomon whenever he went to the privy. Still others ascribe this incident to a handmaiden, Aminah, who was given the ring to hold whenever Solomon was in his bath. For whatever the reason, she was at times entrusted with the very ring that permitted Solomon to rule Israel & even to command demons & demonesses to do his bidding.

It transpired that a demon named Ashmodai or Asmodius, or a djinn called Sakhur or Haritsu, took notice of this transaction. Taking on Solomon's form, he asked Djarada for the ring. When the real Solomon returned to Djarada's chamber, asking where she had put the ring, she immediately suspected him of being a demon & cast him out of the palace. But it is possible that Djarada conspired with the djinn from the beginning, to avenge her slain father.

Solomon went from house to house claiming to be the king of Israel, but people laughed at him. One housewife took pity on his delusion & gave him a plate of parched barley, but no one else paid him any attention [Ruth Rabbah 5:6; Eccl-Rabbah 2:2]. As he ate the barley, he wept at such irony, saying, "This is my portion from all my labor" [Eccl 2:10] when formerly his provisions for a single day consisted of thirty measures of fine flour, sixty of meal, ten fat oxen, twenty cattle, a hundred sheep, besides harts, gazelles, roebucks & fatted foul [1 Ki 4:22-23].

In those better days, so much was made for him to eat because all is wives prepared him meals, each hoping it was she that would receive him in the evening [Eccl-R 9:11.1]. But now here he had only a plate of mashed beans or barley, from a housewife who had wacked him on the head for claiming to be king of Israel.

Ashmodai threw Solomon's seal into the ocean, for the name of God upon it burned the fingers. While he was pretending to be king, he never removed his stockings, for he could not disguise his demonic feet, which were either hairy, or like a chicken's.

He would go to Solomon's wives, wearing stockings, & lay with them when they were menstruant. He even called for Bathsheba, but she would not lay with him, but set before him the name of God, so that he fled from Bathsheba's radiance [b. Gittin 68b].

Solomon and ShulamitAccording to the Midrash Tanumah, the first of Solomon's wives to uncover Ashmodai's masquerade was Topos. The majority of Solomon's court was continuously fooled.

The Jerusalem Talmud, however, says it was an angel of heaven, & not a demon, who took Solomon's throne, while Solomon wandered in chastized circumstance. It had been angels of God who gave Solomon his power over demons & demonesses. So when he worshipped foreign gods for the sake of his wives, it was angels of God who took away his power to command demons & demonesses.

In his misery, Solomon fled to the land of Amon, where he served as chief cook & bottlewasher for the Amonite king & queen, seething whenever he thought of his riches "lost in a bad venture"Ý[Eccl 5:14] or whenever he pondered the demon who usurped his wealth, possessions, & honor [6:2].

While he struggled for no further gain than to eat [5:12], Princess Naamah noticed his suffering, & fell in love with him. Her mother & father were outraged that their daughter desired to marry a kitchen worker. They exiled her from Amon, along with Solomon. Yet they were happy, & Solomon said, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil" [4:12] & "If two lie together, they are warm" [4:13].

After numerous shared adventures, Naamah found Solomon's signet ring in the belly of a fish she was preparing for their repast (an almost identical legend occurs also in Indic mythology). By the seal on the ring, Solomon was restored to his throne. He cast out Djarada as a betrayer or a fool, & made Naamah his co-ruler seated beside him in her own throne [Bet ha-Midrash II:86-87; Midrash Tehillim 78:12].

However, Solomon never entirely overcame his fear of the demons & demonesses that had once been his to command by the power of the Seal. He worried that creatures of darkness would come against him as he slept, & so built a special bed, stationing three-score armed men around it [Song of Solomon 3:7], convinced as he was that he would be attacked by "the Dread (Pahad) of the night" [3:8]. Pahad of the Night was a title for the fierce charioteer & night-demoness Agrath, who is called "the Terror (Pahad) that walketh by night" [Ps 91:5; Numbers Rabbah 12:3].

Part III:
Origin: Emblem of the Mother Goddess
Solomon's Seal or the Star of David originally signified a Goddess akin to Ishtar or Anath. She may have been worshipped by the name Megiddo, which means "Her Eminance" or "Fruitful Lady" or "Mountain Mistress" or "Towering Lady." In Palmyrene inscriptions, Iddo, "Mistress" or "Lovely," occurs as a personal name, which is the feminine counterpart of the Syria God Haddu (Adu) known to the Hebrews as Hadad (Adon), "Lord." Baal Hadad's sister-consort was Anath, the Syriac Athena, & Megiddo must have greatly resembled Anath.

AnathIsaiah said that Megiddo's mountain was the "mount of congregation" ruled by "the son of the Morning Star" [Isa 14:12-14], this star being the same as the Star of David or Solomon's Seal.

Pagan divinities gathered at Megiddo's mountain in obeisance to Her, hence in rival cults Megiddo's mountain was called Armageddon, where the armies of the Antichrist gather in preparation for their battle with the armies of the Christ [Rv 16:16].

Among ivory carvings found by archeologists at the ruins of Megiddo was one of a slender nude woman with queenly headdress, & another of a robed woman. The robed woman carries an oversized staff of authority. Her large eyes are inset with glass & she is distinctly smiling, as though blessing those who gaze on her. She shows an Egyptian influence, somewhat resembling Isis. This would seem to be the original Megiddo, before she became a symbol of Doom & Armageddon at the end of time; although, like Kali, she may always have been as much the mark of the end of time as she had been the mark of the beginning of time.

The earliest Star of Davids discovered by archeologiests have come from Megiddo & Gibeon, where unique temple configurations were found to be held in common. The Gibeon Star of David occurs on a woman's cook-pot, & within it is a pictograph of a hen, while the Megiddo example is on a monument. This star, as a symbol of Megiddo's presence, may for the most part have been drawn with red paint as a devotional offering. This would explain why so few Star of Davids survive from greater antiquity, the paint having washed away with time. Indeed, until these two stars were discovered, it was commonly believed not to have been an ancient symbol.

It is easy to imagine that these painted stars, in a later age when Megiddo was no longer widely known as a Goddess, were reinterpreted as Solomon Seals, painted in pagan places by Solomon himself in order to seal in the demons that had once been the gods & goddesses symbolized by just such star-symbols.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Puffballs at Mequon Nature Center Pictures, Images and Photos
Puffball (or Puff Ball) funguses are examples of "gastromycetes" (literally "stomach fungi") which completely enclose their spores. These start out as dense flattened mushrooms with no stem visible above ground. When they are ripe, the outer skin becomes papery, the interior dries out so that the whole round fungus is lighter than paper, & it lets go of its rooting so that it can blow about releasing spores from the hole that bursts open at the top and secondarily at the bottom where it was formerly attached to the ground.
puffballs 07 Pictures, Images and Photos

The species name means "pear-shaped." The genus name translates "Wolf" (Lyco) & "burst of wind" (perdon), so that Nancy Smith Weber's mushroom field guide says it means, "Wind of the Wolf." A better translation is "Wolf Fart Pears," & some people do indeed call any fungus of the Lycoperdon genus "wolf-farts."

Shown above in an August photo are young Lycoperdon pyriforme Wolf-fart Pears underneath a Pin Oak. A larger species occasionally encountered is L. gigantea which ripen into puffballs as big as footballs. But most often seen in Pacific Northwest gardens is L. pyriforme, usually only an inch or two round at maturity.

Puffballs will spew a cloud of spores if tramped by animals or picked up & squeezed by curious & delighted children. A childrens' myth holds that if you breathe the spores of a puffball, you'll turn into one, or mushrooms will grow inside you. Kids' instincts are correct in assuming danger, as the spores are indeed potentially harmful. The spores in the lungs can cause respiratory distress & even germinate as far as the hypae stage, fortunately treatable with fungicidal medication. Also, if they are eaten once they begin to reach the spore stage, they can be very mildly poisonous. The additional child belief that getting spores in your eyes causes blindness is untrue, but it wouldn't be very comfortable either.

Horror-story mushroom myths shared between smaller children has the benefit of protecting them from accidents, but the myths teenagers come up with put them in the way of harm. The same sorts of young adults naive enough to believe baked banana skins are a good substitute for marijuana are also naive enough to believe the spores of puffballs are hallucinogenic if breathed into the lungs, a notion that has no basis in reality. An incident from Wisconsin involved kids breathing so many spores so deeply that they indeed germinated in the lungs, requiring hospitalization.

Puffballs are edible when young & when still fleshy-white within, though inedible once they've darkened & begun to go to spoor. When cut open, the gleba (interior) must not have any sign of yellow, brown, purple, or anything but fleshy whiteness. It should be regarded as toxic if it is any other color than white. The Giant Puffball can be sliced, breaded, & fried. Smaller species can be used like any other edible mushroom for any number of purposes. Unlike other mushrooms, however, they are nearly impossible to keep fresh longer than a day, as the toxic spoors will quickly develop inside them, & freezing destroys their taste. This is why they have no commercial marketability, but they are quite the delicacy when used immediately. Freeze-drying is the only way they might be kept any length of time.
Puffballs, Peeled and Sliced Pictures, Images and Photos

They are considered among the safest choices for beginner mushroom hunters as nothing looks exactly like them that is poisonous. The major proviso is they must be used while still white within, though even when they go to spore they are only mildly toxic increasing their safety factor for beginners. At such a stage they are the closest thing one can have to French truffles without the great expense of true truffles. However, the thick-skinned varieties of puffballs called Sclerodermas are outright poisonous once they begin to change color, & have been implicated at least in the death of small pigs.

Although us amateurs would be taking very few risks in selecting white-fleshed puffballs for feast, I regard myself as a bit too amateur & not certain I would never mistake a Scleroderma for a Puffball. I would only harvest them to eat if a friend well versed in mycology was with me that day, but I've heard enough of "the horror stories" to be paranoid about gathering fungus for the table. Paranoia aside, puffballs are an extremely safe choice just so long as one uses nothing puffball-like that is thickskinned, stemmed, or any color within other than white.

Puffballs can appear in the same place year after year, usually under a tree, with oaks a favorite. There is a mycelial mass underground which is the main body of this fungus, which goes unseen; the fungus is only visible in late summer or early autumn when it produces the above-ground fruiting bodies which are the part known as puffballs or wolf-farts. The mycelial mass can reach downward several feet, & sometimes grows into a wide circle many feet around, which causes seasonal "fairy rings" to erupt in woodland areas & sometimes in lawns.

Although the puffballs can persist in a given location for several years running, as a rule the underground mass uses up the decaying matter & will need to migrate into a new area or else die out. When they form fairy rings, the ring can appear to be moving further away from a central point each year, as it uses up the decayed matter in the center of the ring then moves outward.

Puffballs are one of the least worrisome mushrooms to pop up around the bases of oaks or other trees. If one sees fan-shaped mushrooms or stringy funguses or little golden toadstools at the base of trees, one might be more concerned with the possibility of a pathogenic root fungus, but puffballs are harmless to a living host tree. Indeed, its presence often means that the array of beneficial mycorrhizae is extremely healthy for that tree, turning decaying matter into nutrients useful to trees & shrubs.


Puffball Escargots

From the Oregon Mycological Society’ 1987 edition of Wild Mushroom Cookery

1 dozen Lycoperdon perlatum or pyriforme
cup butter, softened
2 TBSP minced shallots
2 Cloves garlic, crushed
1 TBSP bread crumbs
1 TBSP minced fresh parsley
tsp. salt
tsp. rosemary
Fresh ground pepper
Dry sherry

Slice off bottom of each mushroom and scoop out the center. Chop and blend with butter. Mix in remaining ingredients and stuff mixture into the hollowed out shells, drizzling a few drops of sherry onto the top of each. Place in a baking pan in one layer and bake at 400 or broil until browned and sizzling. Serve hot as an appetizer.

Stuffed Giant Puffball Mushrooms


* 1 white giant puffball
* 1 or 2 courgettes, depending on size, chopped
* 2 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
* 1 handful parsley, chopped
* 1 slice ham, chopped
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 6 tomatoes, chopped
* 1 handful basil, torn up
* 1 tsp thyme leaves
* 1 clove garlic, crushed
* 1 tbsp oatmeal


1. Cut one end off the puffball and scrap the inside, carefully. Chop up the scrapings.
2. Mix all the ingredients together with the scrappings and stuff the mixture back into the puffball. Cover the puffball with the cut end and wrap it in foil. Place in a roasting tray.
3. Place the stuffed puffball mushroom in the oven at 180 degrees and bake for about 2 hours.
4. Slice and serve with vegetables.
Puffballs Pictures, Images and Photos

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall Foraging

As always, summer seems to be coming to an end far too quickly. Already the turning point of the year is upon us. Though we might welcome the cooling down of summer's heat, and while still being blessed with warm pleasant days, that cool whiff of autumn is unquestionably in the air. With it comes just a twinge of melancholy, after the rupture of vital summer energy, the flowers are setting seeds, the fruits are ripening and the leaves are beginning to turn colors. I love this time of the year. It always seems to me as though the leaves and fruit had soaked up all that sun-power, and now the light and warmth has turned to sweetness and color, painted on all the colorful leaves and stored in the sweet delicious juices of the ripening fruits.

From the foraging point of view it is another season of lavish pickings before the harvesting year is coming pretty much to an end. A couple more months and we'll be at those jars of canned and pickled goodies or forage around in the ice-box for frozen goodies preserved from the summers gifts. But for now there is still more picking to do.
mushrooms Pictures, Images and Photos

Right now the greatest foraging treasure are mushrooms. And, for those who hunt, the game season has started, too. I prefer the mushrooms. It is difficult to generalize about these incredibly varied creatures though, as they are very ecosystem specific. Also, positive identification is absolutely crucial when it comes to fungi, as many species are inedible or worse, deadly poisonous. If you don't know them well yourself, it is best to get acquainted with them under the guidance of a knowledgeable mushroom connoisseur.

nuts and seeds Pictures, Images and Photos
The other mainstays of the season are nuts and seeds. Seeds come in many different shades and sizes and offer a surprising variety of culinary experiences. The seeds of the mustard family herbs for example, such as shepherds purse, garlic mustard, horseradish etc. can be collected and used as a kind of home-grown pepper. They add a nice little twang to any dish without being too overpowering.

Fennel and Dill seeds can be collected and dried for a sweet aromatic flavoring that goes well with fish. The seeds of the umbellifer family tend to be rich in essential oils and often make very tasty spices that can be added to flavored vinegars and oils or pickles.

nuts (12K)Acorns and sweet chestnuts are also getting ready. Acorns are an acquired taste though. Most people find them too bitter. There are techniques for leeching out the bitter component by boiling them with a couple of changes of water. Acorn flour is quite nutritious and can be good when mixed with other flours to add a peculiar nutty flavor to muffins or pancake mixes. There are tons of different species of oak though, and some are definitely more palatable than others. Before loading your bags, you might want to experiment with just a few to see if you like the taste.

As for the sweet chestnuts - don't mistake them with horse chestnuts, which are not edible. Sweet chestnuts have a very prickly coat that protects them quite effectively. Though they look tempting on the forest floor it is best to wait for another month before actually picking them. The first nuts tend to be small and unripe. Their prickly skins don't come off easily and they can be painful to pick. For sweet chestnuts and walnuts I always wait until their outer skins come off by themselves and I just have to pick the nuts. This also avoids black stained hands and finger nails which usually result from picking off green walnut skins.

You might be lucky enough to have edible pine nuts in your area. They are delightful when gathered fresh - and more so when considering their price at the store! However, picking and shelling them makes one realize why they are so expensive. Often birds and squirrels get to the booty quicker and all that is left are the rotten ones - which however is not obvious until one takes the trouble of cracking them, and cracking them IS tedious! (If anybody has come up with a simple method, please let me know)
Elderberry Pictures, Images and Photos

Elderberries and Blackberries are definitely ripe and ready now and these late berries tend to be sweeter than the early ones. Their high sugar content makes them ideal for making home made wine. Also, if you haven't done so already, stock up with Elderberry cordial - you will be glad you did when the season for colds comes round and this vitamin boost is there to help you through those sniffly times.

Autumn is also the time for harvesting roots. Make sure you only pick those whose supply is plentiful and whose survival will not be threatened by your pickings. Dandelion is a pretty safe pick. It usually grows abundantly and can regenerate even from small pieces of roots left in the ground. Horseradish is also often rather abundant, though digging up the root can be hard work. Other species that might be locally abundant are Parsnip, Inula, Burdock, Evening Primrose and Chichory. Roasted Dandelion roots make a good coffee. The autumn roots tend to be a little sweeter than the spring ones due to their higher inulin content. These can be used in stews and stir fries. The more experimentally minded forager might also try their hand at making Dandelion and Burdock cordial, or brew a beer or wine with them. These types of beverages cannot be compared to what we normally associate with these terms, but they certainly make interesting and unusual nips that, in moderation, can even be regarded as healthy tonics.
friday Pictures, Images and Photos