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    Ask Eden

    Questions from Aerate’s curious readers; answers from our curiously profound expert

    Dear Eden,

    Are colorful wild mushrooms generally more dangerous to eat?

    A: In a perfect world we could read mushrooms like traffic signals. Green means go, yellow means caution, red means…call the estate lawyer?! Alas, no such luck. Sure, there are some brightly-colored bad boys you should definitely avoid—like the pumpkin-orange Jack-o-lantern mushroom (Omphalotus olearius) and the scarlet red (and aptly named) Poison Fire Coral fungus (Podostroma cornu-damae). But for every kaleidoscopic killer, there are plenty of other hue-happy delicacies—like the smurf blue Indigo milk cap (Lactarius indigo) and the blood-red beefsteak mushroom (Fistulina hepatica)—that will go down easy. Bottom line: if you’re after dinner and not a death sentence, invest in a reliable guidebook (with full color illustrations and lots of ‘em!) or, better yet, sign up for a class through a local forging club or a reliable mycological org, where you can learn the ins and outs of safe mushroom identification from an expert. After all, in the words of my late Eastern European grandmother: “All mushrooms are edible—but some only once.” 

    Dear Eden,

    What are good ways to protect my plants from withering while I’m on vacation?

    A: Good for you, taking some time for yourself. But if you don’t know anyone you trust to regularly drop in and wield a watering can, we’ve gotta talk about your social life. Still, God gave us machines, so we don’t need people to mess things up. If you’ll be gone for less than two weeks (and like to travel a lot) consider transferring your plants to a self-watering planter. Or you can transfer to a hydroponic system and root spa—my pores open just typing it—which are buckets connected to a central watering system. Mix up an aqua cocktail with H2O and fertilizer, and your plants will greet you greener than when you left them. They even have gravity-fed hydroponic systems with reservoirs that run without electricity and can feed individual plants or an area of the garden. For strictly outdoor needs, an app-based smart system that connects to your hose will let you water from anywhere and make adjustments in real time—if it’s raining back home you can kybosh the spritz. Or as the kids say, you can turn off your cloud-enabled cloud. You could also opt for something more old school, like a set-it-forget-it timer that connects to the spigot. 

    Dear Eden,

    What can grow in my backyard for maximum profit?

    A: I’d say build a network of pens and start raising long-tailed chinchillas, but who needs the hate mail from PETA, right? Anyway, I kid. I love all God’s creatures and I haven’t been able to wear fur since I saw how ridiculous that desiccated bobcat looks on Boris Johnson’s head. If we’re sticking with plants, I’d recommend bamboo, which hasn’t been in such demand and employed in so many interesting ways since the cast of Gilligan’s Island used it to whip up everything from a chaise lounge to a washing machine to a taxi. According to profitableplants.com (seriously!), a potted bamboo can fetch $150. That can buy a lot of pots—and a fair amount of pot, too—which is a good idea since bamboo is technically a grass and it can become invasive if grown in-ground. It does, however, come in clumping varieties, as well as strains that can withstand the cold, grow more than a foot a day and rise 50 feet or more. Of course, if you’re looking to monetize the backyard, there is another option: Pack it with solar panels and use the extra energy to mine Bitcoin, or Dogecoin, or whatever kind of e-change is sloshing around the drink holder in Elon Musk’s spaceship.

    —Eden

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