Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Our Blog has Moved!

Hello followers. Our blog has officially moved to our website! Visit www.fieldforest.net for the latest and greatest information on mushroom growing. Click the direct link here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Spiced Wine Caps (and a side of Pork Chops)

by Mary Ellen Kozak

Just two of these clusters is all you need for this recipe!

Wine Cap Mushrooms are one of the milder flavored mushrooms you can grow, but the crunchy texture and adorable red button caps add to the charm and flavor-likeness of sweet peas and asparagus.

Normally, you would look for clean, simple recipes with bright flavors to bring out the culinary characteristics of this mushroom. If you are looking at this blog right now though, you may be already looking for other ways to use this mushroom because when the crop is on, the baskets fill up fast!

This recipe is unusually spiced. Where many side dish recipes for mushrooms include butter, cream, sherry, and thyme or tarragon, this recipe opens the spice cabinet to cardamom, mint, nutmeg and anise. After cooking, freeze it in cupfuls to herald the traditional flavors of fall, but leave some out to dress up a summer cooked pork chop. The flavors deepen as it sits, so don't be in a hurry to use it the minute you make it.

This recipe is adapted from naturalist Steve Brill's website, Wildmanstevebrill.com, who had the misfortune of being arrested for eating a dandelion in Central Park back in the '80's. The publicity for the arrest did not necessarily bring us his mushroom recipes, but it's still a good story :)

Buttons are best for this recipe, but since the finished dish is dark in color, mature mushrooms work just fine.

Spiced Wine Caps (and Pork Chops)

4 c. sliced Wine Cap mushrooms (include the sliced tender stems, if applicable)
2 tsp. oil
1 T. chopped mint leaves
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cardamon
½ tsp. ground anise seed
½ tsp. coarse salt (or more to taste)
1-2 T. red wine or sherry

2 pork chops
Sour cream

Mushrooms: Heat the oil in a sauté pan, add the mushrooms, salt and spices.

Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and have released any liquid. Continue cooking until pan is nearly dry, then add the wine. You may want to add a little extra wine if the mushrooms are sticking to the pan.

Continue cooking, stirring often, until the liquid is nearly gone. Remove from heat.

Pork Chops: The pork chops can be grilled or pan fried. To pan fry, melt a combination of butter and oil and pan fry over a medium high heat, both sides, about 10-15 minutes total. Plate and serve with a topping of spiced mushrooms and a dollop of sour cream. Add a side of corn meal muffins for a German/American twist.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I'm Telling You My Dear, That It Can't Happen Here

By Joe Krawczyk

DO wear protective gear when harvesting mushroom logs!

The new planting season is always a time of reflection of the year gone by. We tend to hurry through life often forgetting how short and precious it is. I count my blessings every day for another day and another opportunity to hopefully make someone laugh and leave the world a better place.

I was a child of the 70’s. It was a turbulent time in this country with an unpopular war, riots in the streets and rampant drug use. It was also a time of personal expression. I can remember my first pair of bell bottom jeans and the grief I took from my friends for wearing them along with my stars and stripes tee shirt. Music was a big part of my life and one of the artists I followed was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Zappa was very counterculture at the time and I really enjoyed the diversity of his music and his often outrageous lyrics. The title for this blog are lyrics from one of his earlier works and it pretty well sums up an experience I recently had.

I was tasked with the job of gathering some red maple rounds for an inoculation trial we were setting up and along with that, gathering the limbwood for a wood aging trial. I scoped out the trees I wanted to cut, sharpened the saw and put my safety gear on, which consisted of a set of chaps, a hard hat with ear protection and face screen, and sunglasses to reduce the glare.

I love woods working. I refer to it as my Woodland Workout Clinic since cutting wood uses every muscle group as well as your brain. I enjoy cutting down trees as I know the wood will be put to a good use and the trees I remove will release other trees in the vicinity, insuring the health and vigor of the forest. I particularly like removing red maple (Acer rubrum) as it is a native invasive species on our property and removing it releases the understory oaks from its smothering shade.

The maples I had chosen for removal were tall and straight. With a good back cut, I figured I could drop them where they needed to go without hanging them up in adjacent trees (yeah, right). Trees one and two fell as planned, but tree three landed a little too far to the right and the top wound up resting in the crotch of a multiple stem maple, about five feet off the ground. I figured it could have been worse, since there would be no need to get the tractor and chains to pull it free so I proceeded to process the first two trees.

There are always warning signs of an inevitable disaster, but sometimes the warning signs are very subtle and overlooked or if you're tired and neglect to take a break. That ever so slight pinch on the blade as I worked to the top of tree three should have been enough for me to step away and reassess the situation but afterall, it was only a slight pinch.

This veteran wood cutter got a lucky reality check

The next cut knocked me backwards and I recall thinking, “What the hell was that, a gunshot? As I fell over backwards the saw dropped off to my side and kept running. I recall getting up wondering “Did I just get knocked out? What the hey just happened and why was someone shooting at me?” I got up slowly and felt my nose (not broken!) and checked my teeth (all there!) and then I got that bloody taste in my mouth and felt the trickle down my face. I then knew I had an immediate issue to deal with. Of course I was working alone. I turned off the saw, walked the 100 or so feet through the brush to the truck and drove it to an area where I could turn it around and headed home. As luck would have it, Mary Ellen was in the yard as I was exiting the truck, and quickly realized all was not well. I assured her that my nose wasn’t broken and I still had all of my teeth. She checked to see if I was concussed and when she confirmed the symptoms with her M.D. sister, it was off to the emergency room where things got stranger.

We live in what is called an under-served area. No high speed internet, lack of public wifi, no Starbucks (well, until recently), and a medical corps that rotates through our local hospital emergency room on a three-month stint because of their unwillingness to settle in this "remote" location. As it turned out, the emergency room doctor was not from these parts and was unfamiliar with logging accidents. Blood was drawn, pain relievers were administered and after an hour or two of waiting he came in with this assessment: I was lying. I did not have a logging accident. I was cutting wood, but had a heart attack and hit my head on a stump. Hmmm. I guess getting smacked across the face with a four-inch red maple pole might do that, but he was not convinced, and my hospital stay was extended.

Happy for a relatively minor hospital visit

As you can imagine, this diagnosis set off a whole series of stress tests and imaging. As it turns out, I am just an average Joe with an average heart condition that’s to be expected for a guy my age, and for that I am thankful. I am also thankful, despite what to me seemed like overkill, for the work and professionalism of the medical staff that attended to me. Lastly, I am thankful I took that extra moment to put on all of my safety gear: chaps, vest and helmet. Just remember I’m telling you my dears, that it CAN happen here and when you least expect it. So step back and assess not only that last cut, but also the importance of all the experiences that life throws at you.


Above all, slow down and take your time and enjoy working in the woods!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tips for Handling Mushroom Logs after Cutting

By Lindsey Bender

Growing Shiitake mushrooms on logs is a rewarding experience. Anyone harvesting their first flush of Shiitake in the spring will agree, (especially outdoors-deprived northerners after a long, cold winter 😊)  If you are planning on inoculating logs this spring, the following tips can help answer some questions you may have, plus, we share our newest research results concerning cutting and aging wood for shiitake logs. It's never too early to be thinking about mushroom wood!

  • Start with the best quality logs whenever possible. Most experienced growers know that the quality of the fresh cut log is crucial to spawn run success and mushroom yield, and it starts with the log as it is cut from the tree. We all know the importance of cutting healthy, living wood. If you are cutting softer hardwoods such as Silver or Red Maple, select stems that have thicker, rougher bark.

Thicker bark (left of center) Red Maple is preferable to thin bark (right of center).
  • Use best practices for storing the logs prior to inoculation. It turns out that certain wood species, due to their cell structure and bark characteristics, may prefer a longer seasoning time prior to inoculation (read next item below for more details). The longer "seasoning time" can positively influence overall mushroom yield.
  • Wood should "season" at least 2 weeks before planting; longer for some wood species. Historically, the rule of the thumb has been "fresh is best," when it comes to deciding how long logs can sit after cutting before inoculation. Why? These very fresh logs are free of contamination because the living tree was warding off invasion of weed fungi. Fresh cut logs have abundant moisture, but must start to loose some of the free water before inoculation. Allowing logs too little time to season can result in a lag time in spawn run after inoculation. Spawn must wait for the log to start drying so the log can be hospitable to fungal growth. Trees have differing moisture contents by species, age and environment, but across the board it is moisture loss, the key factor in determining if wood is inoculation-ready, that suggests that the logs cure for AT LEAST 2 WEEKS prior to inoculation. This time allows for the free moisture in the log to be released but holds in the bound moisture, necessary for Shiitake growth.   

Log with sprout (center of the stack) suggests lack of cure time prior to inoculation -
notice lag in spawn run (no white mycelium on log end).
  • A 2 week cure period may not be long enough for some logs – especially in Red Maple (and probably most other maples). Over the years we've followed the 2 week resting rule across the board in our harvested logs, regardless of wood type, but noticed remarkable yield difference in Red Maple logs rested for 2 weeks compared to several months of rest. We decided to take a closer look, and to see if the same trend was also true for Sugar Maple, a related species.

Cure Red Maple a few months prior to inoculation, even if the bark is thinner than you would like.
  • The longest rest time in both the Sugar Maple and Red Maple in our study resulted in the highest yielding shiitake logs. In 2016/2017 we harvested Sugar Maple logs which were divided into two groups, one inoculated 1 month after cutting, and the other 6 months after cutting. Similarly, Red Maple logs were divided into two groups and were inoculated either 1 month or 5 months after cutting. All logs were incubated together under the same conditions then force fruited the following year to collect Shiitake yield information. Logs with the longest rest time prior to inoculation in both the Sugar Maple and the Red Maple proved to be the highest yielding Shiitake logs. Based on the results of this study, longer rest times for Red and Sugar Maple logs can increase spawn run success and overall Shiitake mushroom yields. Keep in mind that this study was conducted in northern Wisconsin where temperatures are cold and logs are covered in snow during seasoning. Logs cut in the south will dry faster and season quicker, so the 5 month time will likely be too long for those areas. 

  • Protect your logs if you wait to inoculate. There are caveats to longer rest times. Below is a list of risks and how to manage them: 
  • Losing log moisture Store your logs properly in the shade, out of the sun and the wind to reduce this risk. Especially with thin barked trees like Red Maple, take care to minimize moisture loss over a longer storage period. Felling and leaving the tree whole and cutting it up just prior to inoculation is a good strategy for long months of curing, especially in snowy areas. Stacking logs on a buildings' north side also helps. You may dead stack them and cover them loosely with a breathable cloth to allow penetration of rain and snow. Before inoculating, check the ends of the logs for cracks. Small cracks are okay. If the cracks are wider than the width of a dime, then soak your logs in water for 12-24 hours prior to inoculation. 

Logs awaiting inoculation are dead stacked on limb wood rails to minimize soil contact.
  • Contamination: If logs are cut into lengths prior to curing, store them off the ground, elevated slightly by rails or a pallet to avoid soil contact. Avoid consistently wet bark by tarping logs as they rest if you have weeks of continuous rainy weather. 

We wish you a spring season with mushroom-loaded Shiitake logs!


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Chestnut and Artichoke Galette

This rustic galette is an easy mushroom tart that shows just enough of the beautiful Chestnut mushrooms to hold intrigue and promise. Great as an hors d’ oeuvres cut into small wedges or as a main dish served with soup or salad.

Pastry dough:
2 ¾ C flour
½ lb. chilled butter
1 ½ t sugar
1 ½ t salt
1 egg
¾ C milk
1 egg beaten for egg wash on pastry
Pulse ingredients in a food processor or use pastry cutter to make a fine meal. Beat the eggs with milk and pulse or mix in to lightly moisten the flour butter mixture. Form into two disks.
2 large onions, chopped
2 T oil
¼ t dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. Chestnut mushrooms
1 lb. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and quartered 
1 C black, pitted Kalamata olives or similar
¼ C parsley
1 T lemon zest
3/4 t salt
1 C ricotta
½ C crumbled feta to sprinkle on top)

Sauté onions in oil until tender. Add mushrooms, stir and cover pan, continue stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and artichokes, sauté together until tender for 10 minutes. Add olives, lemon, zest and parsley.

Roll out pastry dough. Brush with egg. Smooth 1 cup of the ricotta cheese over the bottom, leaving a 3 inch border. Layer the filling on the top and dot with crumbled feta. Fold up the edges and seal pleats with egg wash. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes or until browned.

Makes 2 galettes, serving 12 as an appetizer

Monday, December 10, 2018

Roasting Chestnut Mushrooms Over the Open Fryer

by Mary Ellen Kozak
Chestnuts ready for harvest and roasting!
As a transplant from Michigan to Eastern Wisconsin, I learned quickly that the big, wet, living ditch of Lake Michigan changes more than just interstate traffic patterns. There are also dialect differences. A drinking fountain here is called a bubbler. A pop is soda,  and a grill is a fryer. A fryer is something you use all year, rain, snow or mosquitoes, and it resides just outside your back door for the easiest access.

A culinary feature of the Chestnut mushroom is that it can be grilled en-masse. The grilling of large, individual portabellas and shiitake is standard cooking procedure, but the relatively miniature Chestnut mushrooms cook in large handfuls, like enoki mushrooms or asparagus.  A preheated cast iron pan or grill pan  is a great cooking surface because the mushroom size is generally small and can cook to perfection without stewing them as will happen in a pan that is too small and too cold. Toss the mushrooms (including the long, crunchy stem) in a bit of oil or melt some butter in a pan and throw the mushrooms into the pan on the fryer. Stir. When they are crisped to your liking, sprinkle with salt and serve. 

One last comment about the Chestnut Mushroom. It is possibly the most beautiful mushroom you will ever grow indoors. Grow your own with one of our Table Top Farms.

Welcome winter with all the wonder that mushrooms bring. Happy Holidays!


Friday, November 23, 2018

Making Mushroom Tincture: A Joyful Process

by Laura Kahles

Watching a mushroom grow from a tiny pin into a brilliant fruiting body is a process that most people will never experience. The fungi that inhabit this world are often overlooked and taken for granted. If you are reading this you are most likely part of the small percentage of people that have watched a mushroom bloom into beauty just like me.

After harvesting, many experiences can come from a mushroom. Perhaps it is being packaged and sold wholesale, put into a till and sold directly to an eager customer, sauteed, roasted or grilled and enjoyed by you and your family, brewed into a delightful tea or even tinctured: an exciting transformation all on its own! Whatever it may be, take joy in the little things that mushrooms can offer.

Tincturing has become one of my favorite experiences with mushrooms. It is a process that requires patience, but limited skill. Tincturing is not a difficult process and the result is worth the wait. Mushrooms, when combined with alcohol, release vibrantly warm colors, each day darkening. Watching the color flow brings delight to the maker (that's me). On average the whole process takes about six weeks, even longer if you are growing your own mushrooms (which, by the way, makes the process even more satisfying).

Tincture making on a small scale is perfect for the beginner.

Why tincture? Tincturing is the best way to extract the medicinal properties that mushroom provide. Here at Field and Forest Products, we are tincturing Chaga, Reishi, and Lion's Mane as well as a blend call Fusion. Chaga is an excellent source of Antioxidants, while Reishi is know for its immune system boosting ability. Lion's Mane can increase memory function through nerve regeneration. Click here for more on Lion's Mane. Our Fusion blend contains 7 highly medicinal mushrooms including Chaga, Reishi, Lion's Mane, Maitake, Shiitake, Almond Agaricus, and Turkey Tail. The greatest part...we are now offering these tincture for sale though our website while supplies last.

Reishi Tincture from Field & Forest Products
If you are interested in learning more about making your own tincture read my blog on Reishi tincture. This same technique can be used for any mushroom. With a little patience you could be enjoying the benefits of this world's wonderful mushrooms.