After a long string of unrelated career choices in my early youth, including a detective (ages 8-10), a freelance spy/mercenary who resembled the comic book hero Punisher (ages 10-11), a professional baseball player/owner of baseball card store (age 11), a writer of paranormal fiction (age 12), I finally decided on horticulture (ages 13-18). I was obsessed with plants. I filled my dad’s house with so many potted plants that the windows would fog up. I couldn’t eat a fruit without planting its seeds, or enjoy an avocado without removing the pit and placing it in a glass of water to entice its roots to grow. Our kitchen looked like a mad science laboratory and windowsills became expensive real estate.
Looking back, it was a little eccentric that I spent several minutes each day breathing on each houseplant, to give them more air; or that I flipped yearningly through plant books while my friends were reading Batman comics or Playboys. I knew the Latin name for every potted plant and became irritatingly pedantic when visiting friends, if I came across a neglected or ill specimen. Nitrogen deficiency, I would say; or don’t give this guy a south facing window – shade is preferable; or, your fern needs watering (with a condemning scowl). I didn’t get invited out much.
During my last year of high school I was given a shiitake log by someone who knew of my love of growing things. These logs are pretty remarkable if you’ve never seen one before. It is a small log that has been coated, I’m guessing, by spores from this delicious fungi. After a few weeks sitting in a cool damp place, mushrooms begin to grow on and off for several months. I hadn’t really been a huge lover of fungi until then, but there is something wonderfully meaty and exotic with shiitake. Ranging anywhere from $4 to $8 a pound, I don’t often buy these expensive ingredients; although they are always a welcome treat in my kitchen, especially in this ginger-shiitake glaze paired with salmon which I know you’ll love.