This is A REVELATION!!! Ambrosial, alabaster coconut milk made at home with TWO ingredients for mere pennies on the dollar, packing a pearly velveteen puissance for all your DIY potions! The recipe calls for organic shredded coconut and purified water in a 1:2 ratio (ie: 2 cups coconut to 4 cups water). Simply warm the water on the stove (should be toasty, but NOT boiling or scalding), add to a vitamix with the coconut, and whirl, whirl, WHIRL. Pour the milk through a strainer into a suitable vessel, then squeeze the remaining pulp in a cheesecloth to milk all remaining mojo. If you were seriously enterprising, you could save the pulp and dehydrate into coconut flour like an egalitarian kitchen witch. Regardless, your milk will be the best thing to happen to your concoctions like, ever. And it’s not loaded with all of the cumbersome fillers of store-bought milk!
YOU GUYS…did you know that you can make your own raw butter in a Vitamix?!? Raw butter has been on the fritz in Los Angeles for MONTHS, but the lovely folks from @organicpasturesdairy at the Hollywood Farmers market assured me that I can finesse my own raw butter out of their organic raw cream. All you need to do is whip it on high in a Vitamix until thickened, then blend in 5 second spurts on setting 5, pausing every 5 seconds to scrape the sides with a spatula. At some magical juncture, the buttermilk will separate, and you’ll be left with a lusty mound of creamy butter. Strain off the buttermilk, press the mound to remove excess moisture, and voila! No more raw butter blues!
I often get asked how I got into the business of traipsing through the underbrush and scavenging in the sediment. Did I get all learned up in fancy college? How do I keep from dying valiantly by the miasmal dagger of a rogue toadstool? How can one discern the Shitakes from the shinola?
Here’s a guide for the slapdash forager, those urban swashbucklers after my own heart, armed with nuthin’ but a rusty pocketknife, mud-soaked boots, and the gallant heart of a hunter.
1. Frolic in the forest.
Hone your mushroom mind. This is a sublime state of mushroom gnosis, where the detritus comes alive with crowning caps, and the lichen lean in to whisper sweet nuthin’s in your ear. Never forget that you are a hunter-gatherer. You have a second sight that comes alive when beckoned, enabling you to spot your prey in the vast sprawl of primeval morass. We have to process a staggering mess of stimuli these days, dulling our best senses and thwarting spontaneous shamanic illumination at every twist and turn. Visualize the mushroom, and let it guide you where it will. Suddenly you will slip into a state both lucid and liminal, a primal summoning of your nomadic lust. This is the quintessence of foraging. I swoon at the very thought of it.
2. Research your feculent fortune.
Because you aren’t a super-sentient forest crone living in a hollowed out toadstool conversing with the deer & the dryads, you have no idea what you just dug up. After your hunting spree in the witchwood, you’ll want to take your precious toadstools home and identify them like a bona fide mycophile. Bust out the bifocals. Make a spore print, if you wanna show pony around. Check your specimens against your guidebooks, or use the vast swamp of myco-porn on the Internet. Become CONSUMED by minutia- it’s the only thing that will keep you topside of the soil. Here’s a smattering of my favorite resources for the budding forager:
The Fifth Kingdom: The crème de la crème of mycological textbooks.
Wood Decay Fungi: Keys, photographs, and descriptions of macroscopic fungi utilizing wood as a substrate in the Northeast United States.
MushroomExpert.com: Featuring my most favorite mushrooming tool, “What’s This Thing In My Yard?”
MykoWeb: The main attraction at MykoWeb is The Fungi of California. It contains photographs over 600 species of mushrooms and other fungi found in California, with over 480 of the species with descriptions. There are currently over 5400 total photographs of the mushrooms. Included are links to other online descriptions, and photos of the species treated plus references to common field guides. Hubba hubba!
3. Nerd out and join your local Mycological Society.
Mycological Societies hold local forays, invite guest lecturers, provide cookies, and typically have a handful of resident nut job mycologists who are just chomping at the bit to help you classify your mushies. Bring in your haul! High five your brethren! Best of all, you will enjoy the company of sympathetic folk who know their way around an artfully-placed mycological pun, and swoon at the curves of a bodacious Bolete. Find your local chapter online at http://www.namyco.org/clubs/index.html or http://msafungi.org/.
4. Get learned up on your trees.
Fungi and their arboreal blood brothers are inextricably linked in labyrinths of mycorrhizal matrimony. Morels love Ash, Amanitas love Aspen, and so goes the symbiotic Saturnalia of the forest floor. Knowing which fungi are sweet on which trees can often be the key to identifying ambiguous mushroom mysterions. Mushroom Expert has a fabulous catalogue of North American trees with their frequently associated mushroom kinfolk.
5. Amass your library.
You simply must invest in the following tomes, of biblical importance in my ramshackle homestead:
Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora
All that the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora
The Complete Mushroom Hunter: An Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting, and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff
6. Go to mushroom camp.
SOMA Wild Mushroom Camp is held every January by the Sonoma County Mycological Association in the redwood-studded wilds of Occidental, California. It’s three days of woodland reverie, featuring forays, gourmet mushroom cuisine, and workshops on mushroom identification, cooking, dyeing, paper-making, medicine-making, photography, cultivation, and more. Being a dyed-in-the-wool nerd of the highest degree, this was just about the best thing that ever happened to my natty old soul. We ate homemade mushroom chocolates, and traipsed through the fandangled forest like Hansel and Gretel, with overflowing baskets and the folksy wisdom of our fearless leader, Gary Lincoff (he was that year’s guest speaker). Hello, wet dream! Before the foray, I chastised my boyfriend for his behemoth basket with a cool “let’s not get cocky here, kid.” Much to my surprise, we filled the whole damn thing, and were chastising ourselves for our paltry accoutrements (we are from the mushroom wasteland of Los Angeles, after all). By the end of the foray, I had of reams of Russulas and heaps of Amanitas shoved down my cleavage, and was bartering mushroom real estate with my fellow frolickers. We ate wild mushroom pizza for WEEKS. Then we went back to camp, identified our burly bounty, ate a wild boar, drank some homemade wine, met some folks changing the world with emergent mushroom technology, and listened to Lincoff wax poetic late into the eve on foraging psychotropic ‘shrooms. So yeah…best weekend ever.
7. Become fabulously wealthy, and Mushroam around the world with Daniel Winkler.
This is what I wish for on dandelion tendrils and falling stars. The Indiana Jones of wild Cordyceps, Daniel Winkler leads medicinal mushroom forays into Tibet and the Bolivian Amazon, as well as the glamorous hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest. Altogether badass, his field guides to edible mushrooms are also top-notch, and he’s doing wonders for rural communities whose economies are based on mushroom-medicine.
8. Don’t be a hero.
The mushroom spirit is a capricious mistress who eats chumps like us for breakfast. Mushrooms, by their very nature, are destroyers. Therein lies their mystery and moxie. There are plentiful reasons they have the nom de guerres ‘Destroying Angel’ and ‘Death Cap’…they allow us to walk between worlds, yet they often slam the door behind them. There is nothing glamorous about sacrificing children whilst being ravaged by Satan in a robust bout of Amanita psychosis (well, maybe there is…but it ain’t worth the gamble when ya get right down to it), or having your liver decompose in mere hours in a necromantic tango with the Deadly Galerina. Every year she claims new souls, and even the most reverent and skilled are not above her diabolical law. Experts die at the behest of these sorcerous specters every year- do be a dearheart, and DON’T BECOME ONE OF THEM.
9. Semper Fi, buttercups!
I have a knife and a field guide on me at all times (an Opinel and The Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of California, should you ask). You never know what sort of illuminated treasures lie in wait within the cracks and crevasses of urban decay. You have promised your heart to the wildwood now, and must always be prepared for her succulent surprises.
“The root of the 50-year-old plant is called “mountain slave:” taken for a year, it will preserve the black color of the hair. The root of the 100-year-old plant is called “mountain brother:” taken for a year, it will bring a glowing complexion and a cheerful disposition. The root of the 150-year-old plant is called “mountain uncle:” taken for a year, it will rejuvenate the teeth. The root of the 200-year-old plant is called “mountain father:” taken for a year it will banish old age and give the power to run like a deer. The root of the 300-year-old plant is called “mountain spirit:” taken for a year, one becomes an earthly immortal”
- Li Shizhen’s famous Materia Medica of 1578, Bencao Gang Mu
Shou Wu Chih is the classic longevity tonic of Chinatown apothecaries, a murky, amber elixir sitting soddenly on dusty old shelves, winking at ya coyly with esoteric splendor. Anchored by the magnanimous moxie of He Shou Wu (Chinese Fleeceflower Root), it finesses one’s savoir-faire by nourishing the blood and essence, warming the stomach, boosting the spleen and strengthening the tendons and bones. One could use this medicinally for anemia, poor digestion, arthritic aches & pains, sexual joie de vivre, and increasing sperm count. One could also knock a few back before meals as an aromatic aperitif.
There’s a fabulously gallant fable culled from the annals of Chinese esoterica that immortalizes the braggadocio of He Shou Wu. Its history dates back to 800 AD, and it has still remained a colloquial anecdote in both Chinese households and herbal circles.
Old Mr. He was an impotent curmudgeon (I’ve always thought of him as a grizzled Chinese Kris Kristofferson), a dastardly drunk who honky-tonked all night and slept alone under the stars. One portentous Sunday-morning-coming-down, he found himself nursing a Haggard-sized hangover in the fields, staring up at a bodacious vine twisting and twining itself into the cursed heavens. Its bedeviled root reminded Mr. He of two lovers intertwined, and sensing a message from Lady Nature, he decided he would grind the root into a powder so that he could sustain himself while he rotted in the woods. Within months, Mr. He had a raging libido and the vim & vinegar of a teenager. Within a year, his snow-white hair turned back to pitch-black, earning He Shou Wu its name: ‘Mr. He’s Black Hair.’
Raw herbs for Shou Wu Chih can be procured at your local Chinatown Apothecary – I love the chaotic sprawl and epic tea selection at Wing Hop Fung in downtown Los Angeles. If you prefer to peruse the ether, you’d be much obliged to check out Spring Wind Dispensary, Fat Turtle Herbs, NuHerbs and Mayway.
For this tincture, you will need the following accoutrements:
He Shou Wu/Fleeceflower (Rx. Polygoni Multiflori) 50 g
Dang Gui (Rx. Angelicae Sinensis) 50 g
Huang Jing (Rhz. Polygonati) 40 g
Sheng Di Huang (Rx. Rehmanniae) 20 g
Chuan Xiong (Rhz. Chuanxiong) 15 g
Bai Zhi (Rx. Angelicae Dahurica) 14 g
Sha Ren/Cardamom Pods (Fr. Amomi) 4 g
Fo Shou (Fr. Citri Sacrodactyli) 5 g
Ding Xiang/Cloves (Fl. Caryophylli) 2 g
1 Liter Prairie Organic Vodka
1 gallon glass jar, for infusing your medicinals
Muddle your medicinals with your vodka in a sterilized glass vessel with a secure lid. Age for at least one month in a deliciously dingy crevasse of your liking. Take one shot of this affable alembic daily, or mix with warm water, freshly squeezed lemon and raw honey for a Taoist Toddy.
This tawdry tincture is a real Cassanova, and has quite an illustrious reputation as the delightfully lascivious libation of the Aztecs. Known for centuries as a potent sexual and nerve tonic, Damiana grows wild throughout the American Southwest, and has been used throughout indigenous cultures in Central America and Mexico. With his cohorts Saw Palmetto and Angelica by his side, and a heavy-handed dose of vodka and honey, this tranquilo tonic harmonizes the reproductive system and spreads the good vibrations. It is not to be used during pregnancy, though it surely may enhance the odds of having one.
This recipe is from herbalist Lori Herron. You will need the following accoutrements:
750 ml bottle of Organic Prairie Vodka (Non-gmo vodka distilled from corn, cooperatively grown in the heartland of Minnesota! Swoon!)
1 oz Damiana Leaves
2 Tbsp Saw Palmetto Berries
2 Tbsp Angelica Root
2 Vanilla Beans
1 Gallon Glass Jar
1 cup local Honey
Measure out your herbs, adding them all to your gallon jar. Pour the whole bottle of Vodka over them, ala Nick Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. Seal your jar and put in a cool, dark place so it can do its sultry magic in private. Keep your empty Vodka bottle for later. After one week, strain the mixture through a coffee filter and save the liquid (this is where your empty Vodka bottle comes in handy). Re-soak the herbs in your gallon jar, this time adding 750 ml distilled water. Let this sit for another week, then strain yet again. Heat this mixture just enough to dissolve one cup of local honey, remembering to thank the bees for their beautiful bounty. Remove from the heat, allow to cool a bit, and then add your vodka infusion.
Don’t hit the sauce just yet- you must age the whole thing under the cloak of darkness for at least a month! Be mindful, and remember the wisdom of the wizened sage Axl Rose-all we need is just a little patience.
You can take a few ounces of this ambrosial elixir daily as a nice Yang Tonic, or add it to cocktails for a whole ‘nother kind of medicine (recipes pending). Word on the street is that a chalice of this balmy brew shared with your beau will induce euphoria and a heightened sense of communion. Hoist the chalice!