OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she’s positively elated to share a brand new episode of “Superabundant” — Psilocybin — and offers a recipe for (non-psychotropic) Japanese mushroom rice (kinoko gohan).
As of this evening, it is officially fall, and just like that, the mornings are positively crispy, ambering the edges of the maple leaves. Squirrels are in their manic glory, decimating sunflower heads and burying anything with a shell on it. The other night the sky echoed with the plaintive honks of migrating geese. Dare we say it’s time to start unpacking sweaters and blankets, break out the apple-scented candles, and harvest anything remaining on the vines on those last warm days before the rain comes and splits them all into oblivion. Unfortunately, we humans aren’t the only ones clamoring in the last-chance-summer-dance of it all — the yellowjackets and bald-faced hornets have the exact same idea, making last-minute harvests something of a tricky proposition, even for those of us not allergic to bee stings. Why are those cot-dang wasps so aggro this time of year, anyway? Read on to find out!
So-called ‘magic’ mushrooms, mussel mayhem, stuff to celebrate and good things in gardens and markets
Freshly picked morsels from the Pacific Northwest food universe:
A funky, fungal new ‘Superabundant’ episode
The Pacific Northwest’s wet and temperate rainforest biome presents an ideal home for psilocybe fungi — they can be found everywhere from city parks to coastal dune grasses. In the latest episode of “Superabundant,” we’ll explore the Northwest’s long relationship with newly legalized therapy with so-called “magic” mushrooms, as both a tool for both improving mental health and psychedelic enlightenment.
The ‘Superabundant’ newsletter celebrates its 1st birthday!
Over the coming weeks we’ll be rolling out a few changes to our newsletter format (we like to think of them as “improvements”) to make a shiny new space for other voices in the food world. We’ll chat with chefs, farmers, food sovereignty activists, makers, school cafeteria workers, dishwashers and even grandmas to learn more about how we cook and eat in the Northwest. Stay tuned!
Hispanic Heritage Month
From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, we celebrate the contributions of our Hispanic/Latinx communities. Among the myriad roles they play in this country, 65% of our crop laborers are of Hispanic descent. Indigenous Mesoamericans and South Americans are also some of the world’s earliest crop scientists, having domesticated some of the most diverse and ubiquitous crops we still enjoy today — beans, chiles, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, chocolate and perhaps most important of all: corn. Watch the corn episode of “Superabundant.”
Massive mussel die-offs alarm scientists
Oregon State University marine biologists have begun monitoring stretches of Depoe Bay coastline in response to die-offs in mussels. It’s a similar phenomenon that impacted Dungeness crab last winter: oceanic upwelling brings phytoplankton — including toxic dinoflagellates — to the waters where mussels feed. OPB’s April Ehrlich chatted about it with OSU professor Bruce Wenge.
Local product we love
We were chatting with some OPB colleagues about Slavic cooking the other day, and mentioned a cheese spread we made by mixing sour cream, butter, crumbly white cheese and adjika — a red pepper paste from the Republic of Georgia. We love the Queen of Adjika brand because it’s made in Oregon in the traditional Georgian style, so it’s thick, salty, spicy and fragrant with blue fenugreek. Look for it in European markets around the Northwest.
In the ‘Superabundant’ garden this week
The Italian prune plums are finally getting ripe — this is the first year the tree, planted from seed by a friend’s child a few years ago, has produced fruit! The brown turkey figs remain a delicious burden, cranking out several pounds of heady fruit every. single. day (though at this point we may leave the rest to the coven of bald-faced hornets who’ve taken a shine to the upper branches’ fruit — they’re extra annoying this time of year because, like the yellowjackets, their old queens are laying eggs as fast as they can before they die in the fall). The tomatillos and ground cherries are cranking out the fruit, creating a fun Easter egg hunt in the process as the ripe fruit falls to the ground and hides under the leaves. Another round of peppers, summer squash and tomatoes is ripening, and the cucumbers are still steadily producing. One untended patch of the garden has become a monoculture of chervil seedlings — we’re snipping them into everything from potato salad to compound butters.
We finally reached out to the Portland Fruit Tree Project to rescue us from the avalanche of apples and get that excess fruit to hungry people — there’s only so much apple butter a person can stand! Before the pickers come, we’ll harvest another bushel or two and rent a cider press from America’s oldest home-brewing supply store, Steinbart’s.
Good things in markets
The late-summer tomatoes, corn, squash and beans are all as glorious as ever, and table grapes are coming in too. The season for local apples is kicking off, though most apple festivals won’t happen until next month (similarly, most of the wild fall mushrooms will come next month, though you might find some lobsters and chanterelles now). Now’s the time to stock your freezer with local salmon and steelhead — if you aren’t much of an angler, Tribal members have fish for sale in the Gorge, either directly from fishers in the Char-Burger parking lot under Bridge of the Gods or at Umatilla Tribe-owned Brigham Fish Market in Cascade Locks.
If you’re in Portland, stop by Lents International Farmers Market on Sunday, Sept. 24, to celebrate the grand reopening at their new location and the Lents Cultural Fair.
Recipe: Kinoko gohan (Japanese mushroom rice)
Whether you get your food from the grocery store, farmers market or the forest, with so many beautiful mushrooms available this time of year, it’s a good idea to have an easy and satisfying dish that really lets them shine. This is one of those one-pot meals that you can cook in a donabe on the stovetop or in the rice cooker (the bonus of using the rice cooker is that you can whack everything together hours before you’re ready to eat and it’ll be ready when you are). Use whatever variety of mushrooms you like — we like it best with a mix of shiitakes, maitake, enoki and shimeji but we love to add local wild mushrooms like chanterelles, oyster mushrooms and lobster mushrooms. “Gourmet” mushroom mixes are also perfect for this. This dish is satisfying enough to make a meal by itself, but we like to serve it with shoyu-glazed grilled chicken or misoyaki salmon and a light cucumber-seaweed salad. It also makes a wonderful stuffing for roasted poultry or winter squash. Serves 4-6.
Note: Feel free to use instant dashi granules or concentrated dashi soup base to save time. To make this vegan, use vegan dashi stock instead of bonito — bring 3 cups of water, 2 dried shiitakes and a 4″ x 4″ piece of dried kombu to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the kombu and allow the shiitakes to simmer in the liquid for another 15 minutes, then strain through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to catch any grit. You can thinly slice the simmered shiitakes and add them to the rice.
In a pinch (or if you don’t consume alcohol), you can substitute the mirin and sake with 4 more tablespoons of dashi stock plus 1 teaspoon of sugar.
1 ½ cups uncooked short grain rice, preferably Japanese
8 oz assorted mushrooms, such as shiitake, maitake, shimeji, lion’s head, oyster, and/or chanterelle
3 cups dashi stock (see note)
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 clove garlic, finely grated or minced
1″ knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated or minced
2 tbsp butter
1 scallion, finely sliced
- Wash the rice in cool water until the water runs clear, then pour the rinsed rice into your donabe, a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, or rice cooker bowl.
- Rinse the mushrooms and pat them dry, then slice the shiitakes and/or shred the other mushrooms with your fingers.
- Add the dashi, soy sauce, sake, mirin, salt, garlic and ginger to the rice and stir to combine. Layer the mushrooms over the top of the rice (but don’t mix them in).
- If you’re using a donabe or heavy-bottomed pot, bring the rice to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until the rice is al dente, about 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow the rice to steam for another 10 minutes (don’t remove the lid!). If you’re using a rice cooker, use the mixed rice setting and press start.
- Add the butter and gently mix the mushrooms into the rice. Add salt if needed and serve topped with sliced scallions.