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Dried Candy Cap Mushrooms
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Dried Candy Cap mushrooms are very small, averaging 1 to 2 centimeters in diameter, and are slender with flattened, round caps. The cap's surface is slightly bumpy, rough, and brittle, ranging in color from brown to burnt-orange, and has thin edges that curl slightly when dried. The delicate stem may be hollow or solid, bearing a tan to orange hue, and acquires a shriveled, wrinkled appearance. In the drying process, Candy Cap mushrooms develop a unique, heady aroma reminiscent of maple syrup, brown sugar, and butterscotch. The dried mushrooms also infuse a sweet, savory, and earthy flavor into culinary dishes that is often likened to a combination of caramel, burnt sugar, curry, and camphor.
Dried Candy Cap mushrooms are available in limited quantities year-round.
Dried Candy Cap mushrooms, botanically a part of the Lactarius genus, is a general descriptor for multiple species of small, aromatic mushrooms belonging to the Russulaceae family. There are three closely related species generally labeled under the Candy Cap name, including Lactarius rufulus, Lactarius rubidus, and Lactarius fragilis, with Lactarius rubidus being the most commonly foraged species. Dried Candy Cap mushrooms are rare as they are only foraged from the wild and are highly favored for their warm, sugary taste and fragrance. The mushrooms are one of the only sweet varieties in existence, and their maple-butterscotch flavor can be utilized in both sweet and savory culinary dishes. Dried Candy Cap mushrooms are beloved by chefs and home cooks, especially in the Pacific Northwest, for their unusual taste and potent aroma, and only a small amount of mushroom is needed for culinary use.
Dried Candy Cap mushrooms are a source of antioxidants, molecules that protect the body against compounds known as free radicals that can harm the immune system and inflict disease. The mushrooms also provide fiber to stimulate the digestive tract and lower amounts of zinc, folate, copper, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium.
Dried Candy Cap mushrooms have a potent flavor and aroma well suited for both sweet and savory preparations. The dried mushrooms can be reconstituted by soaking in warm liquid for 15 to 20 minutes and once rehydrated, they can be incorporated into any recipe calling for whole Candy Cap mushrooms. Dried Candy Cap mushrooms can also be ground into a powder and combined with sea salt to make a seasoning, or it can be used as a flavoring in rich sauces, sugar syrups, dairy, and other cooking liquids. Ground Candy Caps are popularly incorporated in dessert recipes, including crème brulee, pumpkin pies, ice cream, puddings, muffins, cookies, waffles, and cheesecakes. In addition to sweet preparations, Candy Cap mushrooms can be used in savory preparations such as curries, relishes, pasta, roasted vegetables, eggs, noodle-based dishes, and smoked meats. Dried Candy Cap mushrooms pair well with pecans, cream, butter, potatoes, soft cheeses, meats such as poultry, pork, and duck, seafood, caramel, and apples. Whole, dehydrated mushrooms will keep 1 to 2 years stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Dried Candy Cap mushrooms are one of the few mushroom varieties that can be used to flavor both sweet and savory desserts. Savory mushrooms have been incorporated into American cooking since the 19th century, but the maple-sweet variety did not become a specialty culinary ingredient until the 21st century. With the rise of health food trends and an increase in consumers going vegetarian, chefs reevaluated ingredients that were going into desserts and searched for more natural but flavorful elements. Candy Cap mushrooms were initially used among chefs in San Francisco and were first heavily promoted during the Ferry Building Fungus Festival. The weekend festival was first held in 2006 in the historic San Francisco Ferry Building and featured mushroom-centric educational discussions, cooking demonstrations, and mushroom retailers endorsing unusual varieties. During the festival, Candy Cap mushrooms were utilized in a wide variety of desserts to showcase the variety’s unique flavor. Later in 2012, famous San Francisco-based ice cream shop, Humphry Slocombe, released a Candy Cap ice cream, showcasing the mushroom’s butterscotch and maple syrup flavor, and the ice cream quickly became one of the best-selling items. Store owners Jake Godby and Sean Wahey, in partnership with Paolo Lucchesi, also wrote the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, including Candy Cap mushroom ice cream, as one of the seasonal recipes. In the present-day, dessert recipes using Dried Candy Cap mushrooms have steadily increased across online blogs as more online mushroom retailers are selling the dried fungi in small, aromatic packages.
Candy Cap mushrooms are native to North America and are mainly present in forests of California, Oregon, and Washington. The small mushrooms are often found along roads, trails, and in organic materials such as moss and rotting wood beneath conifers like pine, Douglas fir, and spruce, and hardwoods like tanoak and oak. The mushrooms are also found in small, sporadic groupings or growing individually in scattered locations, adding to the challenging nature of foraging for the variety. Once gathered, the mushrooms are dehydrated and are sold by weight, fetching high prices in commercial markets. Dried Candy Cap mushrooms are primarily found through online retailers and are also sold through specialty grocers throughout California and the Pacific Northwest.
Recipes that include Dried Candy Cap Mushrooms. One is easiest, three is harder.