Saturday, September 27, 2014

Gathering Provincetown's Wild Mushrooms

Some beautiful, big mushrooms await those who pursue them.
Provincetown's annual mushroom harvest is underway out in the Provincelands. I met these folks, who had travelled here from New York just to gather some of the wild mushrooms that can be found in the forests and at the edges of the dunes at this time of year. There were four of them, hiking the hillsides and cutting mushrooms as they found them. Mushrooms need to be cut from the plant at the base of the stem so the root remains in place, allowing it to continue to sprout more mushrooms later on.
Of course, not every mushroom found amongst the trees and shrubs in these sandy little hillsides will be of the edible variety. You must know exactly what you're doing if you intend to pluck this delightful fungus as you hike.
The Twin Eagles Wilderness School has a website to help you identify wild mushrooms. And David Fischer, an expert on the ecology and identification of wild mushrooms, has a wealth of information for you at You'll find all the basics, and some more advanced topics relating to safely gathering these delicious morsels, along with a couple of great videos, although they play some really cheesy new-agey music in the background while you watch a slide show of stunningly beautiful wild mushrooms. This site also offers a number of books on foraging for fungi.
Read my blog post Gather Ye Mushrooms While Ye May, written last autumn when conditions were similar to this year's, about finding these elusive delicacies on the outskirts of Provincetown.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

We Bid Farewell to Sal's Place

Trampolina welcomes guests to one of Sal's lavish opening parties.

Tonight is the last Throwback Thursday at Sal's Place, at 99 Commercial Street, as they wind down the 52-year run of this iconic waterfront Italian restaurant in Provincetown's West End. Sal's will close its doors after one last dinner this Monday night, September 29th.

Alexander and Lora, in a photo from Sal's website.

Sal's Executive Chef Alexander and owner Lora Papetsas have each decided to move on to other pursuits after more than a decade running this waterfront restaurant at the edge of Provincetown Harbor. Patrons have been streaming in for a last meal and to bid farewell to Alexander and Lora, and to all the staff members who have made us all feel so welcome over the years.
Nate and Anthony serving Italian sausages and steak crostini.

The opening parties at Sal's place every spring were legendary, with Townies treated to an endless array of samples from the menu served both in the dining room and out on the deck overlooking Provincetown Harbor.

Sal's Bear Week menu became a favorite with Glenn and John.

Glenn and John, from New Jersey, became repeat customers at Sal's when they discovered it during Bear Week a couple of years ago, when that week's special menu lured them in, and the harbor view at twilight kept them coming back.

Lora's wonderful Chocolate Mousse Pie will be sorely missed.

Get to Sal's for a number of specials during this final week…

•Throwback Thursday - all entrées are $19.62, for the year the restaurant was started by artist Sal Del Deo
•Prix Fixe Sunday - 4 course specials for $35
•Townie Monday - 1/2 price entrées for local residents

And, of course, we've got to have one last slice of Lora's superb Chocolate Mousse Pie as we wish them well, and bid a fond farewell to Sal's Place.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Variety of Herons are Spotted in Provincetown's Wetlands and Ponds

This Yellow-crowned Night Heron made a daylight appearance
 the pond along Provincelands Road.
This year there seem to be several types of herons in the marshes, ponds and wetlands surrounding Provincetown. Although his hairdo seems to fall a bit flat, this fellow appears to be a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, found fishing for his lunch in the salt pond along Provincelands Road. Like the Great Blue Heron, which seems to be the one most often spotted in the Provincelands, this stocky bird stands motionless, waiting for a little fish or a frog to swim by, then pounces on his prey, making it part of his lunch.
This particular bird generally does most of its hunting after dark, but around these parts, feeding time seems to have more to do with the timing of the tides rather than the hour or the daylight. Look for these birds and other herons at about half-tide, as the water in this pond and in the wetlands around it is rising with the tide.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Provincetown's Cranberry Vote of 1773

Cranberries are ripening right now in the low-lying spots in Provincetown's forests and dunes.
Photo by Charles Armstrong, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Cranberries grow very well in the low-lying spots in Provincetown's forested areas, and even in the very low spots out in the dunes, and anywhere the water might pool up a bit after the rainfall. When the ground can't absorb all the water after a rainstorm, which happens in these very low spots where the groundwater is just below the surface, the area can remain under water for a time. As the ground slowly soaks up the water, it's likely, at least for a little while, to stay a little soggy, or spongy, or boggy, if you will, hence the name cranberry bog.
As the ground water recedes, the cranberries can begin to grow, on a sturdy little vine that can produce cranberries for more than 100 years. The berries get their start with a small, pale pink blossom shaped a bit like the head of a crane. The early settlers were calling it crane berry, and that's how the cranberry got its name.
In his 1890 book Provincetown or Odds and Ends From the Tip End, Herman A. Jennings provides us with this historic tidbit he dug up "from old town records," apparently from the 1773 Town Meeting:

I'm not sure what effect the unusually cool, dry weather of this summer might have on the cranberries this year, but you can usually find them getting ripe enough to pick by this time. If you go out to pick cranberries, don't confuse them with bearberry, which looks a little similar, and is harmless in small quantities, but it's not good for humans in large amounts. Here's a link to help you find wild cranberries, from a great blog I found, called The 3 Foragers, written by a family who harvests and eats a good bit of their food from wild sources. And if you go out after cranberries, be sure to watch for the poison ivy that is sometimes found nearby.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Spectacular Provincetown Sky, Opus 3

Sometimes I think I could spend the rest of my time on this planet just watching the colors change in the sky and in the various waters that surround Provincetown
As this rising tide crept into the marsh and stole the golden colors right out of the sky, these little dollops of clouds parted just enough to let a few rays from the setting sun turn this sandy hillside at the edge of the wetlands a little pinkish.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Today's Staggeringly High Tide in PTown

Today's high tide reached about 11 feet 4 inches, about 6 inches short of the record. Around 1:30 this afternoon, about 15 minutes before high tide, I spotted this fisherman, who looks as though he's wondering what to do next. He stood there, transfixed, and didn't move all the while I watched him as the choppy water in the west end of the harbor lapped over the breakwater beneath his feet. Walking on this granite jetty in PTown's West End this afternoon was challenging, and probably foolish, with few attempting it until the tide began to recede.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gray Ice Cream? You Bet!

Taste this splendid treat at I Dream of Gelato, inside the
Aquarium Marketplace, at 205-209 Commercial Street.
OK, it might look a little weird, but this little dish of gray ice cream is one of the tastiest things you'll find anywhere in Provincetown.
This is the black sesame gelato found at I Dream of Gelato, at the Aquarium Marketplace. It's among my top favorites of all of the amazing flavors in this little shop that turns out some of the greatest Italian ice cream you'll ever taste.
Gelato is a bit more dense than regular American ice cream, with less air whipped in, so the taste is a little more vibrant, and the flavors here are superb. When I Dream of Gelato opened in 2005 they offered 35 flavors, and now, in their tenth season, they have well over 150 choices, many of them quite exotic, with each one rotating onto the list of daily flavors several times each summer. The black sesame has a rich, almost nutty taste that's hard to resist.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wildlife Abounds in PTown

Wildlife of all kinds treks over the hills of Provincetown. Click on this photo.
The tracks of all kinds of wildlife can be found on the sandy hillsides and dunes around Provincetown. The forest, wetlands and the dunes are home to deer, fox, raccoon, coyote, rabbit, skunk, turtle, opossum, squirrel, chipmunk, meadow vole and hundreds of migrating birds, along with many others. At any time these little hillsides can show us the tracks of all of these, and many more, including the humans walking over the hills and out to the beaches. We should try to disturb as little of this delicate habitat as possible while enjoying our own recreation.
If you go walking out this way, please make sure you are not contributing to the erosion of the dunes by treading on the plant life, which can be very fragile even though it's resilient enough to grow in nothing but sand. And if you can't resist the urge to climb up on top of some of these hills, please be careful about how much sand you dislodge and send rolling down the slope behind you. Please do your part to preserve the fragile environment that surrounds this bit of paradise we call Provincetown. These lovely hummocks get a little smaller with each one of us who clambers up to conquer the hill.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Have We Made It Through Another Provincetown Summer?

In this cooler-than-average summer people still went to the beach to relax and to enjoy the view,
but they sometimes dressed a little warmer, and often brought along an extra blanket or two.
I hesitate to say we've gotten through another summer season here at the tip of Cape Cod, because we've still got a number of visitors in town, many of us haven't yet made the money we need to get through the long winter with no opportunity for employment, and we're only midway through the potential hurricane season…
Despite all that, this is likely to be a summer I'll remember fondly, even though I worked an extra day each week for the same money, had very little time to myself, and came down with a few minor symptoms of Augustitis in the last couple of weeks. I found myself becoming quite cynical, and even a bit short-tempered a few times, so I took two days off (you know, like a person with a normal job in the "other world" would do) and I went to see some art, had a therapeutic glass of wine, and I'm recovering quite nicely, thank you. Yesterday, when every possible thing that could go wrong at work did, and even a couple of things that were impossible also happened (you know how that is, too,) I remained calm and unflappable.
We've had such perfect, mild weather all over the east coast all summer, so people didn't have to escape from unbearable heat and humidity in Boston or New York. I think that has meant fewer daytrippers, or people who might break out of the city in an unplanned visit of a few days when the weather is hot and nasty. We seem to be consistently a few degrees cooler here in the summer than folks are in Boston, for example, and there's always a cool breeze in the evening. With temperatures that didn't get much over the mid seventies this summer, and refreshingly low humidity most of the time, my little attic apartment (with no air conditioning) was pretty habitable shortly after nightfall most nights, instead of at 2 or 3 in the morning like in most hot, humid summers.
The cool weather, and the cool water, may have cut into our normal number of visitors, but cut our risk of hurricanes dramatically, too. The season was also especially short this year, with really chilly, rainy, windy weather several weeks into our normal season, and Labor Day falls on the earliest possible day, shortening the season by yet another week. I think all of this adds up to fewer visitors this year, probably less money, and I'm definitely behind financially, but overall I'm glad to have had this short, mild season, and I'm ready to have no more daily time commitments, to choose how I want to spend each day, and to be blissfully unemployed.
And every year, on the Tuesday morning after Labor Day, if you listen closely you can hear a kind of collective sigh of relief as we all walk out the door in the morning and begin to feel like we're getting our town back.
Maybe soon I'll be the one lying on the edge of the beach in a sweatshirt, and a blanket, watching the tide roll in and out.