The Joy of Tabletop Mushrooms (Yum!)
I Made That!
Several years ago for my birthday, my husband took us to a Mother Earth News conference in Pennsylvania. So that we could attend more seminars and share what we learned with each other, we split up.
I went to a session about strengthening the soil; he went to one on winter veggies. I went to a session on bio char; he went to one on living off grid, and so on.
The last workshop I attended was on beekeeping. He went to one on growing mushrooms.
How to Grow Mushrooms Outdoors on Logs
Have you ever grown your own mushrooms?
On the way home, we talked about what we'd learned and what we'd like to try. According to him, growing mushrooms on stumps in a shady part of the yard would be a snap— as simple as clearing an area, finding suitable stumps and ordering the spawn.
"Great," I said, "let's do it." But somehow we never did it.
Mycleium is the vegetative body of the mushroom. It's comprised of small, branch-like filaments called hyphae.
So this past September when I saw mushroom growing kits from Sharondale Mushroom Farm at the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival, I picked one up.
"It's not a grove of mushroom stumps," I thought, "but it's a start." Baby steps, you know.
Home again, I placed the little burlap bag of sawdust and mushroom mycleium on the bar in the kitchen. And there it sat.
The Mushroom Kit Starts Without Me
It sat there through October. (I was busy teaching— so many essays!)
It sat there through November. (Still more essays. And Thanksgiving— lots of cooking, so much traveling!)
It sat there through December. (This time I was swamped with end-of-term tasks: scoring revisions and finals and double-checking final grades— and a project report, too. And then more traveling.)
When we returned home after Christmas, I gave the house a good cleaning and noticed something odd about the burlap bag on the counter top. It had sprouted mushrooms! Without me.
How had that happened?
Life, uh, finds a way.— Ian Malcom (played by Jeff Goldblum), Jurassic Park
Apparently, I had placed the bag within the sink's splash zone, and the mycleium in the bag had sprouted.
I was delighted. If the kit produced mushrooms with so little care, just think much it would produce if I paid attention.
Quickly then, after so many months of neglect, I read the directions and followed them, cutting across the mushroom cluster stamped on the burlap bag with a sharp knife then placing the bag in a bowl of shallow water. It was that simple.
Two days later, the mushrooms that had begun growing from the tied off end of the bag were enormous. I harvested them and added them to the chicken and barley soup I was making that day.
In the meantime, I added a little water to the bowl every morning when I made coffee.
The next batch was ready to harvest less than a week later.
Like the other mushrooms, they'd erupted from the gathered end of the bag.
Cooking the Harvest
This time, I decided to do something special with them.
I found several interesting recipes in a wonderful online cookbook by Louise Freedman called Wild about Mushrooms: The Mycological Society of San Francisco Cookbook.
The cookbook has four parts, each comprised of numerous chapters. Recipes are accompanied by informative essays written in an elegant style.
I keyed in on the part titled "A Cook's Encyclopedia of Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms" and found a chapter on the mushrooms in our kit, oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus.
How Much Do You Know about Oyster Mushrooms?view quiz statistics
The recipe for Mock Abolone sounded good to me. It involves coating mushroom pieces in seasoned flour then sauteing them in olive oil and butter.
To make the dredging easy and mess-free, Freedman suggests placing the flour, spices and mushrooms in a paper bag and shaking it.
I altered Freedman's recipe a bit for our tastes, adding an extra clove of minced garlic, and subbing oregano for marjoram and hot Hungarian paprika for regular paprika.
As I cleaned the mushrooms for the saute, removing sawdust particles and burlap threads, I noticed how incredibly, unbelievably beautiful they are— their curled edges and pleated gills; their tender interior canals, so subtle in color. How soft to the touch yet firm they are.
After admiring them a while, I chopped them into small pieces for the saute.
Even then they were beautiful.
More Mushrooms in Sight
The Mock Abolone was delicious.
Freedman suggests serving it with either lemon wedges or soy sauce. We used both, squeezing lemon over the crispy mushroom bits and then dipping them in low-sodium soy sauce.
I can't wait to try another recipe from Wild about Mushrooms. At the rate our kit is producing, that will probably be next week.
Vlogger Gavin Webber's Mushroom Kit Experience
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© 2018 Jill Spencer