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Unlocking the secrets of truffle aroma

Scientists say soil microbes key to fungi’s distinctive aroma

An Oregon white truffle, courtesy Oregon State University

An Oregon white truffle, courtesy Oregon State University

Staff Report

FRISCO — Mushroom season may be over the Colorado high country, but in parts of Europe, it’s the peak of the truffle season, as hundreds of gourmets scour oak forests to find the fragrant buried fungi, often with the help of animals.

Now scientists say that the scent of the hidden edible treasures is largely produced not by the fungi itself, but by soil bacteria trapped inside truffle fruiting bodies, a discovery of interest not only to mycophiles, but to scientists speciazing in food flavors.

The study involved white truffles from the Piedmont region in Italy, which can cost up to 5,000 Euro per kilo (about $4,000 a pound), and black truffles from the Périgord region in Southern France. Particularly large specimens even fetch prices of up to 50,000 Euro per kilogram at auctions. Continue reading

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Morning photo: Treeline!

‘Shroom hunting in Colorado

Evening vista in Mayflower Gulch, Summit County, Colorado.

Evening vista of the Tenmile Range, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — Aug. 31 is a bit late for the peak of the mushroom season in Colorado, but after a stream of rainy days, we headed up high, near treeline, to search for fungi. In some of the moist, north-facing draws along the rough road into the Tenmile Range, we found a profusion of mushrooms, as many as 10 species in a square meter, including funky corals, puffballs and tasty wild agaricus, an edible variety closely related to grocery store mushrooms.

Seeing the mushrooms at peak season, bursting through a living tapestry of moss and lichen, makes me realize how big a part of the forest life force these humble fungi really are, locking carbon deep in the soil and helping the trees, old and young, absorb nutrients from the thin Rocky Mountain soil. Continue reading

Summit Voice: Weekly roundup

Water wars, chapter 33?

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A new study spells out environmental impacts of new diversions from the Colorado River Basin.

By Bob Berwyn

The tug of war over western water is a never-ending source of fascination and a vital topic for everyone in Colorado. In the past couple of weeks, water users on both sides of the Continental Divide have started digesting details of a massive environmental study that spells out the impacts of new diversions from the Fraser River, a key headwaters stream in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

The story is complex and deserves in-depth and sustained coverage. I took a stab at an overview for the Boulder Weekly after talking to some really smart people about how the proposed Moffat Tunnel Collection System expansion might play out. Will there be enough common ground? Or will the push to take even more water from the Colorado spur an all-out water war?

One thing is for sure: Cheap water shouldn’t be the fuel for population growth and speculative real estate development, and water planning needs to be more fully incorporated into land use planning, including in the upcoming state water plan. If there is a disconnect between the state water plan and land use, the plan is doomed to fail.

Read more about the latest push to divert more of the Colorado River: “Water has never come easy in the West, and when people start eying the last few drops of an already dying river, things can get tense in a hurry, even in an era of Colorado River Kumbaya …”

Morel madness

M-mmmmorels! Photo courtesy Donald Hughes.

M-mmmmorels! Photo courtesy Donald Hughes.

I also reported on the start of the wild mushroom foraging season in Colorado, which starts in the grassy cottonwood bosques along the Front Range, when tasty morels start to sprout in hidden clumps. Morel, along with several other fungi, are important players in wildfire ecology, helping to prepare the soil at a very mollecular level for new shrub, grass and tree growth.

Read more: “Mushroom hunters are a strange bunch to begin with, scurrying through the forest with their eyes glued to all the damp and shady spots on the ground, hoping to find that treasure trove of delectable fungi …”

Frack no more!

And in case you missed it the previous week, the Boulder Weekly also let me ramble on about beer, fracking and travel in the food section, as I tried to track down whether there is any real threat to Colorado brewers. Read the story here: “As a red-blooded American beer enthusiast with deep roots in beer culture, I got a little riled up when I read a press release a few months ago from a group of brewers concerned about the potential impacts of fracking to their water supplies …”

Deep sea dump

For Summit Voice I interviewed marine ecology professor Kerry Howell about her study of human garbage that’s piling up in some of the most remote ocean depths. Heineken beer cans, Uncle Ben’s rice packets and more, all washing off land and down into submarine canyons, where samples across wide swaths of sea bottom, from the Arctic to the Azores, showed as many as 10 pieces of garbage per acre. Rea the story here: “It’s not the best when your feeding apparatus is covered with plastic …”

Pay to play?

Nobody in Colorado covers recreation fees like Summit Voice. The controversial pay to play program is back in the news, as a California judge ruled that the Forest Service violating the law by charging a general public lands admission fee with a widespread adventure pass program. At stake is free access to trailhead parking on public lands across the country. Read: “The Forest Service is prohibited from charging a fee solely for parking. If a visitor does nothing other than park, the fee is solely for parking and is, therefore, plainly prohibited by the REA,” the court ruled, referencing previous court decisions …”

A few more headlines:

Feds see $470 million gap in firefighting budget

Climate: Scientists surprised by level of ocean acidification impacts off the West Coast of U.S.

Can Squaw Valley slow the development juggernaut?

Wolves just can’t catch seem to a break in the West

 

 

Morning photo: Colorado vistas

Mountain views … and more!

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The Grand Mesa, near Palisade, Colorado.

FRISCO — The Sunday photo essay includes some of our favorite mountain and valley vistas in different seasons. Please visit our online gallery at Fine Art America for a full selection of Colorado landscape and nature photographs. Continue reading

Morning photo: Forest finds

Berries-n-shrooms!

Wild strawberry Colorado

Wild strawberries are a special forest (and meadow) treat in Colorado.

FRISCO — Even a short walk in the woods can be rewarding these days, what with wild (and delicious) edible mushrooms popping up all over, along with a veritable feast of berries, which always do much better in wet years, especially when the rains are followed by some warm and sunny days. All this on a day that also brought the first snow to the Colorado high country, although we probably shouldn’t even think of it as the first snow, since it’s only been a few short weeks since the last time frozen white stuff fell from the sky. But for some reason, in August, it does feel like the first snow of the new season, while a July dusting (also not unheard of) seems to belong with the past winter. In any case, get out and enjoy summer’s bounty now! Continue reading

Researchers find potential biocontrol for bed bugs

The life cycle of a bedbug. Image courtesy EPA.

Naturally occurring fungus may help where chemical pesticides are failing

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The resurgence of common bedbugs is partly due to their increase resistance to insecticides — like many other nuisance species, they’ve evolved to develop an immunity to the toxins. But a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say they may have discovered the key to effective biocontrol of the nuisance bugs — a natural fungus that causes disease in insects.

In the study, the researchers used an airbrush sprayer to apply spore formulations of the Beauveria bassiana fungus to paper and cotton jersey, a common bed sheet material. Then control surfaces, again paper and cotton jersey, were sprayed with blank oil only. The surfaces were allowed to dry at room temperature overnight. Continue reading

Colorado: The blooms are bursting just in time for Arapahoe Basin’s July 20 alpenglow dinner and wildflower hike

Colorado menu featured at A-Basin’s latest summer event

Alpenglow lights up Arapahoe Basin in mid-May. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

Chiming bells growing near the Continental Divide. Photo courtesy Arapahoe Basin.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s growing season for wildflowers and produce may be short compared to other parts of the country, but it’s always sweet. Arapahoe Basin will highlight both this Friday (July 20) with the alpenglow dinner and wildflower hike at the Black Mountain Lodge.

Chef Chris Rybak is planning an all-Colorado menu for this event in the popular series, and there are still a few spots left. You can sign up online at A-Basin’s website.

Eating locally produced food is a great way to support Colorado ranchers and farmers, especially in a tough dry year like this, and it’s also makes sense environmentally by reducing the carbon footprint of the food you consume (think about trucking food all the way from California).

Chairlift rides up the mountain are between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and the dinner starts with light hors d’eouvres and live entertainment. Chef Rybak will begin serving the Colorado-themed meal at 6 p.m. and you can work off some of the calories with a twilight hike back down the mountain to the base area starting at about 8 p.m. Continue reading

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