Bottlebrush Buckeye

I Say Ha! to the Heat

Need a late spring/summer blooming temperate forest shrub? This native could be the ticket. Two varieties of this species spread out the bloom period for a potential month and a half, and the plant doesn’t care if the highs are in the seventies, or like today, in the nineties.

In the wild, Bottlebrush Buckeye is found primarily in Alabama and Georgia, but it is now grown in Zones 4-8. The plant pictured is the earlier blooming “species” variety that was at peak bloom last week, when it was pummeled by 4+inches of rain in one day, and it still looks as pictured. Soon the second variety, often sold as var. Serotina, will begin to bloom, and will continue blooming into July. We have one of those as well, and it will bloom into July. Northern gardeners have reported later periods of bloom stretching into August.

A huge population of wild var. Serotina plants are growing just about three miles from here, south of Garden City, right along the edges of US Highway 31. Every few years Alabama Power will cut them down to the ground under the power line that runs to Blount Springs, which somehow or other rejuvenates the plants. Within in a few years the blooms will be spectacular, with limestone boulders interspersed with hundred foot long colonies of plants, and blooms hanging out over the road from steep hillsides. Unfortunately this section of highway is known for some spectacular wrecks, though they have never been attributed to drivers rubbernecking the plants.

Growing Mushrooms, Part Five–A Cornucopia of Mushrooms

Branched Oyster

As soon as I saw that the Latin name for Branched Oyster mushroom was Pleurotus cornucopiae, I had to grow some. This is a widely sought after variety well known to mushroom foragers, as it has an enormous range in the wild, and in many locales, can be found all year. Once again, the substrate here is just used coffee grounds with their filters.

The container is the difference. That’s a one gallon glass canister that was made in the US, and costs the princely sum of ten bucks. If someone had set out to design the perfect mushroom growing container, they could have done no better. The lid is left cracked open slightly as the mycelium expands, removed daily for the water spritzing, and then replaced to maintain humidity.It obviously comes off permanently when the young shrooms reach the top of the container.

The Mushrooms Two Days Earlier

Commercial growers in this country use plastic grow bags, which like all plastics, end up in our enormous waste stream. The glass canisters, with proper treatment, could last for generations. As far as single use plastics go, just remember P.I.E.–Plastic Is Evil. Last week, for the first time, plastic microbeads were found in some dude’s bloodstream.

Growing Mushrooms, Part Four–Mushrooms for Life

And They’re Off

I admit to being skeptical of the sites on the inter webs that claim you can grow mushrooms from stems on moist cardboard, but I will kiss your butt on Twentieth Street in Birmingham if they’re not right. Those white furry things you see are mycelium, which are the mushroom equivalent of roots–only they grow incredibly fast. In fact, oyster mushrooms will feed on almost any kind of cellulose, including cardboard.

Being of an experimental nature, and having a workshop full of hardwood sawdust, I decided to try this. The base of this mixture is about three fourths of a cup of sawdust. On top of that is a layer of Amazon box cardboard. Then there are two clumps of King Blue Oyster mushroom bases, from the Oyster mushrooms that I recently grew. Both clumps cloned themselves, and when they hit the sawdust, it was all she wrote.

Another moist layer of cardboard is on the top, and I fear that it is not aware of the death penalty that it faces. Mushrooms are more like animals than vegetables, and Oyster mushrooms are documented to have killed both nematodes and various bacteria, and then eat them. And then, all things made of wood are on the menu.

I did manage to kill off a sourdough starter that I nursed for more than a decade, but that was just negligence. As we both love fresh mushrooms, I think these are keepers. So there it is–$13.99 for a lifetime supply of mushrooms, plus some ingredients that would have ended up in the compost bin.

Growing Mushrooms, Part Three–Harvest Day

So Long to Two of You

Barbara Kingsolver, in her great book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, describes her family’s “Harvest Day,” when they would dispatch a few turkeys and chickens to meet their maker, and also to say hello to the freezer. Later, her young daughter Lily won a 4-H award for a presentation called “You Can’t Run Away on Harvest Day.” So true.

Especially if you are harvesting mushrooms. Their mycelium may run, but not so for the edible parts. We only needed a couple of these for breakfast, so I took the two largest ones from the back.

Enough for Two People

The goal was to turn these into part of an Omelette, and here is the process. This is for two people.

Oyster Mushroom Omelette


2 jumbo or 3 medium Eggs

2 large Oyster Mushrooms

1/2 large French Shallot

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Olive Oil

Simple enough, but not as much as it seems. The first step is to sauté the Shroom and Shallot, both of which have been chopped. However, remove the caps from the stems of the mushrooms before chopping. Even with a hybrid mushroom like these King Blue monsters, the stem is still harder and chewier than the caps. So cook them in this order.

Using your favorite omelette skillet, and naturally ours is cast iron, sauté the stems in olive oil until they begin to soften. Then and only then add the caps and shallot, and cook only briefly, as shallots are easy to burn. These just happen to be echalote traditionelle longue, straight outta France. Those were recently the subject of more than one political controversy.

In the early 2000’s some air headed US politicians banned several food imports from France, including shallots, in an attempt to score cheap political points–fortunately now they are on to similarly idiotic ideas, like banning vaccine mandates, books, and CRT. I never knew that cathode ray tubes were that bad. At least these short attention span dudes forgot about the dangers of shallots.

When the shallots and shrooms have cooked just the right length, add a mixture of eggs and cheese. Cook briefly on the stove top, and then throw the whole thing in the oven, and cook until the omelette firms up. Our oven was pre-heated, because were eating the following with this:

Drop Biscuits

We served the biscuits with:

Strawberry Preserves

Naturally the preserves were made by yours truly. It makes a great combination, and disappeared quickly. We also still check the weather on our old Trinitron tv, which is only hooked up to an antenna. It’s CRT has withstood the years without fail.

Growing Mushrooms, Part Two–Shrooms Happen

The Drama Happens Also

Instead of waiting for a mushroom porn photo of a giant clump of Oyster mushrooms, here is an update. These are at the fast growth stage, and get larger overnight. My estimate is that they grew a quarter to half inch last night.

The King Blue Oysters are actually a hybrid mushroom, bred to combine the cap texture of the Blue Oyster with the size and tender stem of the King. Another perk is that they have the storage length of the King, which is rare for an Oyster mushroom.

The substrate here is just coffee grounds and filters, but we only use the unbleached (brown) filters. This has proven to be so effective that we are going to try another Oyster species soon, and drink a lot of coffee.

Time to look for some good mushroom pasta recipes. I’m thinking linguine in a mushroom garlic cream sauce.

Seven Tomatoes

Despite our annual tomato virus pandemic, MJ picked out five new tomatoes to grow for this year. I piled on two myself, and these are mostly paste tomatoes. Our favorite Festhalle tomato vendor certainly has a few thousand tomato plants already started. We can’t even grow them for as cheaply as he sells them–canning tomatoes, that is. I’ve already used a quart and a half today.

Cipolla’s Prize–An expensive little devil, about fifty cents a seed. A special Italian paste tomato.

Black Prince–Not from Wakanda, but a nice looking small tomato anyway. Black Prince forever!

Nepal–I know about as much about this one as I do about Katmandu. Still, another good looking mater.

Moskvich–Assuming this is a Slavic heirloom. They do have some great maters, along with some great dictators.

Napoli–My choice, a classic Italian paste tomato.

San Marzano–THE classic paste tomato. Check out the price for a good can of these at the market. Required for an authentic Neapolitan pizza.

Sub Arctic Plenty–My choice again, an experiment for our crazy spring weather and late cold snaps. Will allegedly take some seriously (for us) cold weather.

We have already passed our coldest average days, and February looks to be much warmer than this month. Spring fever is here already.

Thomas Jefferson on the Public Interest and Judicial Supremacy

Thomas Jefferson ignored the Supreme Court whenever he felt like it, especially when the rulings were made by Arch-Federalist John Marshall. In his old age he summed up his feelings about the aristocratic status that judges had acquired.

At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office.

Thomas Jefferson

Naturally, he always pointed to the fact that there are actually supposed to be three co-equal branches of the government, as mandated by the US Constitution–none is supposed to have carte blanche over the others. What a concept–democracy.

Now we have six unelected, Ivy League pseudo-educated religious bigots, deciding what the law is and is not. King George the Third looks like a little league dude compared to this arrogant bunch of buffoons, and the amount of power that they have usurped..

We have yet another Voltaire moment imposed on us, Voltaire being the writer whose bust just happens to be in the main hall at Monticello. We must cultivate our own gardens, and not recognize the corporate lackeys that have been installed as judges. I no longer shop at Wal-Mart and other equally repulsive big box stores, and I have never even considered having any dealings with a travesty like FarceBook. Take their money away, and watch them collapse.

We may very well lose the right to have majority rule, if we haven’t already. We can still always vote with our feet.

Genovese Style Pesto

Bring Out the Marinara Sauce

Munich has a Beethoven Ambassador, the brilliant young pianist Sophie Pacini, but Genoa in Italia has a Pesto Ambassador, one Roberto Panizza. Pesto alla Genovese even carries a special designation from the Italian government. Leave it to the Italians.

I am all out of basilico Genovese, the only basil officially allowed for their genuine pesto, so I made this with just garden variety sweet basil. I also substitued sunflower seed kernels for the mandated pine nuts.


Basil leaves, enough to pack a Food Processor

Sunflower Seed Kernels

2 cloves Garlic

2 pinches coarse Sea Salt

Time to turn this into a paste. Give it a few buzzes with the processor. There isn’t a lot else that these things are good for.

Add the following.

1 cup grated hard Cheese

The standard cheeses are parmesan and peccorino, but all I had was piave, so I used that. Buzz that in, then start to drizzle in olive oil. Keep adding until you get the consistency you want–the current standard is a paste. Then I preserve mine by freezing them in an old ice tube tray, and then storing the cubes in a zip-lock freezer bag. Then my processor gets a break for another week or more.

The framework for this recipe comes from Panizza himself, and an interview he gave to Domenica Marchetti for the book Preserving Italy. That’s why the man is the Pesto Ambassador.

Kitchen Invasion, Part Five–Parawood Jelly Cabinet

Ignore the Dirt

The takeover continues, despite constitutional promises that the Kitchen cannot over rule the entire House. In this case it is even a kitchen cabinet in the dining room, though it was not confirmed by the Senate–and it’s from Vietnam.

We were sold on this Parawood cabinet when we read that it was made from old farmed rubber trees from defunct rubber plantations. Apparently rubber trees only produce latex for seventy some odd years, at which point they are cut down and made into some quality lumber. in short, this wood supply will last as long as the rubber meets the road somewhere.

We needed the storage space.

Just the Beginning

This also brought to mind one of my favorite students, who convinced me that the Vietnam war was really about control of the world rubber supply, and all the patriotic balloon about communism was just a bunch of hoya. How did he know? He volunteered for three tours of duty in ‘Nam as a medic for the Green Berets.

He was on paid leave from the Chicago Fire Department, and the union was paying his tuition. He was a conspicuous thirty years older than any of the students at UI, and had a wicked sense of humor. One male student asked him the following:

Student: Why did you volunteer for that many tours in Vietnam?

Beret: Because it was better than Chicago.

That shut the kid up. In a later class another one really stepped in it. He asked the following:

Student: Did you learn anything in Vietnam?

Beret: Yea, I learned not to shoot into Michelin’s rubber plantations.

As a theorist that just about all imperialist wars are fought over control of commodities, I had to get in on this conversation.

Me: Explain that.

Beret: We Green Berets could do almost anything we wanted. Burn villages, shoot civilians, and kill women and children. But, one shot into a Michelin rubber plantation, and your ass sat in the brig forever. And you think the Viet Cong didn’t know that?

That really got me thinking. The Greek empire, especially Athens, controlled the wheat supply. The Romans controlled wine, olive oil, and the famous fish sauce. We are aiming for an empire of canned goods.

Ok, not much of a start on an empire. The only place we’ve invaded has been the farmer’s market.

Canning Tomatoes

Maters Ready for Inspection, Sir!

Time for the yearly canning update. Get busy! Life is short and Tomatoes are sweet, so can ye tomatoes while ye may.

First note–last year’s crop of canning lids were mediocre, so we switched from the usual hot water bath canning method, to pressure canning. Zero failures since then. If you don’t have a pressure canner, just double the time the jars of maters swim in the hot water.

If you’re lucky, somebody gave you something like this, or you know someone you can borrow one from. Ours only comes out of hibernation a few times a year.

Old School

The Mirro-matic was designed to process enough food for an entire family, and this one did–just not for our family. A former co-worker of mine had all of his children grow up, and off to college, and he just wanted to get rid of this beast. As the only farm boy he knew, I was the obvious heir apparent.

We will probably can only quart jars tomorrow, to speed up things and conserve on the number of lids we have. US made lids are just now coming back on the market, and none are available locally. There is a good deal on Amazon for some, and an order is forthcoming. It should be just enough money to get space cadet Bezos an extra 1/4 inch into outer space.

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