Wild Mushroom and Two Rice Pilaf

by Maria Theresa Maggi on June 25, 2013

Wild Mushroom Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf with Leeks

I am a gleaner and a forager. I love finding treasures, especially living edible treasures, that no one wants or uses or recognizes as treasure. Maybe it’s the French half of my ancestry that draws me to this activity.  One of my favorite documentaries is The Gleaners and I by French filmmaker Agnes Vardas. Living a block from the University of Idaho campus, my old neighborhood is a transient one. Students come and go. Old folks move to nursing homes or die. Old houses get torn down. Gardens get left behind. The lovely beets in my Creamy Tangerine Sweet Potato Dressing were left behind in the raised beds built my my young neighbors out in front of their house across the street. They have had a baby and moved to a bigger place. They are trying to sell the one on my street, leaving me an open invitation to help myself to the garlic they planted there last Fall as well. It’s choked with weeds twice as tall as it is now, from all the rain, but perhaps there will be a way to dig it up when the time is ripe. They have more than they can use at their new place, I’m told.

Once someone around the block left a whole south facing vegetable garden along the  side of a rental house. No one else moved in for a long while. I’d walk down the alley and pick broccoli for supper. After my masterful gardener neighbor and friend was forced out by rent that was too high for him, and the guys working for the slumlord drove over the garden in their  haste to build a fence and regravel the parking spaces outside of it, an asparagus plant that had been there for decades came up, literally growing around the fence and up through the gravel. The next Spring, I made friends with the girls who lived there, and showed them the volunteer spinach and where the rhubarb comes up. We ate spinach together all Spring. When my friend still lived there, one Spring he was about to throw a huge pile of green onions onto the compost until he saw that I would rescue (glean) them, so he gave them to me. I ate green onions in everything for a week, and couldn’t have been happier. That started a longstanding tradition of him showing up with whatever extra he had and didn’t want to eat. He’d tell me in his usual wry way that he just liked growing it all, not eating it all.

Perhaps my most unusual “glean” comes with the skill I learned from another seasoned neighbor: how to identify the edible mushrooms in our neighborhood that come up in lawns and under conifers.When I read the section titled “Eat Lots of Mushrooms All the Time” in Eat to Live I laughed. That’s the easiest thing in the world for me to do, especially at this time of year, and I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Fuhrman about their great health benefits. I found these giant specimens of a type of agaricus mushroom my neighbor calls “Meadow’s Edge” under a conifer on campus. They are as big as the circumference of my largest mixing bowl! A magical reason to be willing to take a walk in the rain.

Giant Meadow's Edge Agaricus Campestris Mushrooms

The same neighbor that taught me about the mushrooms nearby is also the creator of a south facing herb garden along the house he’s rented an apartment in for decades, now gone wild with well established perennial herbs. That’s where I first learned to taste lovage, an interesting substitute for celery. Like dill, it aids in digestion and it also has an antiseptic quality when applied to the skin. Originally from the Mediterranean, lovage now grows in temperate regions all over the world. The spicy sweet taste of the leaves (with a hint of almost licorice) sends me down the alley in late Spring to glean whole bagfuls of it. Last year, knowing my love for it, my neighbor brought me huge stalks, some with the flowers going to seed. We hoped I could start my own, and finally, this Spring, through trial and error, I have.

Baby lovage plant in my yard

Baby lovage plant in my yard

Grandmother lovage in my neighbor's yard

Grandmother lovage in my neighbor’s yard

You can top this dish off with another treasure I’ve made from my gleaning and foraging: sage flower infused vinegar.

My neighbor's flowering sage

My neighbor’s flowering sage

Pint jar full of sage flowers

Pint jar full of sage flowers

infused sage vinegar

After just a few days in the fridge, a beautiful pink vinegar is ready to use

The basic template for this rice pilaf comes from the one in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. I’ve made it unique with these rather exotic ingredients that I’ve grown or gleaned or foraged right in my neighborhood. You can make it without them using their more conventional counterparts, and it’s still quite tasty, but I decided to introduce them to you anyway, so that if you come across the opportunity to try them in your own neck of the woods, you can. You can certainly use the mushrooms from the store and celery instead of lovage. But if you see a vendor at your Farmer’s Market with something that looks like giant celery leaves, you’ll know it’s lovage—and maybe you’ll give it a try.



Maria (moonwatcher)


Leave a Comment

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 wendy (healthy girl's kitchen) June 25, 2013 at 3:33 pm

What a fantastic post. I love the stories of you finding things to savor all over your neighborhood. You are so cool.


2 moonwatcher June 25, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Thanks, Wendy!


3 Nicole O'Shea June 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Oh yum! This looks amazing. Those mushrooms are something else, too!




4 moonwatcher June 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Thanks, Nicole! I HAD to take a picture of those mushrooms. The biggest ones I’ve found I think! xoxo


5 Tehomet June 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Lovely post. I like the idea of you liberating all the neglected veggies. 🙂


6 moonwatcher June 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Welcome, Tehomet, and thank you! 🙂


7 Diane June 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm

What a delightful story. If only in my travels I knew what was edible outside of that found at the grocery store/farmer’s market!


8 moonwatcher June 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Thanks, Diane. Yes, you have to know what you’re looking for, but the education has been well worth it!


9 Little Al July 3, 2013 at 8:48 pm

A caution:The Mushrooms pictured are indeed Meadow’ss edge or Forest Edge Agaricus Campestris mushrooms. Their cousins are the button mushrooms in the grocery store from Europe (Agaricus Brittanicus). This particular fungus may give some folks an upset stomach or slight reaction. Always use caution when gathering wild fungus. It’s advisable to at first tag along with an experienced mushroom hunter.

A good addition to the beans is Summer Savory.

Remember, always watch for GMO’s in your ingredients for healthier living. Increasing evidence shows they alter the flora and fauna in your lower digestive tract to harm your health.



10 moonwatcher July 3, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Thanks, LIttle Al, and welcome! Good advice. I learned from the best. 🙂


11 Helyn July 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Wonderful! I will try this recipe for sure. Thanks for the inspiration on the wild mushrooms… I’m going to learn about which ones I can eat in our neck of the woods! 🙂


12 moonwatcher July 24, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Thanks, Helyn! I hope you have fun learning about mushrooms in your own neck of the woods. It’s kind of addictive!


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