Fungus Among Us

mushroom

This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at //commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ChampignonMushroom.jpg under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license.

Springtime makes one think about- mushrooms?  Well, if you’d like to start a mushroom-growing kit, now might be the time!  If you’re near Wisconsin, you can find them at Patty’s Plants and River Valley Ranch.  If you’re not, some plant and seed companies carry them.

We’ve grown portabellas before, and have gone with them again this year.  Next year might be button mushrooms, to try something different.  The kits grow a lot of mushrooms over a few months’ span.  Be prepared to make a lot of tasty mushroom dishes!  (Marinating and grilling sounds like a delicious idea- see the Fireside meal review earlier in the blog…)  Portabellas and pasta was another tasty, frequent meal.  You can’t beat the freshest mushrooms you can get when you pick them yourself.  Our box even lasted longer than we expected- just make sure to water appropriately and not let it get too dry.

Growing mushrooms is not your thing?  No worries!  Learn more about mushrooms and check out a group dedicated to understanding a natural part of our habitat.

The mighty mushroom may even replace Styrofoam or break down plastic!

Growing Your Own Pineapple

(Photographs of a real pineapple our grandparents grew!)

Spring is here- but it seems like it’s almost been summer here in Wisconsin for the last few days.  It’s supposed to cool down a bit, but it’s been warm enough to make me want to start gardening.  I planted some radishes and peas to hopefully get a few early vegetables.  They’re relatively cold-hardy and our garden is decently sheltered from a hard freeze, so I thought I’d take a chance.

If you are looking for a unique (and cheap!) plant project for this year- try growing a pineapple.  Depending on your location, you may have to start this inside for now, but eventually you can put it outside to bask in the sunshine.  I’ve had one growing for a while, and consistently take it inside over the winter, and it has persisted in our basement, with sufficient light, of course.

Pineapple plants don’t need a lot of water, and they’re fairly easy to take care of.  All you need to start one is a pineapple top from a grocery store pineapple (yes, it’s that easy!).  It just gets discarded otherwise, anyway.  I’ve read a few different directions for starting a pineapple top, and can say that the easiest way is to simply twist the top from the pineapple.  You can trim off a little bit of the fibrous pineapple core at the bottom if it is stuck to the top, but do not actually cut into the pineapple top “stem”. All you need to do is peel off a few of the bottom leaves until you see some brown rootlike buds close to the stem.  These will eventually be your pineapple’s roots.  Some directions will recommend specific types of soil, but I’ve had decent luck with basic potting soil.

Just push the top into the soil slightly, so the root buds can grow into the soil.  Then just water and let it grow!  Pineapple plants love sun.  The pictures above show just how large a plant can get- this one was kept inside in a sunny spot.  (It was nicknamed “Killer” due to its pointy leaves!)  Once the plant is large enough,  (this may take years) you can force the plant to grow your very own pineapple!  It may flower of its own volition, but there are no guarantees.  The easiest way to have it flower is to place two apples in the pot with the pineapple plant and seal the whole plant in a garbage bag for a week or so.  The gas the apples give off as they ripen can make the plant flower.  The flower stalk will then become your eventual pineapple. The fruit will be smaller than the one you originally purchased from the grocery store.

The growth of the flower stalk and pineapple may take a while longer, but you’ll never have a fresher pineapple.  Make sure to give it enough time to ripen.  It’s a fun project and easy to do, since pineapple tops are typically discarded anyway.

One potential problem is that the center of the stem may rot.  If this happens, the center of the leaves (where new growth originates from) may turn brown.  It is possible you may need to start over, but once when this happened, the plant started some new growth off to the side of the original plant.

Good luck!

Here are some pineapple-growing resources that I found useful.

Welcome, 2012!

Welcome 2012!  I begin the year with continued apologies for a low posting volume.  I promise- this blog will be built up! (It just may have to wait a bit longer due to current commitments.)  This provides the perfect transition to my more-or-less official-ish resolutions, specific to the topics of my blog.

Writing:  2012 will be the year of creativity.  There’s much writing to do, so it’s time to be inspired!  This blog, poetry, prose- I need to write more.  2011 had much too little of this.

Cooking:  Continue the adventure of new cuisine.  At worst, I don’t care for a particular dish.  No harm done.  I’ve already expanded my range of food options- what’s next?  I’m loving more and more Indian food that I try.  2012- perhaps more Thai?

Gardening:  I hope to try a new plant this year in our limited gardening space.  Maybe it will be in the garden spot, or perhaps in a container.  Varying varieties gives a chance to find a new treasure.  One of my new favorites from last year- red shiso (perilla) looks great amongst all the green with purplish-red leaves and flowers.  Even better, it has wonderfully aromatic foliage (kind of like basil in aromatic power).

 

 

 

 

Whatever your resolution or lack thereof, make 2012 meaningful.  Numbers are just numbers.  Time is what you make of it.

Indulge and create!

Standardized Food

 

Fennel bulb

Image from article

There’s a grand range of food available in the world.  We all fall somewhere on a continuum of adventurousness in eating.  I’m not saying I’d be the first to try some of the most extreme examples, but having a curious palate can assist in finding new and outstanding dishes that would otherwise have remained unknown.  If you’re already found epicurean bravery, great!  If not, and you’re willing to try (and you like vegetables), vegetables are a great place to start.  They are perhaps not as intimidating as some proteins.

For those of us who belong to community supported agriculture groups (CSAs), you may get some new foods in that weekly produce box.  (CSAs provide produce for a yearly membership fee, and can be local, organic, and sustainable to reduce the carbon footprint.) I am occasionally left searching for a recipe to fit a previously unused veggie.  Usually, I win two ways:  I find a recipe I can use again, and I have a flavorful dish I did not know before.

http://www.uwhealth.org/nutrition-diet/unique-vegetables-and-what-to-do-with-them/31628?utm_source=enewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ouruwhealth0611

Garden Options

 

As we creep ever closer to spring, it’s stimulating to think of all the options for the garden.  I would plant much more if I could, but we have limited space.  Cooking and gardening work so well together; nothing’s easier than using freshly-picked ingredients that were, moments ago, growing out back.  I’ll start off a spring “series” of posts offering tantalizing options for that perfect epicurian/cultivation mix.

Mole peppers did fairly well in our northern garden.  I only wish I had room to grow more!  Mole is one of those ultra-complex sauces that is never the same wherever you have it.  I like a sauce that’s so complex, you’re hard-pressed to name all of the ingredients.  I have tried making it, but the mole-making disaster of ’10 necessitates that I try again this year.  This pepper will always have a home in my garden and the sauce will hopefully be a “win” this year on the plate.

Mole Peppers

http://gardening.about.com/od/plantprofiles/ig/2007-AAS-Winners/Pepper–Holy-Mol–.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mole_%28sauce%29

New celery variety

It’s always intriguing to see new produce options available- some are dictated by consumer habits (see below post on seedless watermelon) and some are shaped by other forces (more on that in a later post!)

Whether the addition is simply for more consumer options, for mass distribution for growers, or a contrast for the culinary on plates, new choices always seem to slip into availability.  I hope for the day when even more local/specialized food options are available in food stores.  See the following on red celery:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101016/ap_on_re_us/us_red_celery

Picture repost from article- Duda Farm Fresh Foods

Picture repost from article- Duda Farm Fresh Foods