The Joy of Tabletop Mushrooms (Yum!)

Updated on January 27, 2018
The Dirt Farmer profile image

Jill volunteers at community gardens & learns about gardening through the MD Master Gardening Program & MD Master Naturalist Program.

I Made That!

Sauteed brown oyster mushrooms, fresh from the kitchen counter.
Sauteed brown oyster mushrooms, fresh from the kitchen counter. | Source

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.

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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.

And sat.

And 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?

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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.

To me, garlic is like chocolate. A little bit more never hurts.
To me, garlic is like chocolate. A little bit more never hurts. | Source

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

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jill Spencer


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      • The Dirt Farmer profile image

        Jill Spencer 2 months ago from United States

        Nice to hear from you, Donna. Hope you're keeping well. I know you're crafting! (:

      • purl3agony profile image

        Donna Herron 2 months ago from USA

        Hi Jill - This mushroom kit looks really interesting and fun. I've never seen a mushroom kit, but I'll have to look for one. They look delicious and easy to grow!

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

        Your mushrooms do look beautiful! Sounds like they're easy to grow. Enjoy your harvest!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image

        Jill Spencer 2 months ago from United States

        Natalie, the kit really is cool. And you don't have to worry about whether there's enough light in the kitchen, which is usually the problem with growing herbs indoors in the winter. Thanks for taking the time to comment. (:

        Hi Linda. I wonder if garden centers sell them now? Probably. I'm amazed at how much this little burlap bag is producing-- easily enough for three or four as a side dish. Thanks for stopping by! Have a good one.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image

        Jill Spencer 2 months ago from United States

        Hi Virginia. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, my kit sure is working.

        Mary, the Mother Earth News conference was really great with lots of groups to attend. Wish I remembered more about biochar. I would have to look at my notes before I could have an intelligent conversation about it.

        Hey Larry, no fear! The kit is as safe as buying from the grocery store. lol

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 2 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        This sounds like a great way to grow edible mushrooms. I love the sound of the recipes, too. I'm going to look for a mushroom kit in my area now that I've read your article.

      • Natalie Frank profile image

        Natalie Frank 2 months ago from Chicago, IL

        What a great article. I love mushrooms but have always just gotten them from the store. I never thought to try growing them or to get too e,otoc on which ones I eat. Thanks for the info!I

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 2 months ago from Oklahoma

        Love mushrooms. To chicken to harvest them myself.

        Great read!

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

        Sadly the only mushrooms available where I live are in a jar. I love hearing about your experience.

        The quote you use from Jurassic Park, I use a lot here on our farm. Usually, it has to do with weeds though.

        I imagine your trip to the Mother Earth News conference was fascinating. Here on our little farm, we often feel lost as to the best way to go forward.

        I'd be interested to hear about your experience in the biochar session.

      • Allain Christmas profile image

        Virginia Allain 2 months ago from Central Florida

        I've thought about doing this, but saw some downer reviews of mushroom kits on Amazon. Your results are impressive.

        In the summer in NH, I see lots of mushrooms in the woods but am afraid to try them. Knowing the ones you grow are safe is a big plus.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile image

        Jill Spencer 2 months ago from United States

        Hi Peggy. I think I love it so much because it's winter, and it's the only harvest I'm getting as I didn't grow kale or turnips this year. Thanks for commenting! I hope you do get a kit. Have fun with it! Jill

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 2 months ago from Houston, Texas

        I absolutely love eating mushrooms and after reading this will definitely start growing my own from a kit such as this. Thanks for writing this article!