Lily Belli on Food: Rain ‘a great sign’ for local mushrooms, reducing plastic bag waste and soup’s warm glow
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… While I watched water pour from the sky on Sunday, I had one thing on my mind — mushrooms. Usually, a good soaking is exactly what the forest needs to kick off a robust foraging season. The Santa Cruz Mountains received around 2 inches of rainfall over the weekend; should we gather our baskets and knives and prepare to visit our favorite mushroom spots?
“It’s definitely a great sign. Mushrooms like the rain,” Ian Cole, a forager and co-owner of Ocean2Table, a Santa Cruz-based community-supported fishery that also distributes foraged mushrooms among other local goods, told me Monday. But to have a prosperous mushroom season, he says, the area needs continuous rain.
Several consecutive years of drought have weakened many trees. Since mushrooms and the trees in their environment are interconnected through the greater fungal organism known as the “mycorrhizal network” — a fascinating relationship — even continuous rainfall isn’t a guarantee of a fruitful season. “Healthy trees, healthy mushrooms, and vice versa,” says Cole.
But keep an eye out for boletes in the coming weeks, including the beloved California king bolete, aka porcini. At least an inch of rain is needed for boletes to fruit, says Cole, who believes we could start seeing porcini pop up locally in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Ocean2Table will be distributing summer chanterelles and porcini from wetter northern California areas Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Order via getocean2table.com.
… I have a hot tip for anyone who wants to stop using plastic produce bags to store their fruits and vegetables in the fridge. I try to limit plastic use in my life, but even though I bring my own bags and use reusable containers at the bulk bins, plastic produce bags have been a constant presence — without them my vegetables, especially lettuce and delicate herbs, shrivel in the fridge. But no more! At Ethos, a low-waste shop in Capitola Village, I discovered the Vejibag, a cotton vegetable crisper bag for storing produce that claims to keep vegetables fresh — even lettuce — for up to two weeks.
I have been using mine for about a month now, and I can report that not only does it work, it easily keeps some vegetables fresh for much longer. Before storing your veggies, wet the bag and wring it out — the breathable organic cotton keeps everything as fresh as when you brought it back from the store, and noticeably fresher than the stifling plastic produce bags. Finally, I’m no longer adding dozens of plastic bags to the landfill every month. And, while it’s very sturdy, when it does reach the end of its life, the whole Vejibag can be composted. See for yourself — buy it at ethossantacruz.com.
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Bonny Doon Vineyard plans to open a tasting room in Aptos this fall. Owner Randall Grahm is partnering with Nicole Walsh, the long-time BDV winemaker and owner of her own Ser Winery, to rebrand the existing Ser tasting room in the village as Doon to Earth. At the new tasting room, both Bonny Doon Vineyard and Ser wines will be served — although no word yet if the flying cigar will touch down. More info in Friday’s Eaters Digest.
ON THE MENU
This week, I’m talking with local chef Anthony Kresge. This classically trained chef is the brains behind several local restaurants, including Belly Goat Burgers and Vamonos Comida in Abbott Square and now-closed Sotola, but his passion lies in crafting decadent sandwiches at his Reef Dog Deli in Capitola. Is he Santa Cruz’s Carmen Berzatto from “The Bear”?
400 — Average number of pupusas sold every time food truck Dos Hermanos Pupuseria sets up shop. Learn more about the popular pupuseria in Friday’s farmers market profile by Lookout intern Thomas Sawano.
“When I came on board in 1992, there were about 400 markets [in California]. Now there are more than 850.” — Catherine Barr, executive director of Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets, reflects on her 30-year career as the head of the Aptos farmers market and how it has grown into one of the premier markets in the region.
LIFE WITH THE BELLIS
I know I wasn’t the only one in a soup-y mood on Sunday. The gorgeous fall rain and gloomy weather had many of us hunkering down at home over the weekend. Thankfully, I had jars of one of my favorite soups to pull out of the freezer — the Warm Glow squash soup by now-closed Kitchen Witch Bone Broth. This squash soup is delicious in the fall and winter — creamy coconut milk adds body, carrots and turmeric lend earthy sweetness while ginger, cinnamon and cardamom warm you to your very bones. Plus, the health-conscious kitchen witches developed this recipe to help ward off any cold-weather bugs that might be lurking. But I’m been making it for years simply because it’s delicious. Any squash works well here — I often use delicata because I don’t have to peel it, although I do remove the seeds. While Kitchen Witch’s fortified bone broth is no longer available, I recommend using homemade stock or another high-quality broth for a richer flavor. This soup freezes well, so you can store some for the next rainy day.
THIS WEEK, I WATCHED …
… the premier of Season 13 of “The Great British Baking Show” on Netflix, an amateur baking competition based in the English countryside. Who else soaks this heartwarming show in every year, while simultaneously fighting or giving in to intense cravings for cakes and pastries? (Seriously, the first time I watched this show I jumped off the couch to make hot cross buns, of all things. The baking mojo radiating from GBB is powerful.) I’m already in love with several contestants, including sweet Janusz from Poland, who — spoiler alert! — performed well and melted my heart into a puddle of warm buttercream when he called his husband to say he was the “star caker of bake week” instead of star baker of cake week. Oh, Janusz!
FOOD NEWS WORTH READING
➤ I eat meat. Why was killing my own food so hard? (Bon Appetit)
➤ How Mexican workers built the ag industry in the Monterey Bay (Good Times)
➤ Fred Franzia, creator of Two Buck Chuck wine, dies at 79 (San Francisco Chronicle)
Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.