Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Have Yourself a Very Merry Cracker…with Mushroom Butter
Written by Mary Ellen

Delicious Shiitake Butter spread over water crackers.
One thing nice for the overwhelmed holidaymaker this time of year is that the average Christmas party is not a potluck. (although come to think of it, the FFP Christmas party was a potluck) But what cook among us can resist responding to the invitation with “Can I bring anything?” It’s not much of a guess that if your hosts know you are a mushroom grower, the answer will be “sure…. bring something mushroomey!” For those of us who grow our own Shiitake mushrooms, there is an easy fix to this extra task that will make us look as amazing as we deserve.

Enter the Mushroom Butter. Here is the perfect food for such occasions. It’s elegant, versatile and truly, above everything else, it is delicious. A dish of Shiitake Butter surrounded by expectant crackers makes a nice presentation and superior switch from the boring cheese and cracker. A 3-6 oz container slathered on a square of bread dough with an ample over-layer of grated Asiago cheese, rolled and baked, makes an elegant appetizer or dinner bread. Even a few tablespoons stirred into a lowly bowl of cooked frozen broccoli will transform the vegetable.

This dough has just been slathered with Shiitake Butter and Asiago cheese.
No one at F&FP complained while eating this mouthwatering homemade treat!

But first, to clarify; this mushroom butter is actually a compound butter, not mushrooms cooked down into a brown puddle of spreadable vegetable matter such as you might do with apples. This is a blend of cooked and seasoned, pureed mushrooms, blended with equal amounts of butter, but before you think of it as overly rich, remember that this is butter at half the calories and twice the taste, so it’s relatively healthy!

Here is the basic recipe for Shiitake Butter:

Ingredients:
Shiitake, stems removed, to weigh 1 lb.
2 Tbsp butter
1 small onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
About one and a half pounds of salted butter, softened


Method:
Tear up a pound of stemmed shiitake. You’ll be cooking these down and pureeing, so large pieces are okay.

With medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp butter in a medium skillet and add 1 small chopped onion, sauté until soft. Add mushroom pieces, stir around a bit and cover the pan. Every few minutes, check the pan and stir things around, keep the heat warm enough to cook the mushrooms but try to avoid browning the onions. Once the
mushrooms start to cook down and you see a liquid at the bottom of the pan (about 5-10 minutes) add the salt and sugar. Reduce the heat and keep stirring things around every few minutes until the cloudy liquid at the bottom of the pan starts to become clear. Remove the lid and add soy sauce and cook a few minutes more, then off the heat.

COOL the mixture (duxelles) until it reaches room temp. Stir things around in the pan as it sits to aid in even cooling. Once the mushrooms are only slightly warm to the touch, puree in a food processor until the mixture is a paste.

HERE is the secret to making an excellent shiitake butter: make sure everything, especially the ingredients and mixing bowl, is at room temperature for this final blending of mushroom puree and butter!

What is room temperature butter you may ask? If the Sami people of the far north have hundreds of words for snow, the pastry chef ought have the same amount of words for butter, but the best description might be “medium soft.” Ready a mixer with a whip attachment if you have it; otherwise regular beaters will do.

Measure out your puree and ready an equal amount of medium soft butter. The puree volume can vary depending on the raw mushrooms moisture content, but it should be around 3 cups.

Whip or beat the butter till fluffy, then stir in the puree, finally whipping it, until the butter and mushrooms are well blended. This is the secret to making a consistent, well blended butter. If components are too warm , you’ll end up with soup; too cool, you’ll end up with chunky butter.

This makes about 3 lb. Shiitake Butter. Transfer to individual deli containers or jars for gifting, or wrap in freezer paper. This recipe can be doubled with a standard 4 ½ qt mixing bowl.

Before you think that I’m overlooking the fact that many of you don’t grow mushrooms in the deep of winter, know that it can be made out of the frozen mushroom duxelles you have squirreled away in your freezer from your abundant fall harvests. Bring the duxelles to room temperature before pureeing. Butter made from these duxelles can be refrozen, though for optimal flavor should be used within a few months. Mushroom butter made from fresh mushrooms, however, double wrapped, can be frozen up to 8 months, so its nice to put up a supply when mushrooms are in full season.

This year my sister asked for a “log of mushroom butter” for Christmas, which could be a clever double entendre as many of us grow Shiitake mushrooms on wood logs. But of course she means a sausage shaped roll of Shiitake Butter wrapped in parchment that she can put in the freezer and whack off a chunk whenever she needs some. What a great Christmas present idea!

Have an amazing, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Operation Inoculation, Complete
Written by Laura

Over 500 newly inoculated logs are stored indoors at a temperature near 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The logs have been dead stacked and covered with cardboard to absorb any moisture released by the logs. Next they will be wrapped in plastic (see below).

Today we finished up our fall inoculation with the covering of our logs. I must admit it feels good putting a lid on the entire project. Lots of hard work went into getting our logs to their current state. With callused hands (for the newbys anyway) we can just sit back and be proud of what will one day become a bountiful mushroom harvest.

The whole process took us several days, spanning nearly two weeks. We still had to continue with the day to day runnings of the farm, so at times many of us would disappear from the ranks. Orders still had to be processed and packed. Spawn had to be made, and mushrooms picked. Luckily the hired temporary help were pretty reliable. A successful inoculation can easily be attained with good help, good music, and good coffee.

When Mary Ellen moves logs...Joe is sure to wear his safety glasses!
Joe uses a high speed angle grinder with adapter to get the logs drilled quickly.

As you can see...Jasen, Rachel, and Jeni take this job seriously. Laughing is absolutely not tolerated! Notice how Jeni is using our new Dual Tool and Rachel is using our traditional Palm Tool. What's nice is that the Dual Tool can be used with either the palm or thumb.

Brian, an elected helper, meticulously waxes each log, making sure no hole goes unfilled.


Our logs are now draped in plastic. This method insures adequate moisture content. 
This concludes our fall inoculation journey. Come spring, all of these logs will be moved out into our laying yard. We expect the first fruits of our labor sometime in mid-summer. We truly hope that our fall inoculation series of blog posts has taught you something you never knew before. Good luck to all of our Shiitake growers!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mushrooms and Wine
Written by Natalie


A pinot noir pairs nicely with Rachel's Shiitake and Cheese Tart.

The pairing of food with wine can be intimidating, especially when it comes to festive occasions or special events. Mushroom dishes can be particularly challenging, because both the type of mushroom and the preparation of the dish with its spices and sauces, play an integral part in determining which wines will complement them.

The basic concept of wine and food pairing comes down to determining which combinations complement or enhance the aromas and flavors of both the food and wine. Wine and food can complement or contrast each other, as long as they do not mask each other’s unique flavors and characteristics. Some general guidelines are:

* Sweet foods taste less sweet when paired with tannic wines.

* Salty foods emphasize the tannins in wine.

* Salty foods mask the sweetness while pronouncing the fruitiness of a wine.

* Salty or sweet foods will soften wines that are acidic.

* Acidic wines will have a cleansing mouth-feel with foods heavy in oils.

* Proteins soften harsh tannins, which is why red tannic wines work well with beef and game.

* Spicy foods often pair well with fruity, low-alcohol wines like riesling and gewurztraminer.

* Sweet foods generally go well with wine that is slightly sweeter.

* A wine high in tannins (like cabernet sauvignon) paired with a food high in tannins (spicy tomato sauce) will make the wine taste very dry and astringent.

Simply put, light white wines like sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, semillon, or chardonnay generally go well with delicate, light foods (light cream sauces, simple sautés and other lightly seasoned mushroom dishes). Heartier dishes involving red meat, wild game, or rich stews are usually best paired with fuller bodied red wines like pinot noir, nebbiolo, or cabernet sauvignon. Dishes that fall somewhere in between may pair well with a lighter red, like a beaujolais, or a fuller bodied chardonnay. You are trying to achieve balance: a good pairing is one where the food and wine do not overshadow each other.

Mushroom variety also plays a role in choosing a wine. Again, delicate varieties, like lobster, enoki, maitake, and oyster, are best served with lighter white wines, such as sauvignon blanc, semillon, riesling, a light chardonnay, or light, fruity reds, like beaujolais. Earthy, hearty mushrooms like shiitake, portabella, porcini and morel pair well with fuller bodied wines, like a barrel-aged chardonnay, pinot noir, nebbiolo, syrah, cabernet sauvignon or zinfandel.

It’s important to note that in creating or choosing dishes featuring mushrooms, the best advice is to look for simplicity. Less is more when it comes to drawing out and highlighting the flavors of the mushrooms. Keeping things simple can also make wine pairing easier, as there are fewer elements involved that may affect your choice. For example, sautéing mushrooms in a little butter or olive oil, with light seasonings and served over pasta is a great way to emphasize the flavors of mushrooms, and is easily paired with a pinot grigio or chardonnay.

There are times when your mushroom dish includes other ingredients that make pairing difficult at best (like artichokes or asparagus). If you are stumped with what might work with your menu, ask one your “local” wine experts (the wine purchaser at your local market, the sommelier or head waiter at your favorite restaurant, or your wine geek friends). They’re generally experienced in pairing and eager to provide recommendations (and maybe some recipes too!).

Keep in mind that there are many exceptions to the rule. Use the guidelines given in this post as merely a starting point. My best advice: drink what you like and don’t sweat the details (after all, wine should only give you a headache if you’ve overindulged, not before you’ve even decided what to drink). Half the enjoyment is in the experimenting: invite a group of friends together with a variety of dishes and wines to taste. You’ll soon discover your personal pairing style (complementing or contrasting), and have some favorite combinations of your own to share!

In closing, all of us at Field & Forest Products will raise our glasses this Thanksgiving Day to toast our families, friends and loyal customers who remind us how truly blessed and thankful we are.

Mushrooms with Sherry, Shallots, & Parsley

This recipe is a variation on a tapas bar classic in Spain. You can use an assortment of mushrooms in this dish (I prefer oyster and shiitake). It’s best served with slices of toasted or grilled crusty bread, and pairs nicely with a glass of crisp white wine or dry Spanish sherry. 

Ingredients
2 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil 
2 shallots, minced 
sea salt, to taste 
1 clove garlic, minced 
6 cups assorted mushrooms, stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces 
1/2 cup dry sherry (not cooking sherry!) 
juice of one lemon 
handful of parsley, 
roughly chopped freshly ground black pepper 
simple aioli sauce (see recipe below) 
sliced and toasted loaf of rustic, crusty bread for serving 

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and the shallots. Sprinkle with salt and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and stirring often, cook for one more minute. Toss in the mushrooms, sprinkle with a little more salt, and sauté for five more minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sherry. Return to high heat and cook (uncovered) until the liquid is gone. Add the lemon juice and parsley and sauté one minute more until the mushrooms begin to caramelize. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately with slices of toasted bread speared with simple aioli sauce (optional). 

SIMPLE AIOLI SAUCE 

Ingredients 
3/4 cup mayonnaise 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. 


Be Thankful for Mushrooms
All recipes by Rachel

Shiitake Stuffing
A Thanksgiving dinner just wouldn’t be complete without homemade stuffing. The shiitake’s hearty texture and the earthy flavor of the rye and sage gave this stuffing a wholesome taste. I used a marble rye, but this could be substituted with a crusty white loaf or even cornbread.
About 3 C shiitakes, cleaned stemmed, roughly chopped
1 loaf rye bread
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Extra virgin olive oil, about 2 Tbsp
2 Tbsp butter
½ C dry white wine
2 C vegetable stock, more or less to moisten-could use chicken stock
1 C walnuts, toasted
1 tsp sage
½ tsp thyme
1 Tbsp parsley
2 eggs beaten
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Toast the bread slices (until slightly golden) and walnuts (15 or so min.) Cut the bread into small bite size chunks. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Cook the celery, leeks, and garlic until tender. Add the mushrooms and butter and cook until mushrooms give off liquid. Add the wine, herbs, salt and pepper and reduce. Mix the bread chunks and walnuts with vegetable mixture. Mix in the eggs and stock. Spoon into a buttered casserole dish. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until slightly golden.

Braised Stuffed Cabbage on Winter Vegetable Stew
This recipe was inspired by Julia Child’s stuffed cabbage. And, much like Julia’s recipes, these measurements are approximations and may be altered to taste. It is rather putsy and its many steps will keep you occupied for quite a while. However, the end result is delicious, wholesome, and beautiful. Let the cabbage sit at room temperature for a good 10 minutes before cutting or the slices and wonderful layers will fall apart. The caraway may be omitted if you have an aversion its bold flavor, but I suggest trying it, as it takes on a different flavor than one may assume.
Stew together:
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, ends trimmed, diced
2 leeks, rinsed and diced
½ onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, roughly minced
2 C vegetable stock
¼ C white cooking wine, or other dry white wine
2 Tbsp parsley
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
½ tsp whole caraway seeds
2 C rough chopped shiitake mushrooms

Heat 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, but not soft. Add all other vegetables except mushrooms, sauté until onions are translucent and turnips are slightly soft. Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes. Add white wine, stock, and spices. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Cabbage Stuffing
1 ½ C cooked Arborio rice
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 C ground beef, drained, seasoned with salt and pepper (vegetarian crumbles work, too!)
½ C minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C vegetable stock
½ tsp black truffle oil (omit if unavailable)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a small skillet, heat 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Add garlic and cook until light brown. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add soy crumbles and cook, stirring often, until warm. Add butter and drizzle on black truffle oil. Add stock, salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence, and rice. Simmer until reduced. Set aside.
Cut the end off the cabbage. Carefully peel off the outside leaves. You will need about 12 leaves. Rinse and pat dry. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on a flat surface. Lay three leaves flat and spread about 1 cup rice and soy crumble mixture. Lay another layer of three leaves, followed with more filling. Repeat until filling is gone and finish with a layer of cabbage. Bring the foil up and around the cabbage, pressing the sides with hands into a ball shape. Try to imitate the cabbage head shape. Pinch the top of the foil so there is only a small hole. Place hold down on top of stew, cover, and bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours in a 350 degree oven.
Remove the cabbage bundle and let sit for 10 minutes. Carefully remove foil and slice into wedges. Serve over stew.

Creamy Mushroom and Leek Pie
1 recipe pate brise or store-bought pie crust
1 lb. mixed mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, maitake, the possibilities are endless)
1 large leek, roughly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ C dry white wine
1 Tsp thyme
¼ C parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce
2-3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 C milk
½ C heavy cream
¼ tsp nutmeg
Parmesan and smoked gouda, if desired

Place the piecrust in a buttered pie tin, poking holes in the bottom. Preheat oven to 400.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and leeks and cook until tender. Add mushrooms and butter and cook until liquids have been reduced. Add the wine, thyme, and parsley, cook until reduced (5-10 minutes).
For the sauce:
In a small pot, melt the butter and add the flour, creating a roux. Slowly add the milk and cream, whisking constantly. If it is not thickening, add a little more flour or a tiny bit of cornstarch. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper. If desired, sprinkle in some grated Parmesan.
Mix the mushroom mixture and sauce. Pour it into the piecrust and top with slices of gouda. Place the second crust on top, cutting and fluting as desired. Cut air vents in the top. Cover the edges with tin foil and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 30-45 minutes, or until crust is golden and flaky.

Shiitake and Green Bean Casserole
The holidays just aren’t the same without green bean casserole. The addition of shiitakes and tender red potatoes takes the same-old same old to pleasantly surprising. You could even top the potatoes with French-fried onions for tradition’s sake!
About 1 lb shiitake, stemmed and sliced
2 cans green beans, or an equal amount fresh or frozen
1 yellow onion, minced
¼ C dry white wine
½ C heavy cream
¼ C milk-add more to make it creamier
2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic
3-4 large red potatoes, sliced paper-thin
Salt and pepper
Parsley and/or thyme to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a skillet, add garlic and onions, cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and butter, cook until tender. Add the wine and herbs, reduce. Pour in milk and cream, and some Parmesan if desired. Add the beans last (if canned) or when you add the mushrooms (if fresh or frozen). Pour into a large casserole dish. Toss the potato slices with olive oil, salt and pepper. Layer them on top and sprinkle with parsley and Parmesan. Bake at 375 until the potatoes are tender and golden.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Logs, Logs, Logs... it's all About the Logs.
Written by Laura


Last week Friday we picked up logs for our fall log inoculation venture. Inoculation starts next week Wednesday, and all of us here at F&FP are psyched. Drilling and filling 500 logs brings us great joy! I am being a little sarcastic, but log inoculation can actually be lots of fun. It gives us all a chance to talk and laugh together. I never know what new and interesting things I might find out about Joe, Mary Ellen, and the rest of the gang. Last time we inoculated logs I learned that Phoebe knows the words to just about every Disney movie song, and that Mary Ellen has a serious addiction to iced coffee...well any coffee for that matter. 


Lichens and mosses on logs are not considered a competitor organism. They merely occupy the outside of the logs. The only time they can become a problem is during drilling, as they can get caught up in the drill. If you wish to remove them, try brushing or power washing them off. It is perfectly fine to leave them on the logs though.

We traveled about an hour northwest of the farm to Aurora, Wisconsin to pick up the logs. All 500 logs are sugar maples, 40 inches long, with various diameters (nothing too big to handle though). These maples were cut for timber stand improvement, and the homestead where these logs came from belongs to John and Nancy Roberts, Ken and Dorothy Osterburg, and Ringo (the dog). We first met John and Nancy at one of our workshops this spring. It was there, that John told Joe he could provide us with shiitake logs if need be. Ironically, John went to the same high school as Mary Ellen in a suburb of Detroit. I guess it really is a small world! 


This is what 500 shiitake logs should look like. Notice how they are not resting directly on the ground. This prohibits the growth of competitor organisms.

Ken and Ringo sit back and watch to make sure we load these logs the right way.

Joe, Jasen, and I drove up together in one truck with one trailer. The trailer seemed plenty big enough, but what we hadn't considered was the weight limit. To get the logs home without incident, we could only take about 300 with us. The rest will be picked up next week. 


There's nothing two guys and a dog can't figure out!

John helps Joe and Jasen secure the load before we head out of the woods for lunch.

All in all our trip was successful. We have enough logs to get us started, and we had an amazing lunch. While we were out fetching logs, Nancy and Dorothy were preparing Sloppy Joes (with beef from a neighbors cow), sweet corn (also from a neighbor), homemade apple sauce and cheese, fresh cows milk, apple cider, and blueberries from the farm atop ice cream. What hospitality!


When deciding to grow shiitakes, one has to figure out where the logs are going to come from. Some of you have your own forests to pick and choose from, but for those of you that don't, be sure to communicate well with the person who is cutting your logs. Be sure they know there is a difference between logs harvested for mushroom cultivation and logs harvested for firewood. I wish all of you shiitake growers the best of luck in finding your logs!  


If you haven't already read Joe's blog post on fall inoculation, check it out. 


     

Friday, October 28, 2011


Frightfully Tricky Forest Fungi
Written by Mary Ellen
These Shiitakes might look scary, but they sure taste great!
Here is one of my darkest fears, my most grim dream: One day I’ll cook a sensational autumnal meal to celebrate the harvest season. It will be replete with forest fungi. All my closest friends and family will be there. You can guess where this is going …. maybe you’ve even had the same dream! Is it really possible that I could poison my loved ones with my favorite Cream of Shiitake Soup to witch :) a toadstool has found its way?
What, after all, is the likelihood that people who grow their own mushrooms will make a misidentification while picking and inadvertently consume it? For me, the likelihood is about as great as me carrying an AK-47 to my dinner party and spraying it about the room for dessert. I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to use one let alone want to learn, so I believe fungal poisonings by my hand are highly unlikely.
Fungi can be a tricky lot. We know lots of folks who cook with mushrooms they harvest from their forest farm. Many new Shiitake mushroom growers pose the question “Would it be possible that the log I planted will also grow some poisonous ones?" The question is justified, after all- that’s one of the benefits of growing your own. If you’ve followed cultivation guidelines you can expect that what will grow there will be what you’ve planted. But like planting anything else outdoors, you can’t control everything that grows there. However, planting vigorous spawn in the proper substrate at the proper time should allow for solid establishment of whatever you’ve planted. Plus, once you positively identify your first cultivated mushrooms, you quickly become familiar with their every characteristic under every kind of weather condition, and you will be able to easily determine if there is a foreign fungus present. That said, ultimately the responsibility of correct identification is yours, and if you can’t identify it FOR SURE, it’s not edible!
The best way to learn more about mushrooms is to join a mushrooming group.  To find one near you visit the North American Mycological Association.
If you are an outdoor mushroom grower, for peace of mind and as a good business practice, nothing beats educating yourself about the Bad Guy fungi out there. There are a few groups of mushrooms you should just steer clear of because gastronomic rewards of eating them are just not worth the risk of getting it wrong. While most fungi are not deadly poisonous, certainly names of such fungi like “The Sickener,” “Death Angel,” “Poison Pie,” and “Deadly Galerina” offer some clues and worry as to what will happen to you if you do eat it.
Amanitas are one such group; it includes the “Death Angels,” a group of three beautiful white amanita species that, if consumed, will likely kill you. Fortunately none of these look at all like any of the mushrooms you are likely trying to grow and are not found growing on wood, so of course you’ll steer clear of them if you are harvesting mushrooms such as Shiitake or Oyster that grow on logs.
Ironically these Death Angels have sprouted up right next to a skull! Photo courtesy of Joe Christian.
Beware also of the collective group “LBM” or “Little Brown Mushrooms.” This group has some poisonous members, including one in particular “The Deadly Galerina,” which harbor the same toxin as do the Death Angels. This is a mushroom that provides the most fuel for my dark dream; it's brown, it grows on wood, it fruits in the fall; could it possibly be confused with Shiitake or Nameko? The deadly Galerina fruits on very old wood; I’ve only found it on fallen logs that are well on their way to barklessness and host many other wild fungi as well. This kind of log would be well past it’s usefulness as a shiitake log and I’ve never yet even found it on such a log. However, for a good look check this site or search Youtube with the words “deadly galerina” and you’ll get a good idea of what they look like!
This Deadly Galerina is scary every day of the year, not just on Halloween.
The last group to be wary of consists of members of Cortinarius. which could be potentially confused with Blewit. Some species of this group are purplish like the Blewit, but turn them over and you will see a cobwebby veil underneath the cap, or “Cortina”. The gills turn rust brown and the stalk often has bits of this Cortina on it. Once again, familiarity of the Blewit will give you the best insurance as to what is NOT a blewit. For more info go to the mushroom forager or mushroom-collecting.
If you are a video person, avoid all tricks and treat yourself to Taylor Lockwoods DVD “The Good, the Bad and the Deadly.” It’s greatly informative, presented very clearly, and is not just a one-time watch DVD. You’ll want it in your library. It also covers each of the groups mentioned above. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side of Mushrooms
Written by Laura

It's fall, and what better to do than to take a walk in the woods. I set out with my two daughters on a little family adventure. We live about 20 miles northwest of the FFP farm. Our primary goal was to find some edible mushrooms. I decided to search a near by woods where, earlier in the year, I had found many hedgehog mushrooms. We did find some fungi, but nothing I was willing to put on our dinner plates.

Turkey tail was our primary find, as usual. Although nonedible (its leathery texture would certainly cause a stomach ache) and nonpoisonous, this mushroom is highly medicinal. We also came across Amanita muscaria, a highly toxic, but beautiful mushroom. Puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) on a log turned out to be the highlight of the day for the girls. What kid doesn't love smashing these little things? I'm not gong to lie, I even like doing it. The puffballs are edible, but not when they have turned brown and produced spores. You have to find these things when they are still pure white inside and out. The giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea) would probably be more worth your time though. Beware, never mistake a young Amanita for a puffball!

 Amanita muscaria, should never be eaten.

After taking this picture all of these puffballs were squished.

Aside from mushrooms we saw a black squirrel and a tiny orange frog. I had also kicked up several white-tail deer, but the vibrant colors of the fall leaves were by far the greatest part of my day, visually. Exhausted, the girls found a place to sit and take a break. Our walk took place during the early evening, and the sun was in just the right place for picture time.

What a great fall background!

After the walk I decided to search a little closer to home. Most of the edible mushrooms I have been finding this year are right in my back yard. Early in the summer I had found a huge patch of Chicken of  the Woods on an ash stump. I was lucky enough to get even more from that same location this fall. Morels (not in the fall), Shaggy Manes, Oysters, Reishi (used for tea), and Hericium all grow very close to my house. These are all wild varieties too. The only mushrooms I have growing at home that come from FFP spawn are Wine Caps.

This flush of Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, was found in the early summer.

Hericium coralloides growing on an old maple log in the woods next to my house.

The same log, Hericium higher up from the ground was pink in color (not uncommon).

Reishi, Ganoderma tsugae, can be seen from my living room window growing on hemlock stumps and downed logs.

My girls have learned to eat mushrooms in just about anything without complaint. Our dog Charlee has even learned to love them, but she does prefer them cooked in butter, never raw. More importantly, the girls have learned a whole lot on mushroom identification. In searching for mushrooms they are learning about their surroundings and everything that nature has to offer them. Unfortunately, they have also learned to complain: that my walks are way too long and difficult. I generally follow no path making them crawl under and jump over various logs. It's good for them, and I'm sure that someday they will thank me for our walks together.

Shaggy Manes are no stranger to my yard this time of year.

A pile of maple and beech logs which were supposed to be cut for fire wood have become one of my favorite mushroom hunting grounds. Oysters primarily grow here.

Edible wild mushrooms are not uncommon at the FFP farm either. Sure, we could eat only the ones we produce here at the farm, but that takes the thrill out of hunting for them. Comparing flavors, size, textures etc... is fun for us. This time of year two favorites to find are Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Wood Blewit (Clitocybe nuda).

Mary Ellen holding a wild Maitake.
Caution should be taken when trying to identify the Wood Blewit.
Please know that although I have learned some things about mushroom identification, I am by no means an expert. I am lucky enough to have Joe and Mary Ellen around to help me out whenever I'm in doubt. Mushrooms are fascinating, but then again so are lions. Be realistic when it comes to mushroom hunting. Stay within bounds and never cross the fence.