Open thread

Some catchy music to end the weekend.

Chat about whatever.

Puffball Envy

Check out the puffball on this guy!


I’m feeling, I don’t know, kinda inadequate.

Also found in Michigan, btw. (As I mentioned, we’ve had a megaton of rain.) And the comment thread is filled with people showing off their puffballs. The clever ones have kids holding them up (their tiny bods increasing the apparent size of the ball), but there are also puffballs measured against beer cans and dogs.

Also, puffs wearing hats, and one (that I saw) Puffball-O-Lantern.

So we—and when I’m talking about cooking, you should always assume the royal we—cut up the puffball into slices and fried them. Then we crumbled it up, ate some, and froze the rest. It has a simple, okay flavor–not fantastic, but not bad–and is kind of the texture of a very light crumbly cheese. We’ll probably use it in soups and as a side dish and some other stuff.

Open thread to talk about puffballs, the election, or anything else.

I Shall Call Him Yorick…


…and then eat him. (Puffball!)

Also found: my first-ever foraged Hen of the Woods a.k.a. maitake (about 7 pounds):


I will dehydrate them and then eat them too!

We had a megaton of rain over the weekend and that with the unseasonable warmth has produced an extended season and a bumper crop. Thank you, rain!

Open thread for all things mushroomy and otherwise.

Kelp, Shrooms, and Good TV

If I lived in Maine instead of Michigan I’d probably be raving about kelp as the food of the future:

The virtues of macro-algae are many, in Seaver’s eyes: They require no fertilizer, no pesticides, no fresh water, no arable land. Their nutritional profile is admirable, he says, providing healthy doses of iodine as well as potassium, calcium and other micro-nutrients, protein, soluble fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

And seaweed’s benefits aren’t just for humans. It’s quick growth means quick carbon dioxide uptake, which can reduce ocean acidification. Seaweed can filter excess nitrogen and phosphorous from the water, too. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded project in Washington State’s Puget Sound is aiming to prove that farmed seaweed can create a “protective halo” around stressed sea habitats.

It’s not just a sustainable crop: Seaver says it’s restorative.

radical mycologyBut I do live in Michigan, so I’d like to draw your attention to Radical Mycology, which is one of my new favorite things. It’s an honest-to-gosh tome with nearly 650 pages of tiny print on all things mycological, and it really seems to me to be of the same ilk as The Whole Earth Catalog, a publication that helped birth and define an era.

Anyway, the author just announced a big book tour, so he’s probably coming to a town near you! (But not near me, alas–as previously discussed, the mushroom gods hate me.) I would check it out.

And what’s up for your Saturday? The Mr. has events associated with Kalamazoo College graduation this weekend, so I will be going to the Farmers Market solo this morning. It’s good to do that, once in a while, because he rushes, or I’m too slow, or something.

Later, I’ll be tabling for Vegan Kalamazoo at Kalamazoo PRIDE. I have really been looking forward to this! I love tabling–okay, not the setup and takedown, just the stuff in the middle–and I love PRIDE.

If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend, I recommend Occupied, or the brilliant Sense8 (by the brilliant Wachowskis and the brilliant J. Michael Straczynski) if you haven’t seen it.

The Mushroom Gods Hate Me, and Other Mushroom News

Since I posted a dupe, I might as well bigfoot myself.

First a report on this year’s morel season:


End of report.

Okay, here’s some more detail:

my morels

Foraged by…someone.

I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors hunting the elusive morel. Last year I searched for a few weeks and got two runty ones. This year I found two good-sized ones, only they were false morels, which are poisonous. (The magic ingredient is monomethylhydrazine, which is also found in jet fuel.) I even attended The National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City, MI (near the top of the mitten), and met many interesting fungiphiles, but alas no morels. (But did get sleeted on – in mid-May! WTF Michigan.)

Driving back from the Fest, I passed a Grizzly Adams-looking dude parked by the side of the road, selling morels from a cooler. So I finally got my morels. (See pic.)

Unfortunately, however, the Mushroom Gods weren’t done with me. Right after we completed our transaction, Mr. Adams commented in a tone of enormous satisfaction, “Great! Now I can get my hunting and fishing licenses!” (For those who don’t know, I’m vegan.)


In more uplifting mushroom news, Imperial College London recently reported strong positive results in what Nature is calling the first human trials of using psilocybin to alleviate depression:

Researchers from Imperial College London gave 12 people psilocybin, the active component in magic mushrooms. All had been clinically depressed for a significant amount of time — on average 17.8 years. None of the patients had responded to standard medications, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or had electroconvulsive therapy.

One week after receiving an oral dose of psilocybin, all patients experienced a marked improvement in their symptoms. Three months on, five patients were in complete remission.

The New Yorker reported on research at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere on shrooms as a treatment for depression, addiction, and anxiety. (Here’s a great narrative by a guy who used them to cure his smoking habit.) They apparently work by increasing your sense of wholeness and connectedness not just with yourself but the rest of humanity and nature, thus solving this problem:

In Carhart-Harris’s view, a steep price is paid for the achievement of order and ego in the adult mind. “We give up our emotional lability,” he told me, “our ability to be open to surprises, our ability to think flexibly, and our ability to value nature.” The sovereign ego can become a despot. This is perhaps most evident in depression, when the self turns on itself and uncontrollable introspection gradually shades out reality.

Finally, related to the recent wonderful posts by Prescott Cactus on his hospice work: Johns Hopkins and NYU have also done research showing that shrooms help those with terminal cancer meet their end with less anxiety.

Can’t wait for this stuff to be legalized—and for those who are interested, JHU may do a new cancer study in 2016.

True Belief Rewarded

Sorry I didn’t post last week. There was some travel, some allergies, and some heavy searching for morel mushrooms. (Zero found to date despite ongoing Talmudic scrutiny of this map and related documents.)

But I’ve also been bummed about the Bernie campaign implosion. It happened fast and furious, and the fact that it happened in the wake of massive voting irregularities in his/my home, New York City, didn’t help.

It was depressing, but I’m doing my best to take solace from the fact that Bernie’s campaign (which succeeded beyond all reasonable expectations, considering where it began) is of a piece with Occupy, Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, the many campus movements currently underway, and a zillion other indicators. (Including the rise of Obama himself, btw.) We seem to be on the cusp of a new progressive era fueled by technology-enabled people power, while our enemies have fulfilled our version of Voltaire’s prayer and made themselves ridiculous.

So, in the matters of both morels and mores (a stretch, I know!) I remain toujours hopeful.

Anyway, sometimes success comes at you sideways. Yesterday, I found a bazillion ramps on a nearby hill. I harvested a few, from which “we” (Royal We) made a heavenly, megagarlicky pesto from this recipe, using vegan parmesan instead of pecorino.

And last week, I found years of faith in another realm amply rewarded:

I imagine some Juicers will be crying tears of ecstatic joy at this while the rest will all be wtf…

PS – “I’m going to roll away the Hamm.” LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

The Long Awaited (By Me, Anyway) Mushroom Post

I was always kinda, sorta interested in mushrooms, but after moving to the Midwest and getting exposed to the big mushroom foraging culture out here, my interest, err, mushroomed.

morels are comingForaging season starts with morels, which are not only First! but delicious and (as of now) nearly impossible to cultivate. Literally seconds after the New Year started my Facebook feed filled with images like the one at right.

Last year I foraged for morels for weeks, finding just two runts for my pains. (But I’m not complaining! 2 >>>>> 0, and they were delish.)

This year, I’m not messing around. In May I’m heading north (way north!) to Boyne City, MI, to attend the National Morel Festival. Along with music and food and morel-related hucksterism of all kinds, they have a beginner’s foray (where I’m assuming they paint the morels yellow for noobs like me). So this will definitely be my year!

I was going to self-appoint myself as the Balloon Juice ambassadress to the great Kingdom of Fungi. However it turns out our noble Webmaster, Alain, is also a forager. (And probably much more experienced than me. And btw you’ll notice we have a nice new shiny “mushroom” category for this post. :-)) So we will share the honors. And perhaps some of you, too, are into shrooms in their various manifestations. (Please let us know in the comments, or email me if you have something to contribute.)

This post began as a 10 Reasons Fungi Rock Your World, but the list mushroomed, and now I’m up to 21. Maybe you can add some.

  1. Mushrooms can replace styrofoam.
  2. Mushrooms can replace meat.
  3. They are Nature’s Internet.
  4. Magic.
  5. Magic at Johns Hopkins. And more. And more.
  6. They inspire great art.
  7. They inspire great literature.
  8. They can heal the earth.
  9. They’re a viable small business, including in inner cities. (If I were in my twenties I would totally be doing this.)
  10. They’re purty.
  11. They’re a kingdom! And are genetically closer animals than plants! (Becuz they are heterotrophs who digest organic matter versus autotrophs who create their own.)
  12. prototaxitesThey once ruled the earth. Behold the 25-foot Prototaxites.
  13. You can grow them in a laundry basket! (As previously reported in this space.)
  14. That movie The Martian? It was BEYOND RIDICULOUS that the progatonist, Mark Watney, was a botanist and not a mycologist. Had he grown shrooms rather than spuds he would have gotten a lot more protein and other nutrients for a fraction of the effort. See this prototype for disaster relief.
  15. Mushrooms can cure what ails you.
  16. And if that doesn’t work, they can eat your dead bod. (As previously reported in this space.)
  17. Myconsent is ecosexy.
  18. Zombie ants!
  19. They live in space
  20. YUM
  21. They are aligning themselves with our feline overlords:
wasabi chan

Don’t mess with Wasabi-chan!







Did I leave anything out? Please post any mushroom-related science, anecdotes, recipes, or other in the comments.