The Story of the Stinkhorn and the Four Thieves

My husband found something very strange growing in our yard, and asked me to come outside to look at it. Elongated, pinkish with a red tip, it looked like some magical sea creature that nature had guerilla crocheted on our lawn. It was bouncy and spongy to the touch. We had no idea what it was, other than some type of fungus, and I have seen enough Sci-Fi flicks to know that I needed to keep an eye on it…

To try and unravel the mystery of this fungus, I turned to my Facebook network of friends. I posted the above photo and within minutes our friend JT, who is knowledgeable on a surprisingly wide array of topics, responded, “Looks like a stinkhorn. Didn’t know we had any around here. Live & learn.” So, I Googled “Stinkhorn” and found on MushroomExpert.com that they are “notorious for popping up suddenly and unexpectedly in urban settings.” They are member of the aptly-named Phallaceae family of fungi and they are called stinkhorns because of the distinctively stinky slime they use to entice bugs to come pick up their spores and spread them around. Ours being newly formed had not developed the slime, so did not have a scent.

I planned to leave it in the yard to see how it would develop, but the next morning when I went to check on it, it was gone, along with a patch of grass around where it had been. Some critter had gotten to it! However, I found another one near where it had been that was fatter and slimier looking than the first. Not long afterward, my friend Andi warned me with some information she had found on eHow.com’s Facts on the Stinkhorn Fungus, “Whatever you do, don’t uproot it. they’ll just propagate.” On the other hand, she noted that “Because of their suggestive shapes, the Phallus and Dictyophora stinkhorns are sold as aphrodisiacs in China,” so I could start a new business! Andi also found that the “eggs” from which certain stinkhorn varieties emerge are “edible and taste like radishes.”

Intrigued by the possible utility of this newly discovered wild plant in my yard, I did some further research. Perhaps I had discovered some new gourmet edible. I found an article by Wildman Steve Brill, who has tried stinkhorns in a couple of different forms, and came to the conclusion that they are flavorless with a weird slimy texture like “mock squid.” I decided I needed to eliminate the second stinkhorn before they took over my lawn.

In the meantime, Andi had found this method for eliminating them:

1) Locate the fungus.

2) Make a mixture of boiling hot water and bleach.

3) Plug your nose with free hand or with the help of a neighbor.

4) Pour the mixture (still hot) onto the fungus. (Add to sneaker tips too for an extra brightening effect.)

5) Repeat steps once a day until the fungus is gone

I had recently bottled a batch of Four Thieves vinegar, so I chose to start with a natural solution, following the above directions but substituting the Fourt Thieves for the bleach. It has been over a week now, and my lawn remains stinkhorn-free.

As a bonus for those of you who have read this far, here are some images from the Stinkhorn Hall of Fame

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Meatless Monday: Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff

I adapted this recipe from a dish I had at Luna 61, a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Tivoli, NY. It is a stroganoff that uses mushrooms instead of meat. I took it to the next level by making it vegan and gluten free, while maintaining the awesome taste. The sherry and nutmeg are two key ingredients that give this dish its signature flavor.

  • 2 tablespoons organic olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped organic shallots
  • 4 cups of coursely chopped mushrooms (I used Trumpet and Crimini)
  • 1/4 cup of organic olive oil or Earth Balance
  • 1/4 cup of organic flour (you can also use wheat or rice)
  • 2 cups of almond milk (you can also use oat,
  • 1/4 cup of sherry, madeira or marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground organic nutmeg
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound of organic pasta, cooked (I used rice pasta for a gluten-free dish)
Saute the shallots in the olive oil over medium heat until the become translucent. Add the mushrooms, and saute until they begin to shrink and darken in color. Set them aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil or melt the Earth Balance over medium heat, then add the flour, whisking it to blend thoroughly. Cook for a minute or two to cook off the raw flour taste. Add the milk a bit at a time, continuing to whisk as you do this, so as to avoid lumps. Your goal is to create a thick white sauce. Once all of the milk has been integrated, cook and whisk for another minute, then whisk in the sherry. Whisk for another couple of minutes, then remove the sauce from the heat.
Season your sauce with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Then toss in the mushrooms and stir with spoon until they are well-integrated. Serve warm over pasta, with a side salad. Enjoy!

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