fall foraging fun
the first thing we’ve been collecting are pears,
gathering the ones fallen from a giant old tree growing amidst bamboo,
right at the edge of our property.
We’ve collected dozens.
So perhaps these pears don’t really qualify as foraging,
as they aren’t really a wild edible,
but they are crisp, almost-ripe,
and during the wind gusts,
As for actual foraging,
last week’s scattered rains brought an unexpected treat:
chicken of the woods, one of our favorite fall mushrooms.
These golden shelf mushrooms have a mild flavor and sturdy texture,
like cooked chicken breast meat, hence their name.
These are growing here on eucalyptus stumps,
(cultivated in huge tracks for the paper industry)
which we also have on our property by the dozens.
(While I’m on the topic of the eucalyptus,
I pruned some young sucker-branches off a few of our trees
during a Leaf time to coil together to form a wreath for our doorway.
It’s scent is used in aromatherapy for calming and stress-relief.)
Our eucalyptus haven’t yet shown signs of having these mushrooms,
so we tore up one of the bug-damaged sections of the shelf
and scattered it amidst our eucalyptus patch,
near the cut stumps from the previous harvest.
(Eucalyptus can be re-harvested three times from the initial planting,
as the cut stump from the first-growth will reshoot new trees,
again, and again, for 30 years of growth from one stump
providing three times the lumber, or firewood, as a normal tree.
Part of the reason for their popularity here,
also, they are drought-resistant, and being non-native,
have no natural parasites or other infectious diseases.)
For our dinner, I made a chickpea-chicken of the woods stew,
several shelves of the mushroom and an equal amount of chickpeas
cooked up with a sweet onion, a red bell pepper,
half a batata doce (local sweet yam), some tomato puree,
lots of spices (a bit heavy on cumin), and a splash of seawater;
served over basmati rice.
Blackberries, known locally as “amoras,”
have been another staple from our walks,
available for the past two months on wayward roadsides,
and now on the neighbor’s side of our driveway.
Those bushes, naturally, that grew near streams
yielded the tastiest, juiciest berries;
however the last of the crop benefitted from the autumn rains,
so all the remaining berries are quite enjoyable.
We also found a few wild grape vines growing at the edge of our ruin,
entirely rooted on the neighbor’s side (which they don’t use at all).
Marmalade found and ate all of the grapes that were there;
yet I hope to transplant some of the vines in the springtime,
to compliment the patio of the outdoor kitchen area.
Finally, though I really can’t count this as “foraging” since inedible,
we found an incredible stash of multicolored slate (or shale?) this afternoon.
As we were hiking up to the source of our house’s water,
I saw what I thought were broken tiles with intricate hand-painted patterns.
We were truly amazed to realize that they were slivers of rock,
unlike any rocks we have seen before on any of our explorations.
Perhaps the chunks of rock separated slightly at first,
allowing sediments to seep in, creating incredible patterns,
as the surrounding clayish earth seemed to carry some of the palette;
or the rocks were formed with these incredible patterns inside,
and the surrounding earth is simply colored from crushed rock.
Either way, these rocks are awe-inspiring,
and I collected three armfuls of them,
hoping that they could be somehow used for something.
(part of a patio, or sidewalk, or siding near the foundation,
or outdoor kitchen, or to help finish the bathroom, etc.)
Fortunately, the larger rocks easily break into nearly identical slivers,
and each sliver is smooth and flat, with incredible patterns.
Unfortunately, the rocks break easily, are incredibly fragile,
and I’m not entirely sure that the colors and patterns are set into the surface,
so a heavy rain may alter or wipe clean the incredibleness.
Maybe they can be reinforced, coated, or varnished,
or otherwise strengthened through an adhesive or cement.