Lion’s Mane – An Edible Mushroom That is Unmistakable


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Lion’s mane mushroom strictly refers to Hericium erinaceus but other members of the genus Hericium are very similar and can be identified and used in the same ways. This is a genus of edible mushrooms that also have medicinal properties. These mushrooms are easy to identify and have a great unique flavor. Mushrooms in the genus Hericium are sometimes hard to find but they grow in much of north america and the world so it’s beneficial for all of us to be familiar with this unique genus.

Edibility and Culinary Use

Lion's mane mushroom
Lion’s mane mushroom (Photo By Penny Firth (pfirth) at Mushroom Observer./Wikimedia Commons)

Lion’s mane mushrooms grow on mostly living hardwoods, this makes them easy to spot but a little bit hard to prepare sometimes.  After you’ve removed the mushroom from the tree it is recommended to cut off all the discolored or woody portions, you should be left with just spongy white material, It often looks a little bit like cauliflower. These mushrooms are extremely absorbent so if you wash them with water you will need to squeeze the water out afterward like you would with a sponge. Their extreme absorbency can be a positive or negative attribute when cooking them.  They taste very good fried with butter or oil but do not add a lot of oil since they will soak it up. You can also use them is in a soup but keep in mind they will soak up a lot of water and the taste of the soup. The taste is said to be similar to lobster.  Historically lion’s mane mushrooms were a delicacy in south east Asia and other parts of the world. It has a long history of culinary use.

Health Benefits

This is another case of a mushroom that should be clinically studied much more to hone in on how effective this mushroom is at treating certain conditions and generally improving health. There is a long list of claimed health benefits for lion’s mane mushrooms such as improving brain function, improving nerve generation, helping with Alzheimers, depression, anxiety and much more. There have been some positive clinical studies relating to temporary cognitive improvement for people who are mildly cognitively impaired and improved neuron regeneration.

Cautions

Lion's mane mushroom
Lion’s mane mushroom (Photo By Lebrac / Wikimedia Commons)

There are no known side effects to Lion’s mane mushroom. These mushrooms are relatively easy to identify but incorrect identification is always a risk for novice mushroom foragers particularly.

Key ID Features

These mushrooms grow on hardwoods. particularly oak and beech. What makes these mushrooms very easy to identify is that they are toothed fungus. The long hanging spines are very unique, mushrooms in the genus Hericium have different length spines, Hericium erinaceus can be identified by spines longer than 1 cm in length.

Conclusion

The lion’s mane mushroom is a great mushroom for beginners because there are no poisonous look a likes if you use proper identification information and it has a very large range where it grows. It’s also a very interesting find for all mushroom hunters because of its interesting look and unique flavor.  This mushroom shows very promising results for cognitive and neural improvement as well as a long list of other potential health benefits.

Read our Article on: Safe Foraging

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Cottonwood Buds are Medicinal, Leaves are Edible


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Cottonwood Tree

Cottonwood seeds
Cottonwood seeds collecting on the ground (Photo By: EnLorax G. Edward Johnson / Wikimedia Commons)

The eastern cottonwood tree (Populous deltoides) is a native North American tree that is common in eastern and central United States as well as southern Canada. Many people recognize this tree from the cottony substance that falls from the trees in early summer.  This “cotton” acts as a sail to move the seeds as far from the parent tree as possible. Cottonwood trees are a riparian species which means that they thrive in wet and semi-wet conditions, but these trees can also handle drought which makes them very well suited to a range of environments. These trees are often seen along the edge of water bodies.  Cottonwood trees are known to grow very large, in fact they are one of the largest deciduous trees in North America, one tree in Pennsylvanian was recorded to be over 100′ tall. Cottonwood trees are also known to be brittle and I personally have seen a number of them break in moderate winds. Cottonwood trees are recognized by many people but the edibility of their leaves and health benefits of cottonwood buds are often overlooked. This article primarily refers to eastern cottonwood, but this information likely applies to other cottonwoods such as fremont’s cottonwood(Populus fremontii) which is native to the southwestern U.S.

Edibility of Cottonwood Leaves

cottonwood buds
Small Summer Cottonwood Buds and Leaves (Photo By: Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service / Wikimedia Commons

This was a surprise to me when I learned that not only are cottonwood leaves edible but they are extremely nutritious. According to a very reputable edible plant database (pfaf.org) cottonwood leaves contain a greater amino acid content then rice, corn, wheat, and barley.  One problem I see with eating cottonwood leaves is the taste.  This is a tree that is very abundant in my area and I have eaten small portions of cottonwood leaves before, but they tend to be very bitter. This bitterness might be able to be reduced by cooking or drying but I have not had the opportunity to experiment with that yet.

Health Benefits of Cottonwood Buds

Cottonwood buds and bark contain salicin which is a compound that likely breaks down into salicylic acid(asprin). Preparation of cottonwoods buds or bark with oil, or alcohol can make a natural medicinal product with similar properties to aspirin.  This would be used externally or internally for pain relief, inflammation or fever.  Other medicinal uses of cottonwood bark have been recorded such as treatment of whooping cough, tuberculosis, colds, and intestinal parasites. Whenever you make a product that concentrates the compounds of an edible plant the product may not be edible anymore, use caution if using any concentrated product internally. A closely related species (Populus balsamifera) is used to make a North American version of balm of gilead, a fragrant oil with medicinal benefits. These benefits are likely very similar to eastern Cottonwood buds and bark.

Cautions

There are no major cautions associated with the plant, buds or leaves other than that some people may be allergic to cottonwood sap.  There seems to be a link between people who are sensitive to bees also being sensitive to cottonwood sap. Exercise caution anytime you use a new product externally or internally.

Key ID Features

cottonwood bark
cottonwood(Populus deltoides) bark (Photo By: KENPEI / Wikimedia Commons)

One good identification feature for cottonwood trees is their size, but that doesn’t help someone who is trying to harvest cottonwood buds or leaves. Another good identification feature is their deeply furrowed bark.  These 2 features are shared by other related species such as the tuliptree(Liriodendron tulipifera). The leaf shape of cottonwood trees will set them apart from tuliptrees. Tuliptrees have very distinctive leaves. Cottonwood leaves are triangular with course teeth along the margins. Cottonwood buds are also somewhat distinctive, in winter and early spring they are large, long, and pointed. One last identification feature is to follow the cotton in early summer. Put all these identification features together and you should be able to confidently identify cottonwood trees.

Conclusion

This is one of those plants that a lot of people are aware of but many people simply view as a weed tree. Not only is this tree a native plant but it offers impressive nutritional and medicinal benefits as well. I would encourage more people to experiment with eating cottonwood buds and leaves in different ways. In my opinion this plant could be an important edible plant because of its high amino acid content, especially for people that don’t eat meat. If you love to try new wild edibles, give this a try and leave a comment below with your experiences.


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Pickled Pawpaws


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Pickled Pawpaws

Pickled Pawpaws
Pawpaw Fruits (Asimina triloba) (Photo By: Scott Bauer, USDA / Wikimedia Commons)

Pawpaw fruits are fruits from the pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba). The Pawpaw tree is a very unique U.S. native fruit tree.  It is very unique because all of its closest relatives are tropical fruit tree species. This tree has evolved to handle cold weather and has brought its tropical flavor with it. Pickled pawpaws are one way to preserve these unique fruits.  Pawpaw fruits do not last long under normal conditions, no doubt that this method was used to help preserve these fruits and extend their season of use. Pickled pawpaws use the unripe fruits in a base of mainly vinegar. To read more about the Pawpaw tree see our article Pawpaw Fruits, A Tropical Fruit in Temperate Climates

To be honest the jury is still out on weather eating pickled pawpaws is a good idea since consuming the unripe fruits often makes people a little sick to the stomach.  It is possible that if pickled correctly the irritating components of unripe pawpaws could be broken down into less irritating components, but that is just a theory. There are not enough first hand experiences of people eating pickled pawpaws to confirm this so if you have eaten pickled pawpaws please comment below and let us know about your experience.

The Recipe for Green Pickled Pawpaws

Makes 1 pint

Ingredients
1 cup white wine vinegar
¾ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tbsp. of lime juice
2-3 green pawpaws (cut in half, skinned and seeds removed)

Supplies
1 Pint canning jarshalf pint canning jars or quarter pint canning jars

Instructions – no hot water bath
Combine all ingredients except for pawpaws and bring to a boil. Put pawpaws in a pint jar then pour the hot liquid into the jar on top of them. Put the lid on the jar, let it cool then refrigerate.  If you do not process the jars in a hot water bath then keep it refrigerated, it should still last a few weeks.

Instructions – process in hot water bath

Combine all ingredients except for pawpaws and bring to a boil. Put pawpaws in a pint jar then pour the hot liquid into the jar on top of them. Put the lid on the jar snug but not too tight. To process jars for canning put them in a large steamer pot of boiling water for 5 mins, the water should be covering the jars. Then take them out, tighten the lids and let cool. Pawpaws processed in a hot water bath should last at least 6 months. They may be less firm then the unprocessed method.

If you try this recipe out please comment below.


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