Tag Archives: anchorage

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade

I know it’s a superb fall when I close my eyes at night and all I see behind my eyelids are lowbush cranberries.

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.comBlood-red jewels hug the mossy ground in my secret south Anchorage picking spot. It must have been the warm May weather that caused patches of usually dormant cranberry bushes to produce large, pea-sized berries.

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.comWhat my family calls lowbush cranberries are, in fact, lingonberries. These short plants can be found in most Anchorage forests. They have round, shiny leaves and if there’s enough sunlight during the summer they bear tart, red berries.

I prefer these to highbush cranberries, which are more watery and have a big, oblong seed in each berry. Lowbush cranberries are opaque and have no seeds. They are also firmer than the highbush variety.

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.comCranberries are my favorite wild berry to pick because they are durable, highly nutritious and they freeze well. They can also be substituted for any recipe that calls for commercial cranberries.

I once again refer to my mama for this segment of “Harvesting Anchorage.” She’s a pro when it comes to cranberry marmalade. The cranberries have so much natural pectin there is no need to add any of the store-bought kind. This simple marmalade is a perfect addition to any breakfast table.

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.comCranberry Orange Marmalade

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.comIngredients:

  • 3 oranges (or 2 oranges and 1 lemon)
  • Water
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 8 cups wild lowbush cranberries
  • 4 cups sugar

Directions:

Remove the skins of the oranges in quarters. Cover rinds with water and boil with baking soda for 15 minutes. Shave off as much of the white pith as you can from the rind and slice rind very thin.

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.comAn alternative method is to use a vegetable peeler to peel off the rind and slice it. If you choose this method you won’t need to boil the rinds since they are so thin.

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.comMeanwhile remove the membrane from each orange segment and reserve the pulp in a bowl. Take the membranes in your hands and squeeze the remaining pulp and juice into the bowl. Discard the membranes. If you’re really lazy you could probably use a couple of cans of mandarins, drained and rinsed. I’ve never tried it, but it could work.

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.comCombine pulp, rinds with their water, cranberries and sugar in a saucepan. Boil, stirring often, skimming off any foam.

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.comLet the mixture boil down and thicken, about 15-18 minutes. Take a spoonful of the mixture and pour it back into the pot. If there are lots of frequent droplets, the mixture isn’t ready yet. If the drips are slow and turn into one big droplet, then it’s ready (that’s called “sheeting”). Turn off the heat and place a tablespoon of liquid in a bowl and place it in the freezer for about 3 minutes.

Remove sample from freezer and tip it slightly. The sample should stay put. If the jam slides around the bowl it means it’s not ready yet. Bring the jam back to a boil and continue stirring constantly for another 5 minutes.

Harvesting Anchorage: Mama's Blueberry Jam | A recipe from alaskaknitnat.comLadle jam into sterilized canning jars with brand-new lids. Fill leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top. Add the lids and let cool. When you hear little pops that means the lids have sealed. If you’d like more details about canning I recommend this thorough tutorial from The Alaska Urban Soil Project.

Harvesting Anchorage: Lowbush Cranberry Marmalade | This is a delicious cranberry orange jam recipe that's perfect for Christmas and holiday gifts for teachers, friends and family. Recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

If you’d like a different lowbush cranberry recipe, I recommend my simple cranberry and lemon muffins.

Here are my other recipes from the “Harvesting Anchorage” series:

Harvesting Anchorage: Mama's Blueberry Jam | A recipe from alaskaknitnat.com
Blueberry Jam
Spaghetti & Chicken in a lemon, thyme mushroom sauce | An original recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com
Spaghetti & Chicken in a Lemon Thyme Mushroom Sauce
Harvesting Alaska: Smoked salmon roe | a simple recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com
Smoked Salmon Roe
Harvesting Anchorage: Honey + Wildflower Tea | A profile of Ivan Night, Alaska beekeeper and mead maker
Wildflower tea
Harvesting Anchorage: Wild Rose and Rhubarb Cookies | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com
Wild rose and rhubarb cookies
Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com
Spruce tip gnocch
Birch tree tapping | Make your own birch syrup | Alaskaknitnat.com
Birch Syrup
Harvesting Anchorage: Devil's Club Pesto | A free recipe from AlaskaKnitNat.com
Devil’s Club Pesto

 

Harvesting Anchorage: Mama’s Blueberry Jam

Having been raised harvesting Alaska wildberries you’d think I would be a pro at making jams and jellies. Truth is, I really stink at it. It always comes out syrupy. It’s like you have to have some sort of instinctual jam-making knowledge passed down through the generations.

But in reality all it takes is a lot of stirring. My mom has been making jam since she moved here in 1982. I turned to her for this segment of “Harvesting Anchorage.”

It was a bluebird day in Anchorage as we made our way to our super-secret blueberry spot. The only downside of picking berries on a sunny day is they are harder to see — but I’m not complaining!

Harvesting Anchorage: Mama's Blueberry Jam | A recipe from alaskaknitnat.com Harvesting Anchorage: Mama's Blueberry Jam | A recipe from alaskaknitnat.com

Mama’s Blueberry Jam — a free recipe

Cooking time: about 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups blueberries
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon (optional)

Continue reading Harvesting Anchorage: Mama’s Blueberry Jam

Harvesting Anchorage: Fireweed Honey + Wildflower Tea

My old friend Ivan Night is a man of many talents; he’s a musician, an educator, a sound technician, a beer brewer, but for the sake of this blog post we’ll stick to just one of his titles: an apiarist.

Harvesting Anchorage: Honey + Wildflower Tea | A profile of Ivan Night, Alaska beekeeper and mead maker

Ivan has been keeping bees for about eight years. His family has owned and operated Alaska Wild Teas for more than three decades, so honey is a natural side project. Check the bottom of this post for a homemade tea recipe.

Recently I visited Ivan’s home to see how he harvests honey from his busy little bees.

Harvesting Anchorage: Honey + Wildflower Tea | A profile of Ivan Night, Alaska beekeeper and mead maker

Harvesting Anchorage: Honey + Wildflower Tea | A profile of Ivan Night, Alaska beekeeper and mead maker

Continue reading Harvesting Anchorage: Fireweed Honey + Wildflower Tea

Harvesting Anchorage: Rose and rhubarb cookies (and a Rose Collins)

As part of my personal challenge to forage at least one edible plant a month this summer in Anchorage, I decided to revisit wild rose petals. Several years back I collected these perfectly pink petals and made a just-OK jelly out of them. Thing is, I don’t eat jelly. I’m not a toast and jam kind of gal, I guess.

This time I opted to make rose petal syrup. It was easy to prepare and resulted in a gorgeous pink concoction that tasted as good as roses smell.

Harvesting Anchorage: Wild Rose and Rhubarb Cookies | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com
You can find wild roses just about everywhere in Anchorage in June. This bush is on the on-ramp to the Seward Highway.

Harvesting Anchorage: Wild Rose and Rhubarb Cookies | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

The wild roses are in full bloom here in Anchorage and it’s hard not to find them. I picked petals on the side of the highway, on my street and in my back yard. They have been in bloom since the first week of June and will probably be around for another week before they fade, fall and begin to turn into rose hips (and that’s another foraging adventure!)

Rose Petal Syrup 

Harvesting Anchorage: Wild Rose and Rhubarb Cookies | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

To make one bottle of syrup I collected about 2 gently packed cups of petals. Be ready to encounter some caterpillars, bugs and spiders (I lost about a cup of petals when I spotted an arachnid creeping around my collecting jar).

Harvesting Anchorage: Wild Rose and Rhubarb Cookies | A recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

I followed this recipe from Nitha Kitchen to make the syrup.

Continue reading Harvesting Anchorage: Rose and rhubarb cookies (and a Rose Collins)

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips

After my less-than-stellar morel hunt last weekend I needed to forage something more gratifying. It’s the perfect time for spruce tips. Pretty much all the spruce trees in town are boasting bright green tips with brown papery casings. I ventured as far as my yard to collect a pound of them. They required very little processing; just remove the papery casings and you’re good to go.

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

I’ve never been quite sure what to make with these edibles. I’m not much for tea or jelly. I wanted something savory.

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

I first referenced the Goddess of Alaska Forests, Laurie Constantino, and made a delectable dip with mayo, Greek yogurt, lemon juice and minced spruce tips. It was perfect for the garlic bread crusts I had leftover on my dinner plate last night.

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

Recently a friend of mine told me about a Juneau-based blog that’s all about foraging Alaska edibles. There was an intriguing recipe for spruce tip gnocchi. I had to try it.

Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips | Alaskaknitnat.com

Continue reading Harvesting Anchorage: Spruce tips

Anchorage thrift stores — dressing for success without breaking the bank

Yesterday I had the pleasure of guest posting on GretchenLovesAnchorage about thrift store fashion shopping in Anchorage. It was refreshing to post something a little different from what I normally write and it brought back memories of working as the features editor for The Northern Light.

In case you missed it, here’s my thrift store advice. And for those non-Anchorage residents, you still might learn a thing or two about how to dress to the nines without spending the tens — of thousands…ok, I am done trying to be clever. Enjoy! And if you have a chance, take a look around Gretchen’s blog. It’s happy, insightful and hopefully will make you want to come visit our fabulous city.

Anchorage Thrift Store Fashion Guide | Alaska Knit Nat

I have been thrift store shopping in Anchorage since I was 12 when I bought my very first Kurt Cobain-style flannel shirt at Value Village on Boniface (the Dimond location was Fabricland and Nerland’s furniture store). Since then I’ve furnished my dorm room, first apartment and current home in second-hand décor. I have also created a fun, colorful wardrobe that I can say I’m pretty proud of.

So let me delve into the Anchorage thrift store scene and give you some tips and tricks of the thrifty trade.

Recently my friend, Karen, asked me to be her “thrifty style adviser.” She wanted a little more pizzazz in her wardrobe without spending a lot of cash. I accepted the challenge, but gave her a few ground rules.

First, you have to be persistent and diligent. You can’t expect to waltz into a secondhand shop and immediately flick to the perfect, most amazing item you’ve ever seen in your life. You have to trudge through a whole lot of, well, crap. People often literally donate trash to thrift stores. I’ve spoken with former Salvation Army employees who have told me they toss a majority of donated items because they aren’t suitable to sell. Be prepared to visit thrift stores more than once and to dig, dig, dig to find the good stuff.

My other tip is to take fashion risks. Try on things you wouldn’t normally wear. You never know — that Las Vegas cat shirt might be the perfect level of ironic for you to pull it off.

Do some research. Analyze your closet inventory and figure out what articles of clothing you want or need. I always keep a mental list of items I’ve either worn out or really want. For instance, I NEEDED salmon-colored jeans and — ta-da! — I found some the other day for just $2. Also on my recent list was a pair of plain black heels. Mission accomplished when I found a brand-new pair of Sofft brand black patent leather pumps for $25 — a little pricey by my thrifty standards, but since they were originally $110 I felt it was worth it.

Pricing1

A great resource is Pinterest. I’ll often type in an article of clothing I already own and see what Polyvore experts have put together. From “black blazer” to “chevron maxi dress,” you can create a mental file of what to keep an eye out for.

My goal as a thrift store clothing shopper is to find good quality clothes that will complement my current wardrobe. Sometimes I go out on a limb and buy something wacky and wild just because I love the item. I don’t feel remorse when it doesn’t work out because I really didn’t spend much on it.

Now let’s get started. Anchorage thrift shops are not all alike. Some are great for furniture, others are better for clothing and some have really great dishes. Today I’ll discuss the good clothing stores in town.

Salvation Army — Northern Lights Blvd.

Anchorage has three Salvation Army thrift stores – on Dimond, Mountain View and the oldest location on Northern Lights Boulevard next to Crossbar. My mom used to take me to this store when I was just four years old (thrifting runs in the family).

This Salvation Army is great for most clothes. Target donates unsold items to the city’s Salvation Armies, so if you like Merona, Converse and Mossimo brands you can often find them here for $4-6 with the tags still attached. They are usually stored on their own racks.

Salvation has an endless supply of shirts.
Salvation Army has an endless supply of shirts.

Karen was looking for colorful tops and cute mini skirts so we split up and started flipping through the racks. The shick, shick, shick of hangers quickly passing by can be exhausting, but I made a game of it by holding up the most horrifying of frocks and joking that “this Victoria’s Secret top is so old it’s actually fashionable again.”

I found Karen a few pretty shirts, a lovely blue dress with pockets, and she came up with a floral skirt and some indigo straight-legged jeans. It’s off to the fitting room. Keep in mind that not all thrift stores offer such a luxury. Employees have told me it has to do with homeless people using them as public toilets. The Mountain View Salvation Army only has a full-length mirror, so be sure to wear a camisole and leggings if you want to see how things look on you.

I stood outside the fitting room as Karen broke a mild sweat.

“Nobody said you didn’t have to work for it,” she said as she tried on several unexpectedly frumpy shirts. True that, Karen; true that.

She came away with the blue dress, a striped mini skirt, a comfy Gap sweatshirt and jeans. I found a couple of pairs of perfect-fitting pants and red patent leather flats.

patent leather flats

Karen models her Salvation Army finds; total cost, about $5:

Karen

Quick tip: check the rack of recently tried-on clothes. Often times people do the hard work of digging for you and don’t end up buying what they find. That’s where I discovered some awesome Vigoss pedal-pushers.

sale

It was our lucky day because *almost* everything was 50 percent off, so we walked out with an armload for under $20.

S.P.C.A. Thrift Shop — Arctic and International

SPCA

This gem is nestled in a strip mall on International Airport Rd. with Guido’s and Partycraft. Enjoy a saketini at The Dish and get your thrift on because the S.P.C.A. won’t disappoint. Psst! Here’s a secret: a beloved local consignment store often donates their unsold items to this place. I’ve found designer brands here for mere pennies. Plus, your purchases go toward helping animals so what isn’t there to like?

Most of the clothing follows a flat pricing list, save for a small rack up front with “fancy” clothes. The items on this rack range from $10-20. A few weeks ago I spotted a cashmere argyle sweater vest from J. Crew for $10. Pretty good deal!

Karen didn’t find much on our visit — just a Merona denim-colored skirt. But I found two Columbia brand skirts — with pockets — and an unusual sequined belt.

Full-body selfies are the worst!
Full-body selfies are the worst!

Don’t forget to remind the cashier to give you a punch card if you spend more than $10. I don’t remember what happens when you fill it up, but it’s a perk nonetheless.

Value Village — Dimond or Boniface

The “Buy more, spend less” mantra isn’t always accurate and I hesitate to say that Value Village is a good thrift store. Often its knickknacks are grossly overpriced and they have a pathetic furniture selection. But they do stock an unbelievable number of jeans and tops at reasonable prices, which is why I’m including it on today’s list. Skip the dresses at VV because most of them are priced at $30, and that’s just crazy! Pricers here understand the value of a designer label and won’t hesitate to mark a Calvin Klein top with holes in it at $20. But most of the tops and jeans are about $7-10, which I can handle.

pendleton

I went solo on this Value Village trip and came out with black cropped dress pants from Banana Republic for just $7.

pricing2

Karen and I had a medium-good thrifting day. I had to remind her not to give up. Thrifting can be rewarding, especially when you find just what you’re looking for at a good price. She definitely bulked out her wardrobe with a dress, skirt, pants and shirts without spending more than $25. I call that a thrifting success!

What thrift stores do you visit to find great duds? How do you fill your clothing cravings without overspending?

Visit my blog at www.alaskaknitnat.wordpress.com and keep any eye out for the rest of my Anchorage thrift store series.

Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms

It’s nearly mushroom season in Alaska so I thought I’d repost my boletus mushroom guide from my old blog. With a little knowhow, you can join the foraging movement and become a mushroom hunter.
Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms | Alaska Knit Nat

Here is my DISCLAIMER: I’ve been foraging for mushrooms my whole life and I am positive that what I’m picking is edible. I am not a mushroom expert but I can give you great advice on how to discern boletus mushrooms from inedible ones. Pick at your own risk! Some people experience gastric upset after eating boletes even though they aren’t poisonous. Never eat a bolete unless it’s been thoroughly cooked. When in doubt, throw it out!

Feel free to contact me and e-mail me photos of your finds if you ever have any questions. There are quite a few edible mushrooms in Alaska, but I’m only knowledgable about boletus.

So here we go:

Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms

There are several types of boletus mushrooms and you can find many of them in the Anchorage area. Most are edible and the ones that are poisonous will let you know by their scary color.

The U.S. Forest Service has a great Alaska mushroom guide. I highly recommend taking a look at it.

The only inedible boletes I’ve come across in Alaska are boletus ludiformus  and boletus coniferarum. Ludiformus is red, which to me is a signal to not eat it. The coniferarum has yellow flesh that when bruised or cut will rapidly turn inky blue. Keep in mind that many edible types of boletus will oxidize, but not nearly as quickly as the coniferarum turns from yellow to blue. It looks pretty cool, but tastes extremely bitter (but will not kill you if eaten).

*Note: a mushroom enthusiast commented on my old blog that the mushroom in the photo below is edible. I would just avoid it if you find it. I’ve never seen one before, but my father took the photo below so it’s definitely out there in Southcentral Alaska.*

Boletus ludiformus

Ok, now that we have the inedibles out of the way, let’s start becoming mushroom detectives. Before you go out and pick these mushrooms, let me prepare you…

  • You will probably encounter bugs
  • You will probably encounter little maggots (baby bugs!)
  •  You will probably get dirty and wet

You’ve got to get over these factors if you’d like to carry on.

OK? ok….

First, all edible boletes have sponge under the caps instead of gills. Boletes are the only mushroom in Anchorage forests that have sponge instead of gills besides the hawks wing mushroom, which has hedgehog-like spines underneath (and it’s edible if you boil it). You can exclude any mushroom with gills because it will not be a bolete. This one fact makes bolete hunting reassuring because there is so much you can rule out. There are deceptive mushrooms that really look like bolete caps, but when you turn them over and see gills, just let them be. They tricked you!

Here are the common types of boletes you’ll come across in Anchorage forests:

Aspen Scaber-stalk — these are found in birch and spruce forests, typically around moss, low-bush cranberry and crow berry bushes. They have sienna-colored caps with dirty-looking stems (almost looks like the texture of a terry-cloth towel). The flesh also tends to oxidize and turn black when cut.

*Note: a person commented on my old blog post that the scaber-stalks can cause gastric upset. I have been picking and eating this mushroom most of my life and never experienced upset stomach, but I thought I should let it be known.*

Aspen scaber-stalk
Stem of most forest boletes

Alaskan Scaber-stalk — these look a lot like the Aspen scaber-stalk but darker with a narrower stem.

Alaskan scaber-stalk

Boletus Miribilis — I have never encountered this bolete, but thanks to the folks at the Girdwood Fungus Fair, they have provided me with a lovely photo. I’m so excited to try and find some next summer!

image

King bolete — this is the purest, most prized bolete and is the equivalent of a wild porcino mushroom. These have light brown caps and white stems with no terry-cloth look to them. The sponge will turn yellow with age.

Freaky melded-cap king bolete. Still delicious
King boletes

In addition to the U.S. Forest Service, here is another great site about Alaska boletes.

All right, now let’s set out to find some mushrooms! But where, might you ask? Well, boletes like to grow near spruce roots, birches and in mossy areas. You can often find boletes growing in people’s yards. You usually won’t find them in areas with long grasses and ferns or anywhere with tall vegetation. The trail system in Anchorage is a great place to start. You could also try Thunderbird Falls, Bird Creek and Girdwood.

The best time to pick boletes is from late July to mid-September. Over the years I haven’t found a true rhyme or reason to how boletes grow. Sometimes you’ll have a summer with hundreds of pounds and others you won’t find any. Usually they grow during the rainy and damp times of Alaska summers.

Boletes can grow to be pretty huge, but it’s best to pick them when they are just a couple of days old because bugs love boletes as much as humans do. They will flock to them pretty much as soon as they surface. It’s rare to find a bolete that hasn’t been lived in by a beetle or some sort of fly eggs, but if you pick them early on it doesn’t affect the quality or taste of the mushroom. I’ll show some photos later.

This large bolete was literally teeming with insects and maggots. Didn’t take this one home!

Fresh boletes should have firm stems and caps, but it’s ok if the cap is slightly soft. If you find a really squishy bolete, let it be because the bugs have laid claim to it. Sometimes you’ll find a bolete that’s firm on the cap, but when you look underneath it looks like bugs have taken it over. Not always true! Sometimes the bugs just get into the sponge part of the mushroom, which can be easily removed. Break the cap in half. If the flesh is white and has no holes in it, then keep it. Baby boletes are the best. Their cap and stem are both firm and delicious. They also look totally phallic. I just had to put that out there.

I recommend field dressing your mushrooms as you go. This means bringing a pocket knife along and whittling away the dirty root. I’m lazy and usually don’t do this. It just means I’ll have more trash to throw out at home.

Boletes are sturdy so you can collect them in plastic grocery or garbage bags, five-gallon buckets, or if you’re feeling whimsical, in a lovely basket. It’s up to you. Most will say that mushrooms should never be stored in plastic bags (I can see Laurie Constantino shaking her head). I find it easier to tote large quantities of mushrooms around the forest in a plastic bag and it doesn’t seem to affect the quality of my mushrooms. Do not store your boletes in plastic bags for long periods of time. This will create too much moisture and cause them to rot.

When you find a good bolete, pick it by the base of the stem, not by the cap, as you will probably break off the cap and tear away the flesh by accident.

The great thing about picking mushrooms is they literally pop up overnight so many people could pick the same spot and still find a good share. You can usually tell if another bolete hunter has been in the area by the discarded caps and overturned trickster mushrooms. On a recent quest we covered the same ground as another hunter and still came out with nearly 40 pounds of mushrooms!

Once you’ve collected your mushrooms, you’ll have to process them. Here’s how it goes:

Start by whittling away the root of the mushroom to remove any soil. If you come across any bug-eaten mushrooms, either toss them or cut into the stem or cap to see if it’s salvageable. Sometimes the bugs will have only gotten to half the mushroom, so why waste the whole thing? Once you’ve removed the big pieces of dirt, you can run each mushroom under cold water and lightly scrub with a nail brush to remove excess dirt. Only rinse them if you plan to use them right away. Rinsing them and then storing them in the fridge may cause them to rot.

Now comes the part where you need to figure out what you’re doing with your mushrooms. They can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days, but you’ll want to prepare them as soon as you can. If you must store them, be sure to keep them in paper bags so they can breathe.

Boletes should not be eaten raw. They will probably give you an upset stomach. If I’m not cooking with them right away I either sauté the mushrooms in butter, vacuum pack and freeze them or put them in a food dehydrator for a couple of days, bag them up or grind them into porcini powder.

Either way, you’ll need to slice them up. This is where you do most of the work. You might find that lots of your mushrooms are bug eaten. I tend to toss caps that are eaten even in the slightest, but really it’s not gonna kill you so this is a matter of personal preference. You’ll be able to tell if the mushroom is too rotten to eat cause it will look totally gross. But as I said before, you can always try and cut away the nasty bits and keep the good bits. I mentioned before that you can remove the sponge. I do this with most mature boletes because the sponge ends up becoming slimy when cooking. With really new boletes, the sponge is firm and doesn’t need to be removed. It’s a bit like getting to an artichoke heart — the sponge will peel off easily and you’ll be left with the yummy cap.

This king bolete stem has been eaten by bugs. Not salvagable
This aspen cap is nasty. Didn’t keep any of it.
This Alaskan stem was soft and dark as soon as I cut into it. It was not good.
This stem was deceiving because it felt great from the outside, but was eaten up on the inside.
This cap had maggots in the sponge, but the actual flesh was just fine.
See? Looks great! Peel off the sponge and you’ll be fine.
This is the inside of a good king bolete. Some parts have been eaten by a  bug, but I wasn’t horrified by it so I kept it.
This Alaskan bolete has oxidized. It’s fine to eat!
This is a fresh king cap. The sponge is thin and firm. It doesn’t need to be peeled off.

Once your boletes have been processed the world is your mushroom! Boletes are great in soups and sauces, but your best bet is to do a Google search for recipes for porcini. If you’ve decided to dry your mushrooms, they will need to be reconstituted when you’re ready to use them. Boil a couple of cups of water or chicken broth and pour over the dried mushrooms in a bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes and reserve the steeped water for your soup. It’ll deepen the flavor even more.

So, that’s my guide to Alaska boletes. Please contact me if you have any questions, comments or even corrections.

And remember, if you’re not extremely positive about a mushroom, don’t eat it. Better safe than sorry!

For more Alaska mushroom information, check out this short film produced by the Alaska Teen Media Institute for the U.S. Forest Service and this terrific article by Laurie Constantino for Alaska Dispatch.