Monday, August 12, 2013


Ribes comprise the genus of currants and gooseberries, of which a number of wild varieties grow in the southwest mountains (and other places as well, I'm sure). I've been calling all those plants "currants" for a while, which is wrong, but "gooseberry" doesn't fit them all, either, so I suppose "ribes" will be safe for now. A while back I posted about some plants that A and I thought were black currants or maybe wolf currants. After a friend suggested gooseberry, closer inspection and some taxanomic research has led us to conclude they are most likely orange gooseberries, (ribes pinetorum, if you will) with a couple of bushes of mescalero currants as well.

Mescalero currant flowers- no fruit yet:

Orange gooseberry still with flower:

I've seen the prickly bushes in various ranges in NM over the years, but never bearing much in the way of fruit. This year, the orange gooseberries in our local mountains looked to put on a pretty heavy crop, and we've been keeping an eye on them. Recently, we stopped off on a mushroom expedition and took advantage of some bushes carry lots of ripe fruit.

Hank Shaw details dealing with them, a common sense sort of method- pick (wearing leather gloves), wash, boil briefly, mash, then strain. In our case, forty minutes of picking resulted in a few pounds of nice purple/black fruit, which resulted in enough juice for a recipe and a half of jelly. Straining the pulp of mashed ribes through a layer of old t-shirt set in a colander resulted in a nice clear juice.

For our ribes pinetorum jelly, we relied upon the Ball Blue Book's directions for "juice for jelly" as described for red currants:

6 1/2 c orange gooseberry juice, extracted by a washing, then briefly simmering the berries, mashing them with a potato masher and then straining them through a cloth.

7 csugar

1 package pectin. Cooked following the directions in the book (or on the back of the pectin package).

The resulting jelly came out pretty, but is pretty undistinguished. Surprisingly reminiscent of prickly pear jelly, it is sweet with some of the same watermelon note, if less pronounced and perhaps a bit of a similar green note underlying the fruit. Overall, the berry flavor is more pronounced than with prickly pear. Still not nearly as good as elderberry or rosehip, to my taste, for our next batch we'll probably add a little lemon juice to try to brighten things up and perhaps get a more firm set. Another thought would be to steep a couple of ripe Thai chiles in with the fruit, to make a sweet/hot jelly.  In the meantime, the elderberries look to make a crop, if not as heavily as last year, and we spotted some big rose hips up north if we can get to them. Of course, bird season opens in just three weeks, too. Things are looking to get busy.

Friday, August 09, 2013

and All That the Rain Promises

A recent trip to local mountains resulted in A spotting the first of what turned out to be three nice cauliflower mushrooms:

Cauliflower shrooms have a slightly citrus-y scent and a firm texture and, despite it being a pain to clean the dirt and duff out of the various little curls and cavities, one of my very favorites of the wild edibles we know and are comfortable harvesting. While this example appears pretty brown, which might indicate age, it was firm and bug-free. Once home, we sliced, cleaned, and sauteed one of the heads in a bit of butter and then simmered it with a little water until tender, finishing with both spices, salt and pepper, then a squeeze of lemon juice. Nothing more required.

We also found a few oyster mushrooms and apparently missed a large fruiting by a few days or a week. Most of the oysters were dried out and leathery. Still enough for topping a pizza came our way. So, a few edibles, some of the first that we've come across in these recent drought years.
The oysters weren't the only mushrooms that we found past edibility, we're pretty sure this is one of several lobster mushrooms we came by that had turned soft and buggy:

"Lobster mushrooms" are actually a fungus which colonizes and converts existing mushrooms to a different form. Here you can see some of the structure of the original 'shroom under the lumps and thickening:

These weren't white and crisp, but rather brown and buggy. A few years ago, we had an excellent dish of rabbit and lobster mushrooms at Local 360. If we'd have found these guys in time, the rabbits would have had to look out- we might have tried to re-create it. Perhaps later or next year.

As a last note on recent observations in the higher, wetter country, does a bear sit in the woods?

Of course- in this case, just like a big dog. I've also seen them in the very human-like pose of sitting with their legs straight out in front of them.  

By the way, "All that the Rain Promises and More" is the title of my favorite mushroom guide, a pocket book by David Aurora, who also wrote the seminal (but definitely not hip-pocket) "Mushrooms Demystified".