Thursday, October 23, 2014

Last Sigh of Summer: Shiitake Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches
by Mary Ellen

A new F&FP favorite, the Shiitake BLT!

Northern Wisconsin really didn't have summer this year. Mostly cool, rainy, and plagued with a never-ending, relentless crop of mosquitoes, no one wanted to spend much time outdoors.

Some things on the farm managed to shine through regardless. The blueberry crop was exceptional with all of the rain and cooler temps, producing berries the size of marbles! Our shiitake logs, properly cared for and tended in prior years that were kinder to my gardening self, busted out with succulent and richly flavored shiitake all summer long despite my general neglect to them and everything else garden related. And finally, finally, at the end of September, our June-planted tomatoes in the hoop house started turning red. This year, that first harvest of tomatoes pretty much coincided with the tireless march of Miss Happiness shiitake. Dense, solid and meaty, Miss Happiness has one of the longest fall seasons of all the cold weather strains. And man, does this girl have legs: she started in August and is still pinning at the end of October!

Fresh ingredients are always best.
So, in a last ditch attempt to salvage at least the flavor of summer, I decided to make BLT's. And to further redeem myself, I wasn't going to settle for just ordinary.

I am not a fan of bacon (although I do like Canadian bacon). I mostly detest the white part (its fat and texture) of regular bacon and although I tolerate turkey bacon, I squint while preparing it (to avoid its apparent super processed look and smell). It was time to try experimenting with one of those shiitake bacon recipes I've had stuck to my refrigerator for years now.  

Well, as it turns out, shiitake bacon is delicious. It really does taste just like bacon. Yes, it's putzy, but if you have some thick, solid, log grown shiitake, you can slice it, cure it (marinate) and roast it  in a hot oven. It has a rich and buttery flavor, complete with chewy centers and crispy edges. SB also makes a toothsome and healthy snack, as it stays crisp for several hours after cooling from the oven.  This very well may become my new bacon bit.  And of course, shiitake bacon pairs just as well with scrambled eggs or french toast for any non-BLT fans. (We've also heard that smoked shiitake are incomparable. Let us know if you've tried this!)

Here is the method: You will need about a cup of sliced mushrooms per person and that is a modest amount. You really should double the recipe for snacking. The following recipe produces enough bacon for about 4 SBLT's. Note: Allow at least an hour to prepare these. 

4 cups sliced shiitake

2 TBSP oil
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
2 tsp maple syrup (optional)

Stem the shiitake and slice it thinly. 1/8th inch or less is preferable for the ultimate crispness.

Slicing your shiitakes thin ensures for some nice crispy "bacon".
To prepare the marinade, stir together all ingredients, and drizzle over the sliced shiitakes. Toss the mushrooms in the marinade until the slices are fairly well coated and let marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour. Stirring the mushrooms a time or two during that time helps speed things along. You can also marinate and refrigerate overnight to achieve comparable pork bacon cooking times in the morning.

These fresh shiitake were just covered in marinade.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F) and spread the mushrooms out onto a baking sheet. Use parchment or a silpat for easy work, or grease the sheet first.
Bake 20 minutes, stirring or turning halfway through. If the mushrooms are really wet you may need to drain away the water halfway through.

Increase the heat to 375 degrees (F) and check every 10 minutes or so, more often towards the end. Usually if the bacon is sliced thinly it is done in 10-15 minutes after the oven heat is increased. Remove the mushrooms onto a paper towel and blot. It should be browned and irresistible, but not burned. You might experiment with other seasoning in the marinade or with thicknesses of cut; or grilling marinated whole thin-capped mushrooms.  

The end result will not disappoint!
For inspiration, check out, for the original shiitake bacon recipe plus other great vegan mushroom recipe ideas.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Our 2014 Poetry Contest
by Mary Ellen


We want to thank all of you who submitted these wonderful poems. We will be constructing a Poetry category on Mushrooming Together for everyone to read them. Please watch for further posts publishing all the entries.  For now, we’d like to publish the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize (plus honorable mention) for everyone to enjoy. Congratulations to ALL the Poets!

1st Place - Jennifer L. Knox of Nevada, IA

The Mushroom Burial Suit

Screwed onto a silky stem with one arm
Buried to the elbow in a skirt of breathy gills,
A smooth hill of snow caps trace the nose
(Once sneezing), shoulders (once shuddering)
And paunch (once hanging over a waist band).
Busy bees, spores fly below the eye’s radar
To lay and lay down their carpet—soon, seamless
As a fondant, they’ll break down the splitting
Skin, blood, bones, and acorns sprouting in the now
Vacant mouth, down through a life of frets
And flurry to the ground thriving under.

"The poem was written about the Infinity Burial Project, here:
I know very little about mushrooms, but when I learn something new, it is inevitably the coolest thing I've ever heard."

2nd Place - Amber Veverka of Charlotte, NC


The Anishinaabeg once called it puhpowee, that force
which stirs in secret, lifting leaf mold,
surprising even the serious oaks,
who wake to find at their feet
these new beings, peopling their forest.
All in the damp dark, they come reaching,
with a power so particular, it earns its own name.

"I am not a poet but I love poetry, and have enjoyed it all my life. And my interest in mushrooms started as a child in Michigan, walking in the woods with my mom or dad. At the time I only knew the names of a few but marveled at all the shapes and sizes - the sticky purple mushrooms, the deadly destroying angels, the smooth shelf fungus, the elusive morels. I'm still an amateur when it comes to wild mushrooms, though I am learning about more of them with the help of a local naturalist. But this year, for the first time, I harvested my very own shiitake from logs innoculated with Field & Forest spawn: A surprise from my own shady backyard!"

3rd Place - Whitney Richardson of Chicago, IL


I field my walks at night

Spores cool my mind
Crawling hills beside me)))
(((Below a wet earth
A soft glow enlivens
My reflection sings a lasso
I drop to my knees)))
Underground rotting wood murky plank
Carries you honey mushroom to my island
I will take you wherever you'd like to go

"I'm an artist with an interest in melody, ecology and environmental awareness. My interest in mushrooms has led me to the brain of the forest and the wetness of the shower and the home of the log, all favorite places. I'm immersed in mycological surroundings on the regular now, a new thing for me."

Honorable Mention - Jared Urchek of Boulder, CO


Illicit beings upon
My small creations

"Well, I am a mushroom cultivator, I have a small business in Boulder, CO. I was sitting in my shop, buying some of your products when I noticed the poetry contest. I must have sat and looked around for inspiration, and saw a batch of my mushrooms that got contaminated:) Cest la vie! I didn't get mushrooms out of those blocks, but at least I got a good poem!"


Growing up in the 60’s meant there was a lot of listening for entertainment. My sister and I would lie on the living room floor next to the record player and listen to Disney soundtrack LPs.  My mom would sing us folk songs with her guitar when we were sick.  My oldest sister would read us “The Highway Man” by Alfred Noyes from our family poetry anthology before bed.  That anthology was so well read it had a broken spine by the time I was of reading age. I made sure that we had a similar book in the house when our own kids were little.

Poetry is something that is enjoyed by all ages. Kids love to read poems and lots of kids like to write it. Poetry is fun but also can be dead serious and desperately sad.  Poetry arrests my consciousness and makes my jaw go slack when I hear Garrison Kiellor reading a daily poem on The Writers Almanac.  It isolates and defines and plays with light and illusion as a photographer might do with a camera.

The idea of bringing mushroom poetry to visitors of Mushrooming Together came when a friend of ours sent an original  poem for me to read aloud when Joe was in the hospital  for a few days.  I read the poem to Joe, to nurses, then to Joe again. I found myself wanting to share “Ode to a Toadstool” with every mushroom cook and dinner guest. I got to wondering how much mushroom related poetry was out there…. after all, it’s hard to find a more mysterious, beautiful, functional and culturally important subject!

As it turns out we were thrilled to receive 28 excellent entries for this contest. Blind submissions were judged by Dr. Amy Reddinger, Associate Professor of English at UW-Marinette.  All of the poems were wonderful; we couldn’t believe so many talented writers knew … really knew!…. mushrooms.  The top three submissions are so elegant they need no further introduction from us.  The honorable mention, also awarded by Dr. Reddinger who is NOT a mushroom grower, had us giggling and nodding.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Jon’s Lunch
by Jon
The first thing that I can remember cooking for myself was a packet of ramen noodles. It was easy, quick, and hard to beat for an after school snack. However, as I grew up so too did my taste buds and my appreciation for eating healthy. During this time my once favorite snack became the epitome of what I tried to avoid in my diet; a meal consisting primarily of refined carbohydrates, high sodium, and completely lacking in vegetables. As such I avoided ramen for a long time, that is until I found out that you can make your own ramen that is both nutritious and delicious and is only slightly less convenient then a packet of ramen.
True to my style of cooking I never follow a recipe to make this dish. I just eyeball ingredients and throw them into a small pot of simmering water. The beauty of this dish is that no bowl of ramen is ever the same. Even if you order ramen in a restaurant each chef will prepare the soup differently using different ingredients. Use what you have on hand, have fun, and experiment!

How I Make It

When making this dish quickly at work I simply get a pot of simmering water going and then throw in a pinch or two of dried seaweed (any kind will do), and whatever mushrooms we have around. Shiitake mushrooms are traditionally used and for good reason; they rehydrate well, retain a nice consistency when simmered, and add a rich flavor to your soup. Since working at FFP I have also gotten to experiment with a variety of other mushrooms and my personal favorite so far is the Italian Oyster. In a soup this mushroom seems to take on an almost seafood character which works very well with the other ingredients and is particularly appealing to my New England taste buds. Once the seaweed and mushrooms are simmering along for a few minutes I then mix in a small spoonful of red miso, a dash of fish sauce, and a dash of soy sauce. All of these ingredients add great flavor to the soup, but you have to be careful not to overdo it as they are high in sodium and strong flavored. At this point I put in any vegetables that I have handy (I have used anything from Cabbage to Burdock Root, really just throw in anything that you have lying around). At the same time you can also throw in your carbohydrate. I often use soba and/or udon noodles but have also used leftover brown rice in a pinch. If using dry noodles you have to cook these until tender. A few minutes before the noodles are done I often throw in a few cubes of tofu and crack an egg in the pot. The tofu just needs to be in long enough to warm up and I try and cook the egg so that the white is cooked through but the yolk is still runny. Previously cooked and shelled hard boiled eggs also work well.

Friday, February 28, 2014

A New Year: Three New Employees
by Laura

Here at Field & Forest Products each new year brings forth great ideas. Last year we had many including revamping our packing room, designing Field & Forest stickers to include in orders, purchasing a new more energy efficient walk-in cooler, and reconfiguring the employees and their office spaces. The later, seems to have left me all alone (except during the lunch hour when the production workers want to peruse the internet.), but this gives me a great opportunity to contemplate and create epic blogs for all to enjoy. See, we have two main office spaces here, Corporate and the Annex. When walking through the front door of Field & Forest you are immediately entering the Annex. There you will find my smiling face. I do share this space with Jasen so I am not truly alone, but he spends just about all of his time making spawn just to the North of me. If I look to the West I can see into Corporate, which houses all of the other VIPS of F&FP. To the East is the packing room. So why the sudden change up of whom gets what office space? The answer is employees.
We have a total of three new staffers this year. We were in serious need of help in the packing room as well as the lab. It seems that growing mushrooms is becoming more and more popular, which benefits us, as well as you, and perhaps the rest of the world. As sales increase so do the number of orders we send out each year, and the amount of spawn that must be produced and maintained. Our kind of business requires a great deal of collaboration, teamwork, and good food! With all of that said F&FP is proud to introduce Chance, Derek, and Jon.


I am 17 and live in Marinette, Wisconsin. Currently, I am a junior enrolled in Marinette High School, but go through a schooling program called GPS Education Partners, which offers students the ability to take more of a hands-on approach to education by partnering with area businesses to provide work experience. Prior to working with Field & Forest, I didn't know anything about mushrooms or the business.  Since October, when I first became employed, I've learned how to inoculate logs, grow mushrooms, and now know when mushrooms are ready to harvest and how to pick and grade them for shipping. I've also learned about packing and shipping orders. Overall, working here has taught me how to be a good employee.

Outside of school and work I like playing video games, playing rugby and welding. I'm still undecided about what my goals are for after graduation in the spring of 2015.


I would best describe myself as an outdoor enthusiast who is an extremely devoted Packer fan. Currently living in Titletown, USA and proud to be a new member of the Field & Forest Products team; I started working for the company in January of 2014 after receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.
During the week you can find me processing orders and packaging them in a secure and orderly fashion. I also help out with a variety of activities that go along with mushroom production. On the weekends you can find me exploring the Bay and small inland lakes for fish and waterfowl or in the northern woods of Wisconsin hunting deer.


I have had an interest in mushrooms for about as long as I can remember. Even now one of my favorite activities is hunting for edible mushrooms in the spring and fall. Although I grew up in Vermont my interest in fungi keeps bringing me back to Wisconsin; first as a graduate student in mycology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and now as a production and research mycologist for FFP. I am excited to be working at F&FP in a capacity that will allow me to follow my passion for edible mushrooms and their use in agricultural systems.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The New Small Farm: Cultivating Encouragement for the Future 
by Mary Ellen

Polyculture work with Almond portobello and tomatoes‏.

Earlier this month we attended the 15th Annual Michigan Small Farm Conference at the top of the mitten in Traverse City. The day-long event registered a record number of attendees, a thousand or more. It was impossible to miss the prevalence of young farmers in the mix.  You can’t imagine how exciting it is for us “old timers” to see the small farm interest busting out with young, articulate, motivated people who are not only interested in land stewardship, but who are operating CSA’s and Market Gardens; already sharp farm managers. Lucky for cooks, mushrooms are part of the crop mix!

Mushroom grower at Ozark Forest efficiently picking Shiitake with the double handed harvesting method‏.

The Keynote speaker, John Ikerd, Professor emeritus of Agricultural Economics at University of Missouri and a long time observer of farm sustainability, contributed some interesting observations and a convincing pitch for the viability of the small farm. He says, “Small farms of the future will be different from those of the past. They will utilize new knowledge, technologies, and market opportunities to become even better farms than before.”

Encouragingly, the emerging attitude amongst many of these young farmers is that it’s best to be driven by ethics, not economics.  John Ikerd elaborated on this idea. “A real farm is not just an economic enterprise; it is also a way of life and a sacred trust. It’s not just about production and profits; it’s about meeting the real needs of real people, all people, both today and in the future. Real farmers care about their families, they care about the land, they care about their neighbors, they care about their customers, they care about society, and the future of humanity. A new renaissance and reversal of trends is emerging in the search for real food from real farms, and the real farms of the future will be appropriately small.”

The argument is not necessarily about the validity of “large farm” vs. “small farm.” The industrialization of agriculture over the last 50 years has played a large hand in cheaply feeding our growing world and providing us with food choices our grandparents could never have imagined. Though extremely difficult to evaluate, the real cost of degradation to our natural systems and subsequent biological and social effects on human society is increasingly influencing  peoples’ food choices and subsequent growing support of the new small farm.

The way we see it, growing mushrooms is a way of adding value to a farming system that embraces the entire ecological cycle of harvest and decay.  At Field and Forest Products, we are indeed “proud to be part of this rotting world,” and we are also very proud to be part of this exciting shift in agriculture and the people who are driving it.

For the transcript of John Ikerd’s keynote, go to: