Paul Stamets is a real mushroom expert and regularly features in news articles, films, documentaries and interviews. In this TED talk he talks about why he believes that mushrooms can save our lives, restore our ecosystems and transform other worlds.
The focus of Stamets’ research is the Northwest’s native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas.
There are cosmic implications as well. Stamets believes we could terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet.
Grab a cuppa and watch this.. I guarantee it will make you look at mushrooms in a new light!
For more info on Paul Stamets see his website Fungi Perfecti
For those of you on twitter he tweets as @PaulStamets
Wood Ear or Jew’s Ear mushrooms are found on dead elder wood and are very common – in these politically more correct times they may also be called Jelly Ears. Most books will call them Jew’s Ears and the latin name is Auricularia auricula-judae.
I spotted this log by the side of a canal but once you have seen Jew’s Ear once you will notice it everywhere. It grows pretty much all year round and will be especially common after a spell of wet weather.
The fungus is best picked when pale and slightly velvety – gets quite rubbery and a bit slimy as it gets older. Use a knife or scissors to cut it away from the wood.
There is no getting away from the fact it is a bit rubbery and has quite a bland flavour but it is very common and free. I cook it up with onion and carrots and stock and make a milky soup out of it and whizz in a blender to reduce the rubbery texture!
It also has medicinal uses but not used as much these days as it used to be. In the old classic Gerard’s Herbal it was recommended to boil Jew’s Ear mushrooms in milk as a medicine for sore throats. It is still used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a range of health problems and you can buy it dried or even buy cans of Jew’s Ear Juice in Chinese supermarkets if you so desire!
I did these bhajis at a cookery demo in Leeds yesterday using nettles and they were very popular. This is a wonderful, cheap and easy recipe for a wide range of foraged, grown or bought food. Bhajis are gluten free and dairy free so if you’re stuck with recipe ideas for ‘intolerant’ friends this is a tasty solution.
You can use pretty much any wild food in these bhajis so have fun and experiment!
Nettles, comfrey, borage, ground elder, cleavers, dandelion leaves and/or petals, ox eye daisies, wild garlic, sorrel, sea beet, mushrooms or any bought or foraged leafy greens like spinach or kale and much more. See pictures at the bottom of this post if you aren’t sure what some of those look like.
Nettles, comfrey, borage and cleavers are hairy things but you don’t need to precook them – a couple of minutes in hot oil will get rid of the hairs but always wear gloves if handling nettles.
Some leaves will shrink quite a bit with cooking so I usually add some thinly sliced onion to bulk things up a bit.
4 rounded tablespoons gram flour (chick pea flour)
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon cumin
1 heaped teaspoon garam masala
I often add a teaspoon of either black onion, cumin or fennel seeds but this is optional
Mix up the gram flour and spices then add enough water to make a consistency like a thick pancake batter
Chop or shred whatever you plan to use and then add to the bhaji mix and stir around so ingredients are covered in the paste. I tend to use scissors to snip leaves and just drop them straight into the mix
Take a small dessert spoon of the mixture and drop into hot vegetable oil in a deep pan or a wok, you may need another spoon to scrape the mixture off
Cook 3 or 4 bhajis at once – they will need a couple of minutes cooking on each side until they start to brown.
Drain on some kitchen roll or keep warm in a low oven until you are ready to eat.
Depending on the bulk of things you add this amount should make between 6-8 good size bhajis or 10-12 smaller ones.
These bhajis are lovely with a salad and some yoghurt or raita and go beautifully with a nasturtium dip see my blog on nasturtium recipes.
Some suggestions to try