Morel Mushrooms: Full of Umami

May 22, 2009


I finished planting corn Monday.  I celebrated by going Morel mushroom hunting with my Dad.  We found some beauties. 

We searched around dead or dying Elm trees.  Our forest has been ravaged by Dutch Elm disease.

Some Morels were boldly out in the open, like the one pictured above.  Most were hidden like the ones pictured below, and would be invisible to an untrained eye.  All were a pleasure to find and eat. 


Why are Morels so delicious?  Mushrooms, and other protein-rich foods, are full of the fifth taste, Umami.  Umami is a Japanese word meaning, tasty.  Savory, brothy, meaty, are other ways to describe Umami.  Basically, it’s the taste of protein; or the taste as amino acids are broken down.  We all crave Umami and I enjoyed it in spades on the meat diet.

The four other main tastes are:  sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.  I was thinking metaphorically about the five tastes.  If I was to be described by one of the tastes, I would want to be Umami.  Tasty, hearty, interesting, challenging.   And I like to surround myself with Umami people.

Sweet is nice, but kind of uncomfortable for me.  Salty is the way I think of my Grandpa; cussing, telling stories about the old days.  Great quality for a grandpa.  Sour and bitter can describe many people.  I’m sure you will agree these people are simply endured and difficult to enjoy.

I’ll never be sweet or salty.  I could become sour and/or bitter.  I’m striving  to be Umami.  Which taste are you?

Meat Diet-Side Effect

March 26, 2009

I went to the Dentist today to check out the calculus deposits that have sprung out of nowhere while on the meat diet.

“I have never seen this much tartar deposits in the crevices of the teeth!”  Is what the dentist told me.  He has been practicing for over ten years.

What is going on?  One other person mentioned how she noticed more calculus while on a carb-restricted diet.  Has this happened to anyone else?

I am going to question Dr. Eades of Protein Power and Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple.  I will post any response I receive.

Contest Results

March 22, 2009

I am happy to announce the winners of the Contest.  They will be receiving a Curiousfarmer meat sampler package.  Eat the contents of this package and similar foods for six weeks.  Your cholesterol is guaranteed to double.

Total Cholesterol:  433.  Rebecca predicted 262

HDL, good cholesterol:  106.  Adam predicted 90

LDL, bad cholesterol:  318.  Elvis predicted 180

Triglycerides:  44.  Jane predicted 48

Uric acid:  4.7.  Ray predicted 4.9

BUN:  25.  Dr. Solverson predicted 24

Creatinine:  .98  Jane predicted .98

Congratulations to the winners.  You will be receiving an email so I can get your mailing address to send you the meat.

One other test result which I hadn’t listed is Glucose.  The value at the start was 85.  The value at the end was 112.  Does anyone have any thoughts on this?  I appreciate your thoughtful comments.  Thank you.

Meat Diet: Test Results

March 17, 2009


I want an open-casket wake because as Billy Crystal used to say, “I look mahvelous!”   My cholesterol went through the roof.  I haven’t had a chance to talk to my Dr. yet to see how serious the situation is.  I feel great.  Weigh in with your opinions.  Am I healthy, or knockin’ on heaven’s door?

Total Cholesterol:  225 start to 433

HDL good Cholesterol:  76 start to 106

LDL bad Cholesterol:  140 start to 318

Triglycerides:  43 start to 44

Uric acid:  3.9 start to 4.7

BUN:  14 start to 25

Creatinine:  .89 start to .98

I need time to digest these numbers before I write a conclusion to the meat diet. I will also post the winners of the contest by this weekend.  I am going on a short vacation.  Peace.  Matthew

Meat Diet: Observations

March 16, 2009

Can a person survive on meat and eggs for six weeks?  Yes!  The “meat diet” is finished.  Thank you for your interest and encouragement. 

I will be fasting tonight, drawing blood tomorrow morning, and posting the results by Tuesday evening if all goes as planned.

Until then, here are my observations:

Diet:  Red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, coffee, tea, water.  This is a high fat/saturated fat, moderate protein, very low to no carb diet.

Age:  39 years.

Weight lost:  15 lbs. 166 lbs. beginning weight, 151 lbs. ending weight.   After initial 5 lbs. water loss in first two days, lost about 1.5 lbs. per week.  Weights are taken first thing in the morning.

Body fat at 153 lbs.:  15.6% body fat. 

Circumference measurements at 153 lbs.:  upper arm 12.25″, chest 34.5″, hip 36.25″, abdominal 32.5″, thigh 20″.

Food:  Most cooked on “George Foreman grill.”  No condiments used so as to avoid carbs.

Hunger:  Nothing excessive, less than usual.  Craved variety.  Enjoyed organ meats for the first time in my life.  Ate meat more rare.  Began eating the external fat on steaks.  Had difficulty eating lean meat such as chicken breast.

Amount eaten:  Ate until I was full, but, important to note, I always felt I could have eaten carbs with my meal and would have taken dessert if I could have.

Bowel function:  Less regular, 5 times per week, very dark, never constipated, loose stool 4 times over the six weeks.

Teeth:  More calculus formation.  Bacteria in mouth must have changed.  I brush 3 times per day.

Allergies:  Less, clearer nasal passages.

Exercise:  Walking, farming, played basketball twice.

Energy:  More even, always had enough.

Emotions:  More even.

Mental function:  No change noted.  Writing more than ever.

I plan to introduce carbs back into my diet slowly beginning tomorrow.  I will start a new diet journal to document the amount of carbs eaten and corresponding weight change.

If my blood work is not extremely negative I will stay on a modified version of this diet for the next year and will retest my blood February 2010, God willing.

Backyard Food

March 12, 2009

Do you have a backyard?  Do you do anything with it besides maintain a lawn?  Home-gardening is increasing.  It is rewarding to grow your own food.  Have you ever thought about growing something that moves?

A young guy and his mom visited me yesterday.  They live near Madison on a small acreage.   They are interested in starting pig production.  I envy them for how much fun they are about to have.  There is nothing quite like beginning animal husbandry.

They plan to buy three feeder pigs in May and butcher them in November.  They will be backyard pig-raising experts by December. 

The increased level of serotonin in their brains from this accelerated learning and human-animal interaction will cause them to remember 2009 as a great year.  The year of the PIG.

I am excited by anyone willing to grow their own food.  There is a back-to-the-land movement.  Sometimes it’s happening inside city limits.  Madison passed an ordinance allowing people to keep a backyard flock of chickens.  The people responsible for this even have their own organization, “Mad City Chickens.”

Are you expanding your backyard food production?  Is 2009 the year you start?

Beef Carcass Breakdown-What to expect

March 1, 2009

You want to buy beef, in bulk, direct from a farmer.  What should you expect?  Here is a link to beef carcass cutout charts

A carcass is cut in half and then can be further divided into front and rear quarters.  The front quarter has more hamburger and roasts.  The rear quarter has more of your higher value steaks and will cost more per pound.

There is a better way to divide a beef carcass, though.  Ask for a half of a half.  You’re still buying a quarter, but you are buying half of the front quarter and half of the rear quarter.  That way you get some of all the cuts. 

I will detail the breakdown of a quarter I sold to my sister recently.  The steer weighed 925 lbs.  His hot carcass weight was 500 lbs.  The hot carcass weight is what is left after skinning and the head and guts are removed.  This is the weight we use to figure our price.  We charge $2 per lb. so that makes the steer worth $1000.

My sister received a half of a half or a quarter.  This is what she received in individual cuts:  33 lbs. hamburger, 4 lbs. rolled rump roast, 2 lbs. liver, 5 lbs. tenderized round steak, 6 lbs. sirloin steak, 5 lbs. cube steak, 6 lbs. chuck roast, 6 lbs. arm roast, 8 lbs. t-bone steak, 6 lbs. rib steak.  Total weight of packaged meat equals 81 lbs.

This is a typical cutting order for beef.  Our butcher charged $83 for this quarter.  There are many variations and different cuts that could have been requested.  It is an asset to have an experienced butcher in our community.

The total cost for the quarter is $333.  $83 to the butcher and $250 to the farmer.  My sister received 81 lbs. in packaged meat, so her cost per lb. is $4.11.

If you have any questions, please comment or email.

Wild Food Foraging Fun

February 26, 2009

What is going on in the header photo?  Someone asked if I was in a cult?  Does a cult get muddy in the Mississippi river?

We were foraging for Wapato or Arrowhead.  Tremendous amount of stomping in the mud to break loose golf-ball sized tubers that were a staple in the diet of some Native American tribes.

It was a class taught by Sam Thayer.  Forager’s Harvest is his company, which seeks to bring responsible wild food foraging, his passion, to a wider audience. 

Sam is a genius.  When he walks through the woods, he not only knows every plant; he also knows the scientific name, life cycle, habitat, which part is edible, and how to prepare it.  He presents all this information in a fun way.  I couldn’t help but catch his excitement.

The classes are an interesting mix of people of varying ages and skill levels.  This photo was taken by Rose Casey, a middle-aged gardener from Madison.  Thanks Rose.

If this interests you, don’t be shy, jump right in.  It’s the best way to learn.  Sam’s book is the best; but there are other books available as well. 

Don’t eat anything you don’t know.  And don’t worry; you will be able to accurately identify plants.  It is what we are meant to do.  Do you have trouble identifying a dandelion? 

I was foraging long before I knew Sam.  I just didn’t think of it as foraging.  When the wild raspberries are ripe, I eat my fill in raspberries every day for about two weeks.

As a farmer, we are always battling weeds. To eat my enemy gives me great satisfaction. 

Stinging Nettle is a plant that has tormented me since childhood and is one of the first to appear in the spring.  Cooking renders the plant unable to harm.  Sam says Nettle is higher in vitamins and minerals than spinach.  I’m looking forward to spring.  Happy Foraging!