Two market finds today: a penny bun or Boletus edulis and a chayote.
The penny bun, also known as cep or porcino, is such a rare luxury in Bonn (there known as Steinpilz); here it was one of three wild fungi at one of my favourite market stalls. I bought one to try. I cut it into ¼ inch slices and slowly cooked half in a light film of virgin olive oil and the other half in a similar film of butter. I’d been advised by wild fungus eaters in Bonn to cook them at very low heat and for no less than 20 minutes. That’s to ensure that all harmful bacteria and other microorganisms are disarmed. The butter-cooked Boletus slices were marginally better than the olive-oil ones. I was expecting a stronger flavour and aroma from them, rather akin to those of matsutake, another popular and pricey autumn fungus in Japan, Korea, and in Northeastern United States. I remember one truly unforgettable risotto of porcini –- its aroma so heady — eaten at a trattoria in the former Jewish ghetto of Rome.
The chayote, Sechium edule, will be for another day – perhaps a stir-fry. I asked our favourite market stall owner, who grows them, what its local name is. She said, “There isn’t one really. Most people don’t know what this is.” “So what do you call it then?” I asked. “Oh, a potato without the flouriness.”
I said, “We call it chayote in the Philippines, and in the Caribbean, it goes by the name of cho cho or christophene.” Another customer, an older man, got curious, and asked how to cook it. And the lady explained how she cooked them. “The young shoots are also edible,” I said.
“Oh, I didn’t know that. How do you cook them?” the lady asked. “You can steam them and serve them as a salad with a vinaigrette or add them to soups at the end of cooking,” I said.
Other market buys today were gorgeous plums, again with the powdery bloom on them still. Fresh as fresh can be. And mandarins, similarly freshly picked, with their leaves still intact.
And on the cliffs above the beach, wild morning glories shone like sapphires strung on gigantic necklaces, and dates, clustered like amber, slowly ripened on the palms facing the sea.