Biotope and Shiitake Mushrooms

There's a biotope in the village and I never knew! Until about 2 weeks ago when we got a last minute invitation to go along to an event they were having there. Well, you could call it an event if by that you mean about 5 kids and their Dads running around with fishing nets. It was fantastic!

Just so you know, a biotope is a mini, artificial version of the surrounding natural environment, and any that I've ever seen (all in Japan) seem to be water based. So they divert some water out of the local supply, create a series of mini-lakes and creeks, and then feed back into the main system. They aim to educate people about what's actually living around them, and because they're so accessible they seem to be good at this. They also try to conserve local wildlife that are doing it tough, by providing them with a safe environment to hang out in. The use of the word biotope seems to be a bit different here though, because when I looked it up on wikipedia, it was a slightly different thing.

Anyway, my favourite thing of the day was this little salamander! The one with the frilly ears. SO cute!! I'm not sure what type of salamander it is, but one of the guys said that when it's a bit bigger it will make great tempura. I'm choosing to believe that he was joking. The other thing behind it is a loach by the way. They've got cute little whiskers when they're swimming, not nearly so offensive as when you're trying to eat them. And speaking of loaches, one guy caught one that was about 12cm long! Wow.

The reason why I'm suddenly writing about this today is shiitake mushrooms (stay with me!). One of the organisers of the biotope is also an organic shiitake mushroom farmer, and he dropped by with a few packets of his ultimate extra special mushrooms this evening to say thank you for coming to see the biotope. Little does he know we don't need bribing, but maybe we should keep that information to ourselves - these mushrooms were amazing! Apparently there are only a few days a year when he can harvest these special mushrooms, something to do with temperatures I think. He said the one on the far left in this photo below is an ideal mushroom because the cap hasn't broken away from the stem. Aren't they just gorgeous!

He suggested we boil them, slice them thickly, and dip in soy sauce with wasabi. So that's what we did. I never knew shiitake could (look or) taste like this! You must come and try them! Really, you must!


Loach soup-to-be

Here's the latest catch of loaches from the rice field waterways, skillfully undertaken by our neighbour, S-san. They look almost pretty when they're swimming around in the water, but S-san insisted on putting them into the basket for the photo. Unfortunate because they kind of froth up in that kind of situation! The basket, by the way, was also made by S-san.



It was kind of weird weather today, but still good enough for a walk. Here are some photos:

The little white dots you can see under the trees are flowers like this one here.

Through the mountains in the background of this photo is the back way into town. With the rock slide closing off the road through to Kaneyama until September, it's now the main road into Aizu Wakamatsu.

I love these bendy-bottomed trees!
And somebody's growing shiitake mushrooms here in the next photo:

And, not really related to cooking or looking, but I learnt a new word today thanks to Nick Cave. Murine. The Oxford Dictionary on my computer says that it means 'of, related to, or affecting mice or related rodents.' Thanks Nick.