Dia De Los Muertos Cordyceps Congee

Goji, Chinese Dates, Cordyceps, Ginger

Goji, Chinese Dates, Cordyceps, Ginger

Mushrooms are biology’s continuum between birth and decay, teetering presumptuously on the precipice between life and death, one foot always in the grave. Ushering one poor soul across the River Styx while sowing the seeds for another sap’s claim on some prime terrestrial real estate, fungi are the entire life cycle manifest. In the spirit of Dia De Los Muertos, I celebrate the shapeshifting shenanigans of the mushroom with a savory Cordyceps soup, based on a medicinal congee recipe from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The Cordyceps is a gloriously macabre mélange of science fiction & Greek myth. Its delicately deceitful spores coyly infect its arthropod prey, killing them softly and re-animating itself within their corpse. When the fungus parasitizes the larva, its mycelia spread through the larva’s body, hijacking its nutrients and sapping all of its succulent Qi. The Cordyceps then springs forth from the larvae’s head, birthed from the brains of its prey like Athena erupting from the head of her father Zeus (oh, the poetry of it all!).

“Athena leaped from Zeus’s head, fully grown and armed, with a shout— and pealed to the broad sky her clarion cry of war!”

“Athena leaped from Zeus’s head, fully grown and armed, with a shout— and pealed to the broad sky her clarion cry of war!”

All guts, glory and folklore aside, these lil’ fungi are truly mythical in scope. Is it really a coincidence that the Cordyceps mushroom - hailed on the street as the Himalayan Viagra- is revered for its ability to increase stamina, sex drive, virility, strength, brainpower, athletic prowess & focus?  If you’d like to harness the power of the Huntress Athena, boot-up for an all-night Bacchanal, or carouse with the saints of caterpillars past, here’s a recipe for medicinal Cordyceps congee.

For one serving you will need the following accoutrements. Adjust amounts for serving sizes as needed. Cordyceps can stimulate testosterone production, so you don’t want to exceed 2-3 strands a day (I’ve been told by a fellow herbalist that Cordyceps in excess can make you feel all hotsy totsy):

2-3 organic chicken thighs, parbroiled for 2 minutes and cut into pieces

2-3 strands of dried Cordyceps Sinensis (Dong Chong Xia Cao)

I am epically stoked to dig into the bag of Munchable Cordyceps that I procured at Dragon Herbs. You could just as well pick up a few ounces of these at your local Chinatown apothecary. I have been assured that these lil’ guys are the real McCoy, bona fide fungi foraged from caterpillar craniums, nourished in the rustic bosom of Lady Nature (not cultivated in a humdrum lab). No disrespect - many fine mushies are farmed vs. foraged, and I consume them with gabs of gusto on a regular basis. Just let it be known that the wilder the berry, the wiser the Qi.

6 Red Jujube Dates (Hong Zao), rinsed

I love buying these ‘Chinese apples’ at the Hollywood farmer’s market from the sweet ole chap that encloses his hand-written tea recipe with every bag. You can buy them fresh in late summer, dry what you don’t eat, and plop these little ruffians in teas, oatmeal and broth all winter. In addition to being a great harmonizer that mellows the harsh properties of other herbs, it also provides excellent energy and is a powerful Qi tonic, replenishing spleen & stomach Qi, nourishing blood, and soothing the woes of the mind.

A handful of Goji Berries (Gou Qi Zhi)

Goji is the de rigueur antioxidant of the hipsterati elite, but please don’t let that deter you from hopping on its proverbial bandwagon. It is one of the premier anti-aging herbs of ancient Asian herbalism, and is believed to tonify the entire system against disease, improve vision (both literally and metaphorically), and provide the energy to overcome the most difficult of obstacles.

1 nice & thick knuckle of ginger

4 1/2 cups of chicken broth

Place your chicken & medicinals in a large stock pot, covering with stock. Put a lid on it and simmer for 1½ hours. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle some sea salt, and drink to your newfound pomp & circumstance!

Reishi Bears

Botanarchy Test Kitchen

Botanarchy Test Kitchen

Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Bears, oh my!

These lil’ grizzlies are choc full o’ qi-tonifying, jing-boosting goodness. Handmade with love and chocolate-stained fingers in the Botanarchy kitchen with raw cacao, coconut palm sugar, Balinese vanilla beans, sea salt and a smattering of potent tonic mushrooms- Reishi, Shitake, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Maitake and Fu Ling. Hubba hubba! This is my secret formula based on sacred longevity tonics of yore.

Medicinal mushrooms have a bona fide arsenal of legend and lore surrounding them, inspiring tales of immortality, thousand-year-old Taoist sages, ancient Emperors combing remote forests and spiritual seekers attaining enlightenment at their behest. Referred to as ‘the food of the Gods’ by the Romans, 'a gift from Osiris’ by the ancient Egyptians, and 'the elixir of life’ by the Chinese, they are a pan-cultural panacea of epic proportions. The ravishing red Reishi mushroom in all its waxy crimson glory has the esteemed honor of being the most researched herb in history (!!!), and has been one of the most sought-after substances known to man. She’s a rare and elusive bird that grows on hardwood trunks & roots in wily remote forests (a true mountain hermit if there ever was one), inspiring clandestine mushroom-foraging expeditions the world over. 

Without waxing poetic on these waxy bulbs for pages, I will simply say that these adaptogenic fungi possess an innate intelligence that re-calibrates the body, bringing balance and urging forth our latent potentials. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, tonic mushrooms have the unique ability to preserve the body’s three treasures: Jing, Qi and Shen. Jing stokes your primal power, and replenishes energy spent handling stressful situations & livin’ La Vida Loca. Qi improves your resistance to disease, and recent studies have proven that tonic mushrooms are nature’s most powerful known anti-oxidant, packing major blood-cleansing, anti-aging, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer heat. Shen is the energy of the heart, and on the allopathic plane these fastidious fungi function as a cardiac and brain tonic, sharpening concentration & focus, helping calm the mind, taming anxiety, strengthening the nerves and improving memory. On a more profound plane, Shen tonics are the elixirs of Spirit, uplifting and unearthing the heart’s true potential, asking what the seeds of your soul wish to manifest, feeding them with their rich & ruddy sod, and spreading the seeds of your consciousness in all directions. As my main squeeze Terence McKenna would say, the mushroom wants you to evolve!