Red Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a well-known medicinal mushroom that grows here in New England. Along with Maitake, Red Reishi is revered for its modulating effect on the immune system (able to down-regulate overactive immune systems or up-regulate underactive immune systems, thereby helping to restore balance). The mushroom in the photo was growing on a Sugar Maple stump in Plainville. I've also found this species growing locally on Red and Norway Maples.
You're probably familiar with cranberries from consuming one of the many commercial products made with these cultivated beauties: cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, or dried cranberries. But you need not purchase them to experience their flavor, as they grow in the wild throughout New England. Cranberries are in the same genus (Vaccinium) as blueberries, and like blueberries, they tend to grow in acidic soils. I found these plants growing in a dense patch on the edge of a small pond.
I generally avoid eating “food products”, preferring instead to focus on whole foods and simple cooking techniques. So, while I've tasted various store-bought cranberry-flavored foods and drinks in the past, these days I stick to the real thing, without added sugar and chemicals.
While picking some cranberries last week, I tasted several fresh, savoring their bright flavor on my palette. Each one popped and released a burst of tart juice. Later I bagged and froze the majority of my haul, though I also added some to apple sauce (made with Northern Spy and Golden Russet apples, and some cinnamon) and tossed handfuls into soups. What do you do with fresh cranberries?
If you find a patch of ripe cranberries, take some time to comb through the plants. I found that much of the fruit lies close to the ground, hidden among the leafy stems. And while you gather, stay alert to the wildlife nearby. Is anyone else eating the fruit? Are there birds calling nearby?
The green season is coming to a close, but not all plants are finished flowering. Here is a native woodland shrub (or small tree) that just began blooming in early autumn. Name the plant.
Leave a guess in the comments below. And be sure to check out the answer to last week's bird quiz on the Quiz Answers page.
Several years ago, I harvested my first clump of Maitake (Grifola frondosa) in the wild. In New England, the mushroom -- which is also called Hen-of-the-Woods -- typically grows at the base of large Oak trees in the fall. The fruiting body pictured here is growing on the hidden remains of a tree in an otherwise grassy area. I enjoy cooking and eating the tender growth and making medicinal double-extraction tinctures from dried, chopped parts.
A few years ago, I transplanted some Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) into my garden from a local wild patch. Though this wild edible is more commonly collected in spring, the plants usually send up new growth late in the year. Nettle tops are delicious as cooked greens and are popular in herbal infusions.