Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Leucistic dusky grouse

The blue grouse I grew up with has fallen prey to the splitters (yes, yes, I've heard- DNA, distinct geographical populations, etc. etc.), and now is the dusky grouse.

Recently, A and I were up in the north central mountains of NM looking for edible mushrooms when we came across a leucistic grouse, of the now dusky variety, part of a family group or covey.

Ghost bird:

A normally colored member of the covey:

What a cool variation. I hope the white bird makes it through the season and is able to pass those genes along.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Slow on blogging, but A and I have been getting out into the country a bit lately and I should try to catch up.

Firstly, a little while ago some friends tipped us off that the bolete mushrooms were flushing in Northern NM, so we headed up to our old stomping grounds for a quick overnighter in the back of the truck, hoping to replenish our supply. Success!

We found enough boletus barrowsii to fill our winter supply jar.

Soups, stews, and sauces will all benefit for the next year or so. We managed to dry a few more than fit in the jar, but didn't quite load up.

 Shortly thereafter, we made a day trip to our nearby mountains for elderberries, hitting it just a bit early. Nonetheless, we secured a good supply of this necessary component for a favorite jelly. We also found a couple of the largest examples of the cauliflower mushroom that we've yet come across. Sparassis radicata or Sparassis crispa, most sources relate that radicata is the western variant. Regardless, these were prime and delicious.

Our friend Jeff introduced us to a really nice technique for cauliflower mushroom, that being to saute it fairly slowly in butter until tender and then keep going until it browns a little and crisps up- an excellent side dish to almost anything, but particularly game meat.

Next, we went to our first organized mycological foray, this one by the NM Mycological Society- an interesting group of folks with a lot of expertise to share. This year's foray was based in Las Vegas, NM, and we stayed in the great old Plaza Hotel. A bit ragged around the edges after over a hundred years of operation, our room was quiet and very reasonably priced. Just around the town square we found a brew pub and a restaurant next door that served the hottest green chile I've had in a long time, some of the most typical northern New Mexican food we've found in years. Combined with lovely weather (cool and rainy) and some relatively new country to explore, it was a great weekend.

Last, for the Labor Day holiday weekend we headed back up north, to look for mushrooms again and perhaps take advantage of opening day of bird season. The first day was absolutely chilly at 9,000 feet of elevation, a welcome change after a long summer.

Since hunting didn't start until September 1st, we spent the first couple of days picking currants and mushrooms, checking out country and scouting around. Band Tailed Pigeons were loafing in some spruce and fir along one ridge each of those days, but strong winds apparently pushed them elsewhere once the season opened. Big birds, they'd come bombing out of the tops of the spruce on the steep hillside and, if we had gotten into them, the shooting would have been really tough. We also looked around for grouse, seeing them before the season but having no luck on opening day. Perhaps later in the year.

Mushrooming was more successful. The king boletes were pretty scarce, but we found nice stands of chanterelles, our first encounter with that prized edible in NM.

Back home, we tried a cream of mushroom soup as suggested by Hank Shaw. It was good, but we're still a bit ambiguous about the shrooms, not having found the best flavors to go with them and spoiled to the aforementioned king boletes and cauliflowers. Further experimentation is assured by several packages of chanterelles sauteed in butter and squirreled away in the freezer.

Also for later in the fall is the wild red currant jelly we put up from the prolific ribes encountered in the high country (A has keyed them out as ribes montigenum).

A couple of hours of picking (and pricking) resulted in a nice batch of currants.

Which in turn became a slightly tart jelly.

If our big game hunts go well, I foresee a Cumberland sauce in the future. Otherwise, it will just have to be buttermilk biscuits with red currant jelly.

Here's hoping the season is proceeding as well for all of you all!