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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seasons Come…Seasons Go…

Hopeful hay

But some seasons simply fail to show up at all. You know what season I’m talking about this year. It’s obvious summer is not going to make an appearance in our backyard, so this morning Gladys and I wheel out in the Valley to hunt it down. 

Strawberry season is dwindling and I notice Ed has top dressed the strawberry field where I picked this winter’s jam. The “Picked out today” sign announces the tail end of this year’s strawberries. Back up the road I noticed a family foraging for raspberries among the purple flowering weeds in the new raspberry field Ed planted last summer. In the thornless blackberries the canes not nipped by last November’s early frost show a blossom here and there: the promise of a berry or two here and there next month. And the robins are casting their critical eyes on the blueberries.

As we roll leisurely past the ghost of Alden Farms’ Sky River Driving Range, I notice one lone figure, white plastic bucket in hand, gathering or harvesting something from between the rows of young corn in the “fallow” field. No berries I know of there. “Between” the rows, I say; sweet corn is just the season’s mirage at this point, little more than a glint in the cornhusker’s eye. The harvester is intent on something, stoops, plucks an object from the soil, and deposits it in the bucket. Suddenly it registers: before the Aldens left, they must have seeded the old driving range with a new crop for this year’s harvest, and now the harvest is coming on. I, too, see the newly surfaced crop gleaming white from the tilled Valley soil. Some sort of fungus, I think, a plump button mushroom spawned from the teeming Valley soil.Button fungus

Looks to me like Kelly Bolles, the truffle king, might have some competition here. I decide to have a look myself, balance Gladys on the shoulder of the road, and shuffle out in the field to examine these strange fungi.Field  fungus 

Here and there a white orb announces itself; I see the field is polka-dotted with them. I look down the rows to where the man and his white bucket slowly move among the furrows. He is so serious about his labor I think he must know something I don’t. All of a sudden I get the urge to harvest a few of these shiny white globes myself before the gleaner takes the entire crop. Quickly I snatch up a half dozen mushrooms, pocket them, head back to Gladys, then home with the new produce rattling around in my pocket.New Crop of fungus balls

Back at the house I examine my own gleanings and find I have harvested three different varieties of mushroom. But why should I be surprised…the Aldens always planted several varieties of potatoes each season. Top Flite, Pinnacle, and Super Range were the varieties I had gathered. Driving range new crop

I should have taken the time to talk to the man with the bucket. There has to be some special way to prepare these solid mushrooms, and he most likely knew the secret recipe. Stewed, baked or “sliced?” I wondered. Looks like regardless of how you cook them, they’re bound to bend a fork.

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