If I had known how much I would love gardening, I would have started a garden a long time ago. Even though we lost the cucumber plants, the cucumbers we harvested are possibly the best I have ever tasted (we still have some left in the fridge), and we also love the yellow grape tomatoes. Last night I enjoyed my first salad that was mostly from the garden (there weren’t any tomatoes ready). I am hopeful about the bell peppers and tomatoes, and especially the watermelons.
I finished the book, and I have spent the last few weeks preaching the gospel of Michael Pollan (much to the annoyance of my husband, dedicated meat eater that he is). Here is a quote:
“Gardening has a way of being in nature steeped in assumptions of which the gardener is seldom more than vaguely aware–if at all….In the garden you will also, understandably, come ot think of whatever grows there as belonging to you, since it is more or less the product of your labors performed on your land. And you will regard the wilder, less tractable residents of your garden, the ones you didn’t invite, as “pests”–the Other.”
I am a lot more aware of plants and trees now. Baby Girl is too – when she sees plants or bushes, she points and shouts, “Look! It’s a garden!” When I try to get her to eat vegetables she sometimes says “I don’t want to eat the garden, Mommy.” I notice that most trees and bushes are a little chewed around the edges, and I have learned to share “my” plants more willingly (we have aphids on the grape tomatoes at the moment, so I am in temporary combat mode once again).
The penultimate chapter is about fungi, and Pollan goes mushroom hunting a few times. I had no idea how exciting and mysterious mushrooms are. Some people are so obsessed with them that they tool around different (top secret) areas looking for them, selling them to restaurants for cash and living in their automobiles. Those mushroom enthusiasts who are less obsessed still guard their foraging grounds like a very important Secret.
At it turns out, mushrooms keep plenty of secrets themselves – scientists have some guesses, but there is a lot that no one knows about them, including how and why they grow in one particular place as opposed to another.
I have seen mushrooms on the ground at various times, and have always regarded them as probably poisonous unless purchased at a supermarket. I like the white ones, but haven’t enjoyed any others (I have tried portabellas and shiitakes, among others). My husband says that they only grow on fecal matter (he’s wrong – I’ll let him learn this when he reads the book) and he hates the flavor (he can find them hidden in any sauce – don’t try to sneak one past him).
Some mushrooms can cause hallucinations, others can cause death. According to Pollan, Mexicans refer to them as “carne de los muertos” or meat of the dead. Not only can some cause death, all of them depend on dead or dying organic material to grow (not just manure!). I can’t imagine foraging for them myself, but reading about it was exciting. “Without fungi to break things down, the earth would long ago have suffocated beneath a blanket of organic matter created by plants; the dead would pile up without end, the carbon cycle would cease to function, and living things would run out of things to eat. We tend to train our attention and science on life and growth, but of course death and decomposition are no less important to nature’s operations, and the fungi are the undisputed rulers of this realm.”
So, do I know any mushroom hunters? Anyone?
Other posts about The Omnivore’s Dilemma:
Post 1: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
Post 2: Even Fish Eat Corn
Post 3: Junk Food is Cheap Food
Post 4: Global Garden
Post 5: I Have a Garden. What’s Next, Chickens?
Post 6: Chickens and Pigs
Post 7: Honestly Priced Food
Post 8: Squash is not Poisonous
Post 9: Hunting, Vegetarians, and Animal Kindness
Post 10: Mysterious Mushrooms