Sunday, August 26, 2007
He was a fun guy.
This is my back yard. I am giving you this tantalizing view into my personal life in order to share with you something very special. The centerpiece of this image is an oak tree with a disease. The disease is down low, near the bottom. If you know what that is, then you know how vital and important a discovery it is.
If you don't know what it is, then you're asking me, "What the fuck is that brain thing on your tree, Doctor?"
That, my friends, is sulfur shelf. Laetiporus gilbertsonii. It is a highly coveted and much valued fungus among those in the know.
If you know what sulfur shelf is, then you're saying, "Aww, shit, man. Some dudes have all the luck." Just to piss you off more, I'm giving you a closeup
Tomorrow (after it has matured just a titch more) I am going to cut it off my diseased oak tree, I am going to cut the thing up into cubes, throw it into a big sauté pan with some butter, a little salt, and maybe a dash of garlic--not too much or it will overpower the natural goodness of the fungus.
It's called the "Chicken of the Forest." It has a texture similar to chicken and some say even a flavor somewhat like chicken, but this is subjective. Everything tastes like fucking chicken.
Finding sulfur shelf is almost as awesome as finding morels. I don't know if you've ever had morel mushrooms (if you're not from the northwoods, it's unlikely) but they are the most amazing thing that sprouts from rotting vegetation. I cook them in spaghetti sauce, or just fry 'em in butter.
The interesting thing about this whole thing is that the oak tree is, in fact, suffering from an incurable malady. The sulfur shelf fungus has bored deep into the wood of the tree and will bloom once a year into the shelf mushroom you see in the image. It is parasitic in a living tree (though they are often found on dead and rotting wood, where they facilitate the rotting process in a healthy way). This fungus could very well kill this tree in a few more years. Maybe longer. I'm by no means a fungologist. In the meantimme, every year, it will bloom one of these babies, and the inhabitant of the house--ideally me--will receive a tasty treat, well worth the suffering of the tree.
You want to know something else interesting about fungi? I thought you did. You see, the cell walls of most fungi are made of a chitin. Yes, that's right. Chitin. The stuff that forms the carapace of insects.
Fungi were once thought to be just plants with bad attitudes. Hell, most of them are poisonous. In fact, who knows if even the relationship between molds and mushrooms was well understood until fairly recently. No, fungi are not plants.
In fact, genetically, fungi are much closer to animals than plants. Much closer. Creepily close. Remember the chitin thing? Also, the feed on death and decay. Pause for shudder. The fact that some of them are amazingly delicious is beside the point. My oak tree is suffering so that I can have that delicious treat. I should be ashamed of myself. And so should you.
This video says what words cannot express. You can say it. Holy shit.