Wild Edibles: Fluted Black Elfin Saddle

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I took the dog on a nice long hike today, and we came across some edible mushrooms I hadn’t seen before. Helvella lacunosa or fluted black elfin saddle.

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Here in the Pacific Northwest we have a lot of mushrooms this time of year, but the edible ones near trail edges tend to get scooped up rather quickly. I think these ones had been left alone because they are a rather unusual-looking species.

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The only other species that looks close is the hooded false morel, which is poisonous, but does not have the characteristic fluting in the stem. Although the fluted black elfin saddle is considered edible, they must be either cooked or dried first in order to dissipate the monomethylhydrazine they contain, which is a toxic substance.

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I shall enjoy them with quail breasts and wild greens as my dinner tonight!

Preparing Muscovy Duck Feet

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My trio of muscovy ducks only produced one duckling this year, and it was a drake. He ate very well for a few months, but the air is growing chilly now and there’s no need to overwinter two big drakes. It was time to harvest him.

I got two great big breast steaks and two nice legs, around five pounds of meat total. Normally I give the feet to the dog, but this year I wanted to see if I could use them. Duck feet are full of collagen and make excellent stock, but it’s best to remove the outer layer of dirty skin before dropping them into your stock pot. It’s actually a fairly simple process.

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Rinse off and scrub the feet if they are very muddy, and bring a pot of water to a boil. Submerge the feet for one minute, or until the skin begins to flake off when rubbed. You’ll only be removing a very thin layer, much like a snake shedding their skin. It will smell slightly fishy and the feet will tense up a bit.

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Then just peel away. It’s easiest to do while the feet are still hot. Soon you’ll have a little pile of flaky skin and some nice, clean duck feet. Sometimes the outer nail covering comes off as well, but in this case his nails stayed intact. Now they’re ready to pop into the freezer for the next time I make a big pot of bone broth. Can’t wait!

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