November 18, 2023

Eating galls... For science - November 2023

Gall 1: Rhopalomyia santolinae on Santolina rosmarinifolia
Date: November 11
Taste: Resembling parsley (Petroselinum spp.), maybe. Fresh, humid, and leafy.
Texture: Fibrous, soft, maybe as much as the leaves.
Smell: None noticed.

Unremarkable galls:
Iteomyia major on Salix ?cinerea
Barely any taste, only mildly leafy. The galls are much more woody than I expected, they are as hard to bite into as peanuts.

Posted on November 18, 2023 08:34 PM by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 06, 2023

Eating galls... For science - September & October 2023

Only two galls this time, most are too woody by now for good results. I also found a gall on stinging nettle! But I don't want to take that much of a risk.

Gall 1: Baizongia pistaciae on Pistacia terebinthus.
Date: September 24
Taste: Bitter, leafy and unpleasant. Mildly numbing.
Texture: Fresh galls are often laced with some sticky substance. I don't suppose it's honeydew though. The wall tissue is as tough as mango peel, and guess what;
Smell: Oddly similar to unripe mango, not enough to make it taste like one though.
Notes: These are often filled to the brim with aphids... So I'm always careful to not eat any frass because it's yucky.

Unremarkable galls:
Aceria monspessulani: Just like other mite galls, it's just modified trichomes and a bump on the dorsum. Dry, woody texture and taste.

Posted on November 06, 2023 08:33 PM by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 06, 2023

Eating galls... For science - July 2023

Gall 1: Andricus foecundatrix on Quercus pyrenaica.
Date: July 26
Taste: Leaf-like, somewhat resembling bitter lettuce or dandelion leaves.
Texture: As tough as leaves, slightly crunchy. The "leaves" contain a watery liquid.
Smell: None noticed.
Notes: It does feel like eating an artichoke, but it does not really taste like one. Maybe I should try raw artichoke and see if it is more similar.

Gall 2: Cynips divisa on Quercus pyrenaica
Date: July 26
Taste: Very similar to the taste of a grape, just less sweet. I'm certain that if someone unaware that it is a gall tried one, they would think it is a grape. Unfortunately I did not test this. Could also be compared to fleshy Prunus fruits, such as plums.
Texture: Also comparable to grapes, the skin as well as the fleshy inside.
Smell: None noticed but might smell of grapes in larger quantities or if it was crushed.
Notes: Another one that isn't disgusting but in fact tasty and "edible".

Gall 3: Wachtliella ericina on Erica arborea (Not the ones on the observation below)
Date: July 30
Taste: Also bitter and leaf-like, close to dandelion leaves/bitter lettuce.
Texture: Leaf-like, but tough enough that it has to be chewed.
Notes: The gall is made up of many layers of "leaves" that can be easily peeled off, and they are held together by some sort of silk(?), perhaps produced by the larva.

Unremarkable galls:
Andricus curvator on Quercus pyrenaica: This might have been an old gall but the fresher ones I've seen aren't too different. Woody and dry texture and taste.
Diplolepis eglanteriae on Rosa sp.: Barely has any taste, just wood-like. The outside is brittle and the inside is not too fleshy, it is just a cavity where the larva sits.
Diplolepis rosae on Rosa sp.: Too hairy, and these hairs are unremarkable in taste, just somewhat leaf-like. The inner gall might have not been developed enough, nonetheless it might have a dry woody taste.

Posted on August 06, 2023 09:02 PM by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 10, 2023

Eating galls... For science - July 2023

Gall 1: Andricus kollari on Quercus robur.
Date: July 10
Taste: Quite interesting. The "peel" is tasteless, while the fleshy inside is bitter, numbing, and has a slightly sour, unripe redcurrant aftertaste (like Plagiotrochus quercusilicis galls, see April 2023 entry). It can even be somewhat sugary towards the core.
Texture: Fresh gall, not woody yet. Peel is slightly tougher than apple peel. The fleshy part can be brittle and dusty (same as old galls), but since this is a fresh gall it is more fibrous, comparable to wood pulp. Also contains a watery liquid of sorts.
Smell: Also similar to redcurrant. Barely noticeable.
Notes: It was fun to find this gall, as it is relevant for two of my projects (This project, and https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/galls-miners-and-other-diseases-on-cultivated-introduced-plants). What wasn't fun was the 36 C weather, but it seems that Q. robur trees, and gall wasps too, are making do.

Posted on July 10, 2023 07:15 PM by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 21, 2023

Eating galls... For science - April-June 2023

It's been quite a while since I've written an entry... sigh, too many exams. Nonetheless I haven't stopped my experiments! Unfortunately I don't always take notes or I'm too distracted to write on my iNat journal.

Gall 1: Andricus quercusramuli on Quercus faginea.
Date: April 17-28
Taste: Either the catkin or the chambers are slightly lemon-like, while the "wool" is tasteless. Doesn't change significantly through time (early galls have white and pink wool, as they get old they turn brown and become compacted).
Texture: Soft, it's pretty much a catkin. The wooly part is well, wooly and annoying.
Smell: None noticed
Notes: I would call this gall "convoluted" as it's hard to know what's part of the catkin and what is a vacated chamber (not too obvious on the galls I observed) while tasting it, not to mention that these two are hidden among the wool. Unrelated but I reared a few adults since there's not many photographs of the adult wasps on the internet. They seem to develop rather fast as they emerged about a week after I collected the galls, and didn't need much assistance other than keeping the container humid.

Gall 2: Stenacis triradiata on Salix sp.
Date: May 24
Taste: Comparable to lettuce or dandelion leaves... Or maybe it just tastes like willow stem.
Texture: Stem-like. Fleshier than the leaves.
Smell: Same as the plant itself.
Notes: Interesting gall, more of a "witches' broom". Reading about it seems like it isn't clear whether it is caused by mites or by a mycoplasma. Either way the gall seems very primitive- there's no chambers nor it is a "purse".

Gall 3: Oligotrophus panteli on Juniperus communis
Date: June 7
Taste: Like any leaf would taste, but slightly minty.
Texture: Almost woody, but still flexible and fleshy like regular leaves.
Smell: Same as the plant itself. Aromatic and pleasant.
Notes: See the entry for October 2023, it's pretty much the same as similar galls on J. communis.

Gall 4: Plagiotrochus quercusilicis on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: June 7
Taste: Has that same vague unripe redcurrant taste, only slightly more sour this time. Also felt some numbing on my tongue.
Texture: Berry-like. Harder than "unripe" (red) galls.
Smell: Also similar to berries. Barely noticeable.
Notes: Compared to red, mature galls, this one is not as interesting. By this time of the year I would have expected it to be red, so maybe this gall in particular never formed properly. Again, there doesn't seem to be a strong difference between Q. coccifera galls and Q. rotundifolia galls. But the latter could benefit from having more/stronger numbing chemicals, would be fun to read into it if I can find any info.

Posted on June 21, 2023 11:21 PM by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 5 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 16, 2023

Eating galls... For science - April 2023 (Happy gall week!)

It's gall week! Which means that specially now I should get back to business. I haven't found many new galls, only Plagiotrochus quercusilicis for now. Fortunately it was a very surprising one, keep reading to find out. I'll see if I can go for a short walk on Wednesday, and am planning on finding some Quercus pyrenaica or Q. faginea trees this weekend. I'll also be exploring my university's arboretum for galls and miners. unfortunately I wasn't able to find this Andricus gall again.

Gall 1: Contarinia ilicis on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: April 15
Taste: Virtually none, like licking wood again. Maybe too small and dry to be able to detect anything.
Texture: Slightly woody, seems to have a "lid" that breaks off more easily than the base of the "pyramid".
Smell: None noticed.
Notes: Another unremarkable one, but I didn't expect much from this one.

Gall 2: Plagiotrochus quercusilicis on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: April 12 (Flower gall), April 15 (Leaf gall)
Taste: One of the most unique ones so far, it actually tasted like something this time. There isn't any appreciable difference between the leaf gall and the flower gall, unless you eat the flowers as well. The taste is oddly familiar but can't quite pin it down, closest thing I can think is of unripe redcurrant (Ribes rubrum) berries, or whatever is known as "grosella" in Colombia; slightly sour at first, then it just tastes like generic unripe berry flesh. My friend @katane222 described it as similar to small blackberries that you can find on Rubus shrubs in the autumn.
Texture: Perhaps as hard to bite into as a cherry. It isn't as hard on the outside as other galls. The inside is very fleshy, and has some sort of watery liquid.
Smell: Also similar to berries. Barely noticeable.
Notes: Probably the most noteworthy one so far. At the very least it is edible and doesn't taste terrible.

Gall 3: Aceria ilicis on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: April 15
Taste: I would say it has no taste at all.
Texture: This is a very primitive gall, just darkened trichomes on the underside of the leaf that are denser than usual and sometimes a bulge dorsally where the modified trichomes are. The trichome part is hairy, in a way it resembles the backside of leather, while the bulge has no taste (same as the leaf).
Smell: None, unless Quercus rotundifolia leaves have any particular smell. Could be very faint.
Notes: This one I couldn't decide how to taste it. Biting into it doesn't have much result, so it's best to directly lick the modified trichomes. Luckily no one was watching because it looks very weird.

Gall 3: Dryomyia lichtensteinii on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: April 15
Taste: Once again, dry and unremarkable, in fact it numbs your taste buds, probably some chemical defence against herbivores.
Texture: Somewhat hard, but can be easily broken down by chewing. Reminded me of peanuts.
Smell: None noticed.
Notes: Maybe the third time I've tasted this one, this time it did felt like I got proper results.

Posted on April 16, 2023 09:39 PM by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 21, 2022

Eating galls... For science - December 2022

Well, after a lengthy period of not finding any galls, days with an insane amount of rain, and being too busy studying to go out, looks like thanks to my university's arboretum I can return to business as usual! I'll keep it simple and come back to this later since I'm supposed to be studying for the last exam before holidays break, but my curiosity was itching. I'll try to take a walk tomorrow and see what I can find.

Gall 1: (Presumably) Dryomyia cocciferae on Quercus coccifera
Date: December 21
Taste: Virtually none. As this is an sclerophyllous oak, its leaves are coriaceous and rigid, and despite the lots of rain we had recently, the leaf has barely any fluids that would give it, at the very least, the usual "plant" flavour. I guess "Let no water leave" also means "No water can go in".
Texture: Slightly more fleshy than the leaf, but still as firm.
Smell: None noticed.
Notes: Those who are familiar with Q. coccifera know just how sharp and rigid the spines can be (I've even bled from handling it to photograph a mine). And of course it's a bad idea to put in your mouth, but that's not enough to stop me... In reality what I did was rip it through the midrib so I could avoid the spikes. I feel bad that ruminants can't do the same.

Gall 2: Aploneura lentisci on Pistacia lentiscus
Date: December 21
Taste: Two kinds of taste on this one: One is hard to describe, bitter but not too strongly, if anything it makes your taste buds numb in a way. The other one; clearly more bitter, and unfortunately disgusting... to the point that I had this weird reflex that caused me to produce saliva and spit it out involuntarily. Appears to be caused by frass again.
Texture: Like a thick peel, but becoming mildly spongy and fleshier towards the thicker part of the gall.
Smell: Fragrant, can't think of anything to compare it with but probably has a similar smell to leaves used for aroma/taste in cooking. Pleasant but probably wouldn't make a good freshener. Persistent (The smell stays on my fingers after handling).
Notes: Inquilines include a springtail and a very small psyllid nymph. Not relevant to this, but thought I'd mention it; Since different frasses (frassi?) probably have different flavors. Not something I want to find out though...

Gall 3: (Presumably) Adelges abietis on Picea abies
Date: December 26
Taste: Uncharacteristic at first, just like other woody galls, with the exception that if often has leaves growing from it, which are mildly minty and don't taste as bland as the woody part. The spongy tissue inside is also minty but in a different way, slightly cinnamon-like.
Texture: Woody, the inside somewhat more spongy but also hardened to the point of resembling wood.
Smell: Same as the spruce itself. Probably more noticeable when the gall is still soft and fresh.
Notes: Interestingly, despite the pine cone appearance, this gall is created by a distortion of the leaves, which may explain the minty flavor.

Posted on December 21, 2022 11:19 PM by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 30, 2022

Eating galls... For science - October 2022

Gall 1: Andricus quercustozae on Quercus faginea
Date: October 7
Taste: Unremarkable, dry. Basically tastes like wood.
Texture: The outside is too hard to bite. The inside is woody, spongy to the touch but more like sawdust when bitten into because it is very brittle.
Smell: Woody, mildly pleasant.
Notes: Not the one featured on the observation, though it was too beautiful and remarkably large. This time of the year this gall hardens and becomes more wood-like. Most already had exit holes and showed no evidence of inquilines/parasites. I am not familiar with the young gall but I assume it is softer and more spongy.

Gall 2: Dryomyia lichtensteinii on Quercus rotundifolia
Date: October 7
Taste: Unremarkable, dry. Despite being part of the leaf it doesn't have any noticeable taste. These trees receive plenty of sunlight and heat so there's not much water/sap in the leaves.
Texture: Somewhat hard, but can be easily broken down by chewing. Reminded me of peanuts.
Smell: None noticed.
Notes: Exit holes present.

Gall 3: Unknown gall (Presumably sawfly?) on Salix sp.
Date: October 7
Taste: Unremarkable at first. Vaguely bitter after chewing. There is a possibility that frass (black "dust") is the cause of the bitter taste.
Texture: Not as hard as the Dryomyia lichtensteinii gall, but not too soft either, probably as hard as unripe berries.
Smell: None noticed
Notes: No larva/pupa present.

Gall 4: Oligotrophus sp. on Juniperus communis
Date: October 7
Taste: Like any leaf would taste, but slightly minty.
Texture: Depending on how developed the gall is, it can be woody, or have the same texture as Juniperus leaves; firm and fleshy.
Smell: Same as the plant itself. Aromatic and pleasant.
Notes: Juniperus spp. can cause diarrhea and nausea if consumed, but eating just one leaf is unlikely to have any effect. This gall is usually made up of 4 hardened leaves that gradually close and form a protective shell for one or two sets of leaves that curl up in spoon fashion and form a chamber for the larva. The gall probably falls off when ready, as I observed that Oligotrophus spp. galls on Juniperus spp. easily fall off when disturbed. Presumably for it be buried under litter (Pine needles and the such).

Posted on October 30, 2022 01:28 PM by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 4 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

Eating galls... For science

Since late 2020 I had a thought on my mind that some galls look strangely appetizing. I also was surprised that in thousands of years of human history, there are very few instances of galls being used as food other than in very specific places or cultures (and there must be a good reason for it). Wikipedia does mention that stem swelling induced by Ustilago esculenta, a type of smut fungus on Zizania latifolia is edible, and highly valued in China. However I will be focusing on arthropod galls because they are more common and arthropods are my field of interest. I also found some useful info about galls on Salvia spp. that are traditionally eaten in Greece and the Middle East. Might have to travel to one of those places!

So, I figured I should eat as many galls as I can, annotate their taste, texture, and observations, and hopefully not get sick on the process. I won't eat the arthropod if I can help it.

I also had the idea of recording myself collecting the gall, eating it and then describing it. But I keep forgetting. So far most galls are unremarkable but I have tried very few because I rarely I remember to taste them. So irresponsible!

Posted on October 30, 2022 12:26 PM by juan_sphex juan_sphex | 2 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

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