A thrill a minute

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Katie's first harvest

Katie's first harvest

Kevin and I went clamming this morning, accompanied by our friend Katie, who is visiting from New York. It was a very satisfying experience.

Until today, I thought I was the only person on the planet who gets a thrill out of raking clams up out of the seabed, but now I know there’s at least one other. Perhaps this means that Katie and I have a low thrill threshold, or that we don’t really know what a thrill is, or maybe that we’re just inordinately fond of shellfish, but it was a joy to take someone who took so much pleasure in the activity out into the bay with us.

Katie, who is as die-hard an urbanite as I was, nevertheless appreciates what we’re trying to do here. She’s as ready to fish and lobster as she was to clam, and she’s even warming up to the chickens. She understands the pleasures of a shack in the woods – the pond, the privacy, the hammock.

But we all have to draw the line somewhere.

Logistics required us to take both our vehicles to Cotuit Bay, and Katie rode home with Kevin in the truck, with me following in the car. When we were about half a mile from home, Kevin gestured wildly out the window and pulled over to the side of the road. I followed suit, wondering what was wrong.

As I got out of the car, I heard Katie saying, a bit anxiously, “What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” She told me afterward she thought it must be either a broken axle or a dying animal.

A black-staining polypore, without a doubt

A black-staining polypore, without a doubt

Kevin got out and ran across the road. “Did you see it?” he called back to me.

See what?

Across the road was a giant mushroom cluster. Kevin picked it up. “I think it’s a hen-of-the-wood!”

A hen-of-the-wood! I couldn’t believe he had spotted it from a moving vehicle.

When I got a close look at it, I thought it probably wasn’t a hen-of-the-wood, but it had a similar structure and it smelled very good. I was cautiously optimistic.

Katie was overtly pessimistic. “That’s poison. I’m not eating that,” she said. “Where’s the dying animal?”

We took it home and looked it up. Figures that, just days after I write about my mushroom identification problems, I find one that looks exactly like the pictures in the books. This was clearly a black-staining polypore and absolutely edible. We’ll eat it tomorrow, after Katie goes home.

Mycologist wannabe

Mycologist wannabe

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Comments

  1. I am so jealous of the clams! When we moved back West, among all the other big shocks was the shock of having to buy clams by the pound!!! Needless to say we do not have as many clambakes as we did when we lived in the East….

  2. ugh! would you believe i had a MONSTER sample of this growing in my yard that i tossed just this past week? right on the edge of my planting bed…

  3. Amanda — If you get another one, you gotta eat it. The stems are very tough, so just cut off the edges of the lobes and saute them for a quite a while. The flavor is meaty and rich, but the texture can still be a little chewy. I pureed mine after I sauteed it, and used it as the base of a pasta sauce, and it was delicious.

  4. “Remember what the dormouse said: feed your head, feed your head.”

  5. I too love clamming, just started this spring though I lived here on the Cape for over 20 years. How dumb was that. Now I am addicted, crazy as it sounds every clam I dig up brings this kid-like joy; like opening a Birthday gift, except Atlantic muck isn’t nearly as pretty as wrapping paper.

    Congrats on finding your fungus. I have had some luck with mushroom hunting here on the Cape, in the spring I sometime find Morels in my yard, though only a few, this year none. A few years back Lucie, a young lady from the Czech Republic, who worked for me, showed me how to find “Red Caps” a Boletus, cousin to the porcini. My neighbors go every fall and come back with shopping bags full of mushrooms, they are from Russia and its a proud part of their culture to go foraging. You should stop by the Mid-Cape Farmers market so I can introduce you to Ron Backer of Surrey Farms in Brewster. He forages too, he brought Black Trumpet Mushrooms one week, which I missed purchasing from him by 10 seconds, as another customer got them a split second before I could grab those beauties. Clams and Shrooms, ain’t life on Cape Cod grand!

  6. Rick — That is so precisely what I needed to hear. Between the tomato blight, the lackluster garden, and boat problems, I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself, and it’s good to be reminded of the pleasures of this project by someone who seems to enjoy this stuff as much as I do.

    I’ll see you at the farmer’s market.

    Life IS grand.

  7. Nice job on the clams. When Katie comes back to the cape let me know if she needs a treading partner

  8. i check the yard every morning now. i could kick myself.

    btw, i am a hardened clammer myself, hardshell and steamers, in mid/lower cape. having just relocated here, am dying for people to go bivalve hunting with (or other valve hunting)…

    you’ve got my email:)