Summer Plant, Winter Worm: Cordyceps Mushroom for Energy and Stamina, Revisited

In 1993, the Chinese women’s track team shocked the world when its runners set 5 new world records at the Olympic Games in Beijing. The team tested clean for performance-enhancing drugs, but the coach later disclosed that he had given his athletes at least one (entirely legal) performance-enhancing substance: the medicinal mushroom, Cordyceps.

Cordyceps is a rare, high-altitude fungus, and one of the most bizarre entries in the Materia Medica. In the wild, Cordyceps spores float, dormant, until one is lucky enough to land on something fertile, usually a caterpillar. The spore infiltrates and parasitizes the caterpillar, transforming the host tissue to fungal tissue, and eventually killing it. Then the fruiting body (the “above-ground” part of the mushroom) sprouts out of the head like antlers. Hence the names “Caterpillar Fungus” and “Summer Plant, Winter Worm.”  (more…)

Vegetarian Armenian Keofta with Pine Nuts

’m sorry I don’t remember who suggested we make keofta in our kitchen. Well, we don’t at present, but I had fun fooling around at home with the recipe given to us. I like the one below, and think it’s a winner. Keofta is simple, peasant food, something like a hamburger made with peas or lentils, and I’ve gussied it up a bit here with pine nuts and raisins. Leave those out, and the dish is very economical too. (more…)

Golden Potato Salad with Greens, Goat Cheese and Oil-Cured Olives

Buttercream potatoes are small, tender, new, yellow potatoes. Around 1-inch in diameter, they really do taste buttery. You can boil or steam them, but roasting tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper produces a particularly delicious side dish. Because they’re softer than other potatoes, they tend to break up when tossed in potato salads, so they go beautifully with the greens used here (arugula and kale) because those hold their shape.

Goat cheese is easy on the digestive system (unless, of course, you can’t do dairy), and it’s delish to boot. Use the Beldi oil-cured olives here, and you’ll be addicted. Yes, they’re pitted, which makes life easier. (more…)

Time for the Spring Cleanse, 2012 Edition

We are surrounded by toxins: pesticides, car exhaust, cosmetics, disinfectants, medications, heavy metals, and thousands of other chemicals you’d be hard pressed to identify, let alone pronounce. Then there are the toxins we produce naturally: hormone excesses, metabolic wastes, and the byproducts of normal metabolism. On any given day, they’re not enough to kill you. But they take a toll.

Internal cleansing is one of the most time-honored concepts in traditional medicine. Periods of cleansing are central to Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine, Native American medicine, traditional European and South American herbalism, and to most religious faiths too (all those ritual fasts and sweat lodges). Yet cleansing is a concept we’ve mostly discarded in this age of quick-cure pharmaceuticals. (more…)

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