Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Oyster Mushroom Meets Grill
Written by Mary Ellen
Three Oyster Mushroom Wrap with the works!

Here in Northeast Wisconsin a party ain’t a party unless you have “three meats.”  Usually that means pork, chicken and beef (there are no such expectations about any vegetables) so here at F&FP we sure would like to see Oyster mushrooms  take at least one of those spots.  

A no-fuss  ‘Three Oyster Mushroom Wrap” makes a fast and delicious meal. No need to worry about marinades or BBQ sauce, plus how about those vegetarians in the crowd? This wrap will satisfy everyone, even mushroom haters. We guarantee it!  
Rachel reveals the three types of Oyster mushrooms (Pink, Golden, and Grey Dove) that will serve as the filling for her birthday party wraps.
All you need is a grill pan (this is one of those pans riddled with holes that will give the food a nice smoky flavor). Ingredients…a mess of Oyster mushrooms and optionally an assortment of chopped vegetables. Use what is lurking in your vegetable crisper if you don’t have an ethnic direction with this dish.  

Method: Get the grill heating. Take your Oyster mushrooms and trim away any straw or bits of wood. From the base of the stem, rip the Oyster mushroom upward until you have a pile of thickly shredded of mushrooms. They cook down fast so you can rip the mushroom into quarters or even leave them whole if they are small.  

Chop a sweet or red onion into chunks. Chop any other vegetables. We like zucchini and sweet peppers. Get a large bowl and toss everything together. Drizzle some vegetable oil on top and toss it all together with your hands until everything is lightly coated with oil. Sprinkle liberally with coarse salt.  

The Oyster mushrooms have been torn into pieces, and the veggies are all cut up, now it's time to grill.

Now have fun with the seasonings!  If you are having a Mexican style wrap, sprinkle with cumin and smoked chipotle chili or smoked paprika. Indian wrap? Cumin and coriander or a zillion other spice combos. New artisanal tortillas inspire a dozen  filling themes, and before you know it you will be adding pineapple, or pears and gorgonzola…maybe even BBQ sauce! Toss until everything is evenly coated. 

Now, slide everything into your grill pan and casually stir fry with a spatula until done (depending if you like crispy or soft) and take advantage of the waning grill heat and warm up your tortillas. Heap on to a serving platter and surround it with condiments: sour cream, cheese, lettuce, salsa, chutney; whatever you have on hand that fits the theme.  

This dish takes less than 30 minutes to assemble from kitchen to table (not including heating up grill; if you live in Northeast Wisconsin sometimes that means heating it with firewood). It is really and truly one of our favorite summer dishes.  If you try it, let us know if you have a favorite flavor combo. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Italian Love Affair
Written by Mary Ellen

The Italian Oyster is a delight in both the kitchen and the grow room.

What is the big whoop about Italy and food? Forget the Gelato. The whoop is really all about the Italian Oyster Mushroom. Forget also that the name probably has nothing to do with Italy (besides the name). This is a big complex of Oyster mushrooms with a very wide geographical range. What we do know is that they are a wonderful species of Pleurotus; they are beautiful, tender, creamy brown and white, succulent and the closest culinary match to the glorious King Oyster, and they are a lot easier to grow. Known to mycologists as Pleurotus pulmonarius, the Italian Oyster (Indian Oyster, Chocolate Oyster or Phoenix Oyster, etc.) may have lots of variations within its group, but all share some characteristics that are important to both cultivators and cooks.

In my case, I have been grateful for the forgiving nature of the Italian Oyster, which we grow indoors on pasteurized straw, all winter long. This species seems less sensitive to the effects of light on fruitbody formation, and at the 45th parallel, although we need supplemental light, we don’t always arrange for it. Perhaps it is just not as noticeable because of the shape: short thick stem and spatula or lung shaped caps (hence the species name pulmonarius)* and much less inclined to become overly cupped, clustered and long stemmed as the Tree Oyster group. While it is considered a warm weather Oyster (compared to the P. ostreatus group such as Grey Dove, Blue Dolphin and Polar White strains), it also handles a 58 degree (F) fruiting room just fine.


Italian Oyster fruiting from a straw bag in the grow room at F&FP.

While first crops of the Italian are robust and large capped, subsequent flushes are smaller and can be harvested very young as “Petite Italiana.” A handful of these sweet Petites are tender, juicy and pure delight to use in the kitchen. Even a small grow room can house a few bags of these Oysters, which will produce many months worth of special meals.

One of my favorite ways to use these mushrooms is to braise them; split each in half or in quarters and then caramelize one side in butter, letting them braise in the released juices with a dash of fresh lemon juice or white wine. I treated myself to such a dish the other day in celebration of more snow and the promise of a long, slow spring, nourishment for our thirsty soil following last year's drought. 

Braised Petite Italiana with Snow Peas

Braised Petite Italiana with Snow Peas sets the mood for spring.
1 pkg. snow peas, rinsed and unstrung (6 oz.)

4 oz. small Italian Oysters, including stems, split in half (start the split from cap side)
2 tsp. butter
1 T. fresh Lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. oil

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tsp butter and add torn caps, Let the pan side caps sizzle for about 2 minutes until they become caramely brown. Sprinkle liberally with coarse salt and fresh pepper, stir and put the lid on. A minute or so later, add 1 T of lemon juice, replace lid and cook until tender. 

Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Add 1 tsp oil and add the snow peas, stir frying briefly until tender. Plate the peas and top with a liberal scoop of mushrooms. Happy Spring!

*Kuo, M. (2009, April). Pleurotus pulmonarius: The summer oyster. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com website: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/pleurotus_pulmonarius.html

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shipping Charges Explained...
...Well, Kind of
Written by Joe

This young man might like to know the reasons behind shipping costs.

One of the most commonly asked questions by our customers is “why are shipping rates so high?” This often happens right after the first of each new year. I’ll try my best to explain shipping charges in this post.
All of our spawn products are heavy, wet, and wood or grain based. We also ship wax, another dense heavy object. As you may already know, shipping this kind of product can be expensive.
Field and Forest Products is marking its 30th year in business, and for each of these years there has been an average price increase of 5% by our major carrier, UPS. While 5% may not seem like much, one has to bear in mind that the key word here is “average.” In general, lightweight packages weighing less than 30 lbs. saw an increase of 7.5%, whereas packages weighing upwards of 75 lbs. saw a price increase of only 1.69%! On top of the overall price increase, package surcharge fees also went up. For instance, delivery to a residential address (this includes all you farmers out there) adds another $2.80 to the standard delivery charge. Add to that an extended delivery surcharge to certain zip codes and the surcharge jumps to $3.30.
When placing an order, one thing to remember is that “bundling” of spawn orders reduces the cost per bag to ship. For instance, shipping one 5.5 lb. unit of sawdust spawn to a zone 5 residential address would cost $15.28. Adding an additional 5.5 lb. unit would only add an additional $1.19 to the shipping charge, thus bringing down the cost per unit to ship. The bottom line: try to get all your spawn ordered and shipped in one box (or maximize each box for larger orders requiring multiple boxes) if possible. How much spawn will fit in a UPS box? As a general rule, a UPS box can hold up to: 8 large bags of sawdust spawn; 12 large bags of grain spawn; 12 large bags of plug spawn; or 15 sheets of thimble spawn. The only bundling we cannot offer is that of seasonal spawn ordered out of season. This would include Almond Agaricus, Pink Oyster, Morel, and Portabella or White Button box kits.
On the upside, UPS guarantees time in transit and their software allows us to send our customers an email notification when their order ships, providing them with accessible tracking information. Field and Forest Products also has negotiated rates with UPS. We pass the discounted price on to our customers. For orders weighing over 200 lbs., we are a UPS tier 1 shipper, qualifying our large shipments for the largest discount UPS allows, which is about 10% over our negotiated rates.
What is Field and Forest Products doing to keep shipping costs to a minimum?

In order to keep shipping charges to a minimum for our customers, we seek out alternative carriers for customer shipments and use them whenever possible, passing along the savings. When placing an order online it appears as if UPS is the only shipping option, BUT this is not always the case! Due to the variety of shipping options available to us, we manually calculate shipping charges on all online and phone orders to determine the best shipping option available so that we may provide our customers with the best rate and delivery time possible. Savings, when using an alternate carrier, are directly reflected on your invoice. With the myriad of shipping options available to us, it would be difficult to program our website to accurately calculate which combination of items would fit in a particularly box size, etc., and then select the best possible option. Placing all of those options on our website would most likely confuse our customers as well. This “customized” approach is somewhat unique in the mail order world, as it takes extra resources in staff and packaging supplies, but it makes us feel good to try to reduce shipping costs to our customers whenever possible.
Jeni packing an order into one of our USPS priority boxes, an option for smaller orders!
Other Carrier Options

In the Midwest, we are fortunate to have an alternative carrier, Spee-Dee Delivery Service, whose costs to transport packages is around 50% lower than standard ground charges by the two nationwide carriers. We use SpeeDee Delivery Service for package shipments to all addresses in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, eastern Nebraska and zip code areas 630, 631 and 633 in Missouri. The only downside to using Spee-Dee Delivery Service is that their software is unable to send email notifications to our customers to let them know that their package has been shipped.
Nationwide (including HI and AK), we ship orders of single large units of spawn and multiples of smaller unit sizes, as well as small tool and supply orders via the US Postal Service. The Postal Service in recent years has introduced additional packaging options with very competitive rates of flat rate and regional boxes, perfect for small businesses like ours. The downside to using the US Postal Service is that package delivery times are not guaranteed and there is no real-time tracking. We have noticed over the years, however, that the US Postal Service has upped its level of service and packages are more often than not delivered in 2-3 working days.

What you can do to help keep your shipping costs to a minimum:
•Order online or call for a shipping price quote, rather than placing an order by mail
•Bundle orders to ship all at once (or in quantities that will maximize the space in each box for larger orders when possible).
•Order over 200 lbs. of spawn and supplies :)
•Call to see if we can deliver your order to various conferences (posted on our website) that we attend. Please note that this option is “first come, first serve” based on vehicle space! 

If you would like a quote on shipping costs, we are always happy to accommodate your request. Please let us know if we can be of assistance. We can be reached at 1-800-792-6220 or via email, fieldandforest@centurytel.net

Monday, January 21, 2013

Spruce Up Shiitake and Make a Mushroom Streusel!
Written by Mary Ellen

A typical winter scene at F&FP
It’s winter and I recently staggered out the back door with our spruce tree turned tannenbaum as I feel I must do after Epiphany in January. The tree was still gorgeous and fully needled (at least on one side, coming from a crowded row of white spruce), but because we usually don’t get around to cutting our tree until a week before Christmas, I was sad to drag away the once dazzling, fragrant tree. I similarly feel sad (but also relieved) about the decline of wonderful holiday food. 
Our daughter Phoebe was home from college for the holidays and thanks to feed-yourself- apartment living, she has taken the great leap from cookie baking queen to vegetable diva. This is nice because while it's only January 15, I already start to feel the tedium of  post-holiday austerity, and I am thrilled to find Phoebe slice and crumble her way into a January meal with a Shiitake dish that is a little apart from the same old same old. It’s a new dish that I will be making whenever I want something a little special and healthy as a salad topping, a side dish or crunchiness to eat straight from the pan. I will always be satisfied with the memory of Shiitake Streusel making, a random winter night sparkling with creativity, accomplishment and mushroom cookery beautifully handed down to the next generation. 

Phoebe's recent streusel creation.

Shiitake Streusel 

Phoebe’s apartment kitchen is minimally equipped, so all of her recipes are approximate. She gives us visual tips to let us know how much is enough. 

1 to 1 ½ lbs fresh Shiitake
1- 2 T oil
Feta cheese, best quality - 4 oz. crumbled
1/4  to ½ c chopped toasted pecans or an amount to taste
Balsamic vinegar, about 1/2 to 1  T
A rimmed, oiled or parchment lined baking sheet

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F)
Trim stems from Shiitake. Slice caps into ½ inch pieces.

In a large bowl, toss caps with the oil until the sides of the bowl and mushrooms are glossy. Season well with salt and pepper. Spread mushroom slices out in a single layer on the tray and put them in the hot oven,  turning the mushrooms with a spatula after the first 10 minutes. Let both sides approach golden brown and chewy.

Remove Shiitake and combine with cheese and pecans. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar to taste. Serve warm or room temperature as a side dish, salad topping, steamed vegetable or casserole topping, wrap or omelet filling, etc.

Make these delicious buttermilk breakfast biscuits by brushing the tops with beaten egg and pressing shiitake streusel (substitute feta with smoked gouda) on top just before putting them in the oven.