Monday, July 25, 2011

Using mushrooms for dyeing and pigments

Last weekend I went to a fabulous workshop on dyeing with mushrooms, hosted by the Puget Sound Mycological Society. We used wool yarn to make swatches of dyes obtained from various local mushrooms and with different types of mordants to get a taste for the creative possiblities mushrooms offer. My favorite was a bright pink made from rotten Lobster mushrooms and using washing soda as a mordant, although the bright yellow from wolf lichen was a close second. Lichens will actually dye without use of a mordant. Apparently, so much lichen was being collected in Ireland for dyeing wool that they have to restrict its use. Lichens have been used historically for dyeing textiles, but the use of mushrooms is quite modern. Modern mushroom dyes were by and large introduced by Miriam C. Rice, an artist who began developing the use of mushroom dyes in the early 70's. She went on to teach workshops and write very instructive books on the subject.
She worked in a close business relationship with illustrator Dorothy Beebee who has carried on her work. She also developed pigment for paint sticks and papers made from mushrooms.

Dyeing is a passion in any place that people keep sheep for making their fleece into yarn, and into clothing, bags and all sorts of other useful and decorative items. I was surprised to learn that there are still still many enthusiasts of the handmade. There are huge international conferences for textiles made from or dyed with fungi.

I saw so many creative uses for the dyed fibers at the workshop yesterday that I can't wait to experiment at home! It is recommended to heat the dye baths outside as some mushrooms are toxic and manipulating them for use can release the spores, so it's better to be in a well ventilated area. Also, they said they can be quite stinky and not well tolerated by the less creative members of the household.

lobster mushrooms

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My first home made mustard!

I've been wanting to make my own mustard from scratch for awhile now and I finally tried it. I'm glad I waited because I've only learned about lacto-fermentation just recently. I decided to make the more rustic, grainy style mustard; so I used two kinds of mustard seed: white mustard and black.

I let them soak for 3 days in a jar with whey from kefir, a bit of water and some raw sliced onion. (1 cup mustard seeds, 1/4 cup whey, and enough water to cover the seeds) The longer you soak it the spicier it gets, so after 3 days, it has quite a bite! You can add all sorts of flavorings to the mustard, I picked the onion because it sounded intriguing; it gave the mustard a slight musty taste that gave it depth..... I like it!

 Once soaked for the appropriate time, throw it into a food processor. Add a little turmeric to get that yellow color, and also turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. Maybe a bit of sea salt, and a bit of cider vinegar if you feel it needs more liquid.

 And Voila! Home made mustard! Yum!

Monday, July 4, 2011

more recipes at Hunger and Thirst's blog

Some of my stinging nettle recipes can be found this month at Hunger and Thirst 's blog. A dynamic duo of bloggers sets a challenge using a wild foraged ingredient each month and at the end of the month, the Wild Roundup is published with all the recipes everyone has sent in. There were @ 30 recipes this month! It's a great way to learn about wild edibles and their uses.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

2nd try at Salt of the Earth

Hi......... I had this post all done, and before I could hit publish, the internet ate it.......... so....... we'll give this another try.

Recently, the boyfriend and I and an old friend from FL, met up in Portland and went to the Colombia River Gorge scenic area to see more waterfalls than you can imagine in a couple mile area.
 Fantastical, dreamworld forests and waterfalls. The bf and I stayed overnight at the Bridal Veil Lodge, which was an old-time lodge with really cute, clean and comfortable cottage rooms, that had skylights, so you could see the stars at night.... well, if it hadn't been cloudy. I highly recommend the place, the owners are very knowledgeable about the area, friendly, and best of all, I could actually eat the breakfast for once, because they cater to food allergies! Just let them know your requirements the night before, and you'll get a yummy gourmet breakfast you can eat!

The second part of this trip for me was going to the amazing salt store in Portland, The Meadow; where you can buy the salt of the Earth, literally. They have fine salts from all over the world. Real salt. Did you know that typical table salt from the supermarket is a highly processed food? First, it is baked at high temperatures to crystallize it, which kills all the minerals and iodine. Then they add an industrial grade iodine back into it, but that turns it purple so they bleach it. Then they add dextrose to make it taste right again. None of that is on the label, because it's considered part of the processing rather than an ingredient. This is good to know if you have blood sugar problems. The body doesn't recognize this altered salt product, so you can actually be low in blood sodium, while messing up your blood sugar. I just want real salt, please, with the minerals and iodine naturally still in it. Anyway, back to the store, they are VERY friendly and will spend vast amounts of time explaining the salts; what different salts from different parts of the world are best at flavoring, and the difference between fleur de sel, and sel gris..... they have testers of each salt so you can try them out. The store also carries specialty chocolates and gourmet bitters. The bf was most patient while I took an hour to figure which salts I wanted......... it was like being in a candy store.