Friday, May 26, 2017

Normal Looking Wine Cap Defined, Plus a Recipe for Braised Wine Cap and Asparagus

by Mary Ellen Kozak

In the spring and late fall, Wine Cap mushrooms can look different than expected. Just like spring Shiitake, (Weird and Crazed Shiitake: Why Your Mushrooms Don't Look Like You'd Expect) spring grown Wine Caps can be freakish enough that people send us of photos of what they hope to be Wine Caps... but are just not quite sure.

Exposure to swings in temperature and humidity during early
mushroom development creates interesting looking Wine Caps

More than any other time of the year, the spring season gives us the most unusual looking Wine Caps. Why it happens: Most of this variability in appearance is caused by spring's wild swings in temperature, low humidity and vigorous exposure to winds (and the fact that there's limited vegetation available to shield developing mushrooms). Later in the summer, cooling evenings bring high humidity and also a pretty dramatic reduction in wind speed, which affect humidity from the knee down - creating ideal conditions for cap development.

Wine Cap - with cap color as we'd expect it to be

When you know you've inoculated Wine Cap into wood chips or straw but are questioning the identity of the emerging mushrooms in your bed, check for other identifiable structures. The cap is usually the most variable. To better identify mushrooms that do not look as you'd expect, make sure to lift up the entire mushroom, including the stem attachment to the soil, by digging deep into the wood chips, straw or soil.

Dig into the wood chips to lift up the mushroom, stem and all, for proper identification

If you are new to Wine Cap cultivation in ALL its seasons, you may find the chart below to be helpful in confirming your harvest. If you ever have any questions about Wine Cap identification, please call us, or better yet, email us a photo, and we'll be glad to help you.

One of my favorite ways to prepare Wine Caps involves harvesting the buttons early (this is especially important if you are growing them in straw beds, as they tend to quickly attract mushroom flies). These little jewels can be sliced in half or quartered and lightly braised in a savory broth with fresh asparagus spears. Both the Wine Caps and asparagus are plate-ready, crunchy fresh and perfect for a tiny desk lunch. If you'd like, you may add other seasonings such as shallot, chili or cumin seeds for a stronger flavor to amplify the delicate flavors of the mushrooms and asparagus.

Braised Wine Cap and Asparagus

6-8 (or more) small spears of asparagus
1 cup of Wine Cap buttons, sliced in half or quartered
1 tsp olive oil
pinch of salt
1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth, wine or oil

Trim the straw (or wood chips) off the mushrooms and rinse them

Half or quarter the Wine Caps and trim the asparagus

Add 1 tsp of oil to a heated saute pan. Add the mushrooms and let them get caramel brown, especially on the cut edges. Add the asparagus, 1/2 c broth and put the lid on, steaming the asparagus and mushrooms for about 5 minutes. Plate and enjoy. Serves 1-2.

1 comment:

  1. Nice, I like it. Just started a wine cap bed last week, hoping for a bumper crop. Thanks for the pics and info.