Where in world...?

An old friend phoned the other day. He never phones. But this time he just had to know: "What are you doing living in Florence?"
He thought I was in Florence, Italy. I told him it was Florence, Massachusetts.
Here are some answers -- my occasional wanderings through Florence, MA and the surrounding Pioneer Valley.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hen-of-the-Woods, Ram's Head, or Sheep's Head

Yowza! I was walking little Joey yesterday morning and ran into three dudes looking at something really odd in the back of a truck. At 8am, my local restaurant, Side Street Cafe, often takes deliveries from ordinary-looking trucks. This time it was really a different story.
Unretouched photo!

I apologize to this man for not getting his permission to blog this photo, but the group of three guys did say it was okay to take the photo. I just had to get it!

I am embarrassed to say my first question was, "Is it real?"

Dude 2: "Yup. And I'm buying it."
Florentina: "What is it?"
Dude 1: "Hen of the Woods."
Florentina: "So you'd cook it with chicken?"
Dude 2: "Heck, it can take the place of chicken."
(I can't remember what Dude 3 was saying or doing; perhaps he was making friends with Joey.)

Doesn't it look like some gigantic turkey with its feathers all ruffled? I imagine this must look so beautiful out in the woods, where the foragers got it. Maybe this ought to be called Turkey-of-the-Woods.

I had no idea such things were growing around here.

For you public television food fanatics, this is the fluorescent version of the maitake mushroom that Ming Tsai often talks about and uses in his cooking show, "Simply Ming." He has promoted its healthful qualities to viewers, as well as how tasty it is. But his maitakes are seemingly ordinary mushroomy looking things like these more sedate fellows below.  On an overcast morning after nearly two rainy days, I don't think I would have been so very excited about seeing these guys, as I was to see the gigantic yellow things above.

From the Forager Press LLC (http://theforagerpress.com/fieldguide/octfd.htm)

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