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.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Grow Shiitake, Oyster, Chestnut, Lion's Mane and Reishi Mushrooms with Ready-to-Fruit Blocks

by Lindsey Bender

Introducing large ready-to-fruit block orders to meet your needs
Starting December 3rd 2018, Field and Forest Products will officially enter the ready-to-fruit block market. 
Lion's Mane ready-to-fruit blocks.

Many mushroom varieties can be easily grown from sawdust-based blocks. The benefits of block growing are numerous whether it’s to extend the mushroom growing season, quickly fill in production gaps, easily diversify existing crops, regularly schedule mushroom production, or to explore a less labor intensive method to producing high quality certified organic mushrooms.  Field and Forest Products is now offering four ready-to-fruit block varieties (Shiitake, Grey Dove Oyster, Chestnut, Lion’s Mane, Reishi) in large quantity. We aim to work with each of our block customers to develop a customized plan to fulfill their specific needs. These larger quantity block orders come with an added benefit – a highly competitive pricing structure. 

Shiitake ready-to-fruit blocks.

Highlights of this new offer include:

1) Affordability – We offer quantity discounting (as low as $4.75/block) and competitive shipping rates.
2) Flexibility – You have the ability to mix and match mushroom varieties in a single order and schedule your order to ship in installments over a 12 week period if desired.
3) Reliability – We sell a high quality, rigorously tested product you can depend on.
4) Availability – We have the production capacity to support immediate shipping of most orders.*

Grey Dove Oyster ready-to-fruit blocks.

Are you interested in learning more? Start by requesting our complete Block Pamphlet. The free Block Pamphlet provides detailed information on our pricing structure, placing orders, scheduling shipments, product availability, grow space requirements, and details on each mushroom variety (average yield, number of flushes, production timing, etc). It is designed to give you the information you need to get started. Still have questions? No problem, our staff is happy to consult you!


Reishi ready-to-fruit block.
Chestnut ready-to-fruit blocks.

*We do our best to provide a constant supply of fresh Ready to Fruit blocks that are immediately available for shipment. This depends on order size, seasonal demand, and variety. Freight shipments of 150 blocks require 4 week lead time from order date. Contact us to schedule your order as soon as possible so we can accommodate your demand.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Totally Shiitake Workshop: Trends and Techniques to Growing Shiitake

by Lindsey Bender

Shiitake mushrooms growing on logs.

Shiitake mushrooms are the best selling specialty mushroom in the world. They are known for their garlicky flavor, ease of growing, productivity, and reliable fruiting. For those that already grow shiitake, there are a multitude of strains and techniques to expand and improve your growing experience.  For those that are new to mushroom growing, there are many options to get started. At Field and Forest Products, we offer a wide variety of workshops annually to provide hands on instruction and training for anyone interested in growing mushrooms. On November 10th, we will be hosting an event appropriate to both aspiring and seasoned shiitake growers. This all day event will be easy going and casual, yet instructive and inspiring. Shiitake can be grown in a variety of ways depending on the interest of the grower, their needs, resources, timeline, and other variables. Stay tuned for an exclusive on the new shiitake “high-speed method”!

Specialized tools can be used to speed up the inoculation process. Pictured here are our Okuda Hand Inoculators. 

Growing shiitake on logs is the industry standard. This method provides a long term perennial option to growing high quality, delectable shiitake in a very passive way. Often times, shiitake logs can produce mushrooms for up to 8 years from a single planting! This workshop will cover everything you need to know to select quality logs to grow quality mushrooms. Participants will have the opportunity to be hands-on and use a variety of innovative tools to drill and fill their own log to take home. For the more experienced growers, this is the opportunity to try inoculation tools that will transform and simplify your inoculation process. After inoculating logs, we will tour the Field and Forest Products laying yard – a true sight to behold! Over 5,000 shiitake logs lay under the forest canopy in various stages and stacking configurations. There are a variety of options for log maintenance, management, and fruiting strategies to improve your growing and maximize log potential.   

No shiitake log grower can ignore the opportunity to fill the niche of gaps in production with shiitake sawdust blocks, so we also teach you where, when and how to use these synthetic “logs” to keep production as seamless as possible. Simply open the blocks, place them in a growing area, and be ready to harvest shiitake in 7-10 days!  We will tour the Field and Forest fruiting room that sustains our mushroom production throughout the year – but most especially during the winter months in northern Wisconsin when the shiitake logs are lying dormant outside blanketed in snow.

Shiitake ready to fruit blocks can be incorporated to provide continued production during cold months. 

Speaking of the north, the snow, and the coming winter…

Shiitake log growing can require patience.  Although it’s well worth the wait, logs often times don’t begin fruiting until the following year after planting. Northern growers in colder climes are also typically restricted to just the spring season to plant their logs. There is a solution! We are now introducing the “High Speed Method” for shiitake cultivation on logs. This method, developed by the industry leaders in Japan, allows growers to commence fruiting shiitake logs in as soon as 5 months after planting!  This new incubation technique also enables even northern growers to harvest wood in the fall and plant shiitake logs that will be ready for fruiting in the spring. The technique is simple but innovative – designed to continuously stimulate shiitake metabolism and growth within the log at the cellular level.

These logs were inoculated at an increased rate and incubated indoors, resulting in a rapid spawn run time. 

Growing shiitake can be as simple and passive or as intense as you want. Likewise, it can be a profitable opportunity.  Please join us on November 10th to learn what you need to know to become a part of the wonderful mushroom growing community. Each participant will take home a shiitake log, a ready to fruit sawdust block, as well as the knowledge needed to begin this fun, simple, and rewarding hobby. The workshop will be held from 9am-5pm at the Field and Forest Products location in Peshtigo, WI.  We will provide coffee, tea, water and bakery in the morning and a mushroom infused meal for lunch. Class limit: 25. Registration required by November 7th, no cancellation refund after November 8th, 2018. For more information or to register for this workshop, click here.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Grow Oyster Mushrooms with a TeePee Kit

by Laura Kahles

Oyster mushrooms growing from a roll of toilet paper.

The thought of growing mushrooms may seem too daunting for those just starting out. Maybe your green thumb easily withers away a few short weeks after purchasing your spring transplants. If you can’t grow plants how could you possibly keep mushrooms alive, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that mushroom growing can be easy, and more importantly ANYONE can do it. 

We have a few options for indoor grow kits, but I’m going to focus on one that allows you to do the planting yourself, our Oyster TeePee Kit. TeePee translates into TP, which stands for toilet paper. Weird…I know, but why not grow mushrooms on something that is easily accessible and a part of every home. Toilet paper, although not very rich in nutrients, can support the growth of an incredible mushroom…the oyster. This mushroom can grow on a wide variety of substrates like paper, cardboard, coffee grounds, straw, sawdust, and logs (just to name a few). It is mild in flavor and versatile to cook with. 

Rolls getting ready for inoculation. 

Kits come in a variety of size options, enough to plant 7, 15, or 21 rolls of toilet paper. And just so we are clear, these are not the toilet paper tubes alone, but rather the full roll of toilet paper. Each kit contains grain spawn (mushroom seed), filter patch bags, rubber bands, instructions and a recipe card. All you need to provide is a large pot for boiling water, tongs, and a spray bottle.

Let me explain the basics:

Toilet paper should be dipped into boiling water to hydrate.

First, heat a large pot of water to boil. Using a tongs, grip a toilet paper roll, and push it down under the hot water for about 3-5 seconds. Pull the roll out of the water and place on a clean surface to cool. Repeat with all toilet paper rolls. Once cool to the touch, place one roll in every included filter patch bag. Roll the bag down and pour the grain spawn into the center tube of the TP roll. It’s okay if some of the grain falls outside of the tube. Now, rubber band each bag closed (above the filter patch) and store in an undisturbed area between about 65-75 degrees. Closets, kitchen cabinets, or the top of the refrigerator work well for storage.   

Within 3-4 weeks you should notice that each roll is covered in a fluffy white mycelium (mycelium is like mushrooms roots), and this means it’s fully colonized and capable of producing mushrooms. The rolls should be put in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours. This will help to stimulate fruiting. If you wish to stagger the fruiting, rolls can be left in the refrigerator longer. Take the rolls out, remove the rubber bands, and pull open the bag to allow fresh air inside. Mist daily with a spray bottle and wait. Within two weeks you should be harvesting delicious mushrooms. Keep up the misting and the kit can last several months, producing mushrooms every few weeks. 

Watch our YouTube video outlining the steps above.

Toilet paper rolls are capable of producing several times if misted on a regular basis. 

This kit is interactive, and can be a fun learning experience. Often times they are used in the classroom for teaching the basics of fungi, and are periodically used for science fair projects. However, any person young or old can enjoy the wonders of this kit. If you are looking for something unusual to bring to deer camp this year, I guarantee this kit will fit the bill. They can make for interesting birthday and Christmas gifts too! Follow this link to buy one of these unique kits.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Home-Grown Hen of the Woods (aka Maitake mushroom)

by Mary Ellen Kozak

Hen of the Woods, prime for the picking.

Hen of the Woods mushrooms are members of the "superior" class of wild edible mushrooms. Crunchy even when cooked, rich in flavor, autumnal in color, they are a beloved mushroom to people who know them. Cultivated hens are referred to as "Maitake" (pronounced my-tahk-ee), but they are very tricky to grow indoors consistently. If you are lucky to find them in the wild, you will find them growing in late summer and early fall, often at the base of isolated oak stumps or growing out of radiating buried roots. You can revisit that stump, often for years, and find a hens roosting there every fall. It will likely take many acres of searching to find a hen, but when you do, it can be a prime photographic moment before harvest and hitting the pan!

Hen of the Woods really can look like a hen taking a sand bath and often blends into the landscape. No plucking is a perk!

Fortunately, if you have access to oak logs, you can grow them outdoors yourself. Inoculated logs will fruit for years every fall, but usually need 16-18 months after inoculation for fruiting to commence.

Maitake is a weak competitor. Like growing Shiitake or Oyster mushrooms on wood logs, you will inoculate the logs with spawn, but we highly recommended that you pre-treat the log first, then bury the log outdoors and let the fall weather bring on the fruiting. A prep/planting schedule looks like this:

Late fall through early spring → cut oak logs  
March through April → pre-treat logs and inoculate 
Through June → incubate logs indoors
By end of June → bury logs outdoors 
Fall, up to 18 months after burial → fruiting
Harvest a cluster every fall for approx a year per diameter inch of the log.

What is "pre-treatment"?
Wood logs come with their own protective bark sleeve which is sufficient to hold in moisture and prevent invasion of other fungi, allowing for fast colonization of whichever spawn you plant into the log. With Maitake, however, spawn run is unreliable but we can help it along by pre-treating the log in one of three ways: sterilizing it in a pressure cooker, boiling it for 1 hour or steaming it for 6 hours.

Which method is best?
Pressure cooking gives us the highest rate of colonization, but it requires a big enough cooker to hold a 2 lb. log, which we believe is the minimum size for good sized clusters and long term fruiting. Your pressure canner should be a minimum size of 12 qts, and you can process a bigger log if you have a 23 qt size canner.

This 12 qt canner comfortably fits a 2 lb. plus log.

Not comfortable with (or don't have) a pressure canner? The next best choice would be to steam or boil the log prior to inoculation. These each can result in a higher contamination rate in the finished log, but if carefully done and inoculated in a quiet, clean area of your house, can be very successful. You will need a large stock pot for either method. Boiling is a little more uncomfortable to work with, as the log must be boiled for one hour and taken out of hot water when time is up. Steaming (just as you would vegetables, rack on the bottom, a few inches of water and lid on) takes 6 hours, but the log can cool in the clean pot awaiting inoculation. We recommend using large autoclavable bags that will hold up to the heat with all three methods, but these are essential for the pressure cook method. If you have a large cooker you can pre-treat lots of logs, just like we did in the new FFP sterilizer (see below)!

Full instructions come with our Maitake spawn, or call us for a PDF of the instruction sheet.

After a few months incubation, locate a burial spot for your log in a well drained area with partial to full shade. Dig a hole the size of the log and place the log in the hole (you can bury the log vertically or horizontally). Cover the top of the log with a dusting to 1/2 inch of soil. It's also a good idea to mulch the area with a thin layer of wood chips or straw to keep developing mushrooms free from splashing soil as they develop in the fall.

This incubated log is ready for burial!

Make sure to stake or flag where your log is buried. Ours have been lost under the hostas! 

Try to install the logs where you have not seen a known competitor, such as Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria sp.) Because it is uncertain how much this fungus will rob nutrients from the Maitake log, it's best to try to encourage complete spawn run of the Maitake prior to planting it in soil. Maitake is definitely the better tasting mushroom!

This log was buried during the 2017 growing season and fruited September 2018. This log will continue to fruit  every fall for at least 5 more years.

If you don't have a shady spot in your yard, you can install your logs in a plastic milk crate filled with soil. Keep the crate tended through the summer by not letting it dry out. Crated logs tend to fruit a little earlier, but may have a shorter life, probably due to the tendency to keep the logs small enough to fit into a crate. 

You can bury the logs in a plastic tub filled with soil (line it with several layers of newsprint first) if you don't have a yard.

We dug this log up when it started to fruit just to look the point of attachment. Yep! looks like roosting tree poultry!

This log finally bore a tiny Maitake when inoculated with the standard totem method without any pre-treatment at all. This log is at least 8 years in the ground and is the only one of a dozen inoculated (without pre-treatment) that actually fruited. 

Growing Maitake this way may seem putzy, but it is the most sure fire and economical way to get Maitake, unless you are lucky enough to know where your wild Maitake trees/stumps are hiding. If you are "stumped" for good Maitake recipes, use them where you can showcase their crunch and distinctive flavor. Roasting on a sheet pan, they can be used in every way possible. This Roasted Potato and Maitake Salad is a recipe that makes the most of this special mushroom.

Roasted Potato and Maitake Salad

6 T olive oil
2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (6 medium) cut into 3/4-inch wedges
Salt and pepper
3/4 lb Maitake, rinsed and blotted dry just before using, ripped into 1/2 inch fronds
1/2 c marscapone cheese (or blend 8 oz softened cream cheese with 1/4 c heavy cream)
1/4 c orange juice
1` 1/2 tsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/3 c thinly sliced scallions

Preheat oven to 450° F

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with 1 T of the oil. In a large bowl, toss potatoes, 2 T of the oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper. Spread coated potatoes onto the baking sheet and roast about 20 minutes until just tender, flipping potatoes halfway through the cooking time.

Toss mushrooms, 1 T oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl. Scatter mushrooms over top of cooked potatoes and roast 10-15 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, whisk marscapone, orange juice, vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper in a bowl and drizzle in 2 T oil while whisking.

Flip the potatoes and mushrooms into a serving dish and spoon dressing over all. Toss to coat and garnish with scallions.

Serves 6-8

Recipe modified with compliments from Janice Thomas at the fabulous Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay, WI

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Red Maple: Can this native new weed of the temperate forest make for good mushroom wood?

by Lindsey Bender

Red Maple mid-season
Red Maple is a very successful native tree that appears to be on the move, increasing its predominance across the Great Lakes states and Northeast. Also known as swamp, water or soft maple, it is tolerant to both very wet and very dry sites and everything in-between. Whether the reason for the invasive quality is from decreases in fire frequency, current forestry practices or climate change, there is a worry that Red Maple is replacing regeneration of high value oaks, chestnut and sugar maple. For the mushroom grower, red maple has some great qualities. Stumps sprout in profusion, often growing straight with multiple stems and is very plentiful. It serves as a substrate for Shiitake mushrooms, but its profitability to mushroom growers has been variable at best. At F&FP we have always believed that if we can make it grow a little it can be tweaked to make it grow better. In 2015 Field & Forest Products (FFP) and Misty Dawn Farms (MDF) teamed up on a two-year research project investigating the use of Red Maple for Shiitake mushroom production. 

The short answer is Red Maple is a useful mushroom wood species if you cut in spring during sap flow, use larger diameters (5” in diameter and coarse bark) and let it age 4 weeks prior to inoculation. For more information about the study, see below.

1) Does the month in which the logs are cut make a difference on log success?

Normally we say that logs should ideally be cut during the dormant season (from approximately 1/3 leaf color change in the fall, anytime through winter up until bud swell in the spring). Logs cut during this time typically hold onto their bark longer and are less prone to contamination by other competing fungi. To test whether this is the case with Red Maple, we inoculated over 20 logs every month in a one year period with the “Night Velvet” shiitake mushroom strain and incubated them indoors at 60-70° F with 85-90% relative humidity. Mushroom production was stimulated by force fruiting logs (soaking logs in cold water for 24hrs) after 11 months incubation time, and then mushroom yield was taken for each log. We found that March logs cut during sap flow produced the highest mushroom yields and were the most successful compared to logs cut in all other months of the year. Off all the logs that fruited, larger diameter logs with thicker, coarser bark were more successful than smaller logs with smooth bark.

You can cut Red Maple when the buds are anywhere between these two stages

2) Does the amount of time between cutting Red Maple logs and inoculating influence log success? 

Typically shiitake logs are cut then allowed to sit for a minimum of two weeks prior to inoculation. 
This time allows for cellular dieback in the log and subsequent dampening of the log’s defense system against fungal invasion. Shiitake is a saprophytic fungus that invades and consumes only dead organic matter. The weedy nature of Red Maple means these logs are more prone to re-sprouting (Figure 1). This livelihood means that the log is still capable of fighting against fungal colonization and really reduces mushroom log success. To test this, we inoculated logs either 2 weeks or 4 months after cutting. We found that many of our logs inoculated after only 2 weeks rest period struggled with successful spawn run. Logs that rested four months prior to inoculating were far more successful and productive. This indicates that more than two weeks resting before inoculation is necessary.

Figure 1. The central log has re-sprouted indicating the log is still alive and capable of fighting off shiitake invasion (shown by the lack of spawn run and mycelium on the end of the log).  

3) Is Red Maple a viable wood type for commercial shiitake production?

Many of the red maple logs inoculated only two weeks after felling were only moderately successful. Logs cut and inoculated four months later were far more productive yielding up to 2.3lbs shiitake/log. Unfortunately, disease presence was considerably higher in the Red Maple logs compared to other wood species used for shiitake cultivation (Red Oak, White Oak, Sugar Maple, Aspen) managed similarly.

Results from the red maple logs were compared to standard shiitake logs inoculated and managed under the same conditions. Average yields per log from other wood types during for the first fruiting year include Sugar Maple (0.68lbs/log), Red Oak (0.96lbs/log), White Oak (1.01lbs/log), Aspen (0.89lbs/log), and are comparable to Red Maple cut in December (0.80lbs/log) and Red Maple cut in February (1.02lbs/log) (Figure 2).   

Figure 2. Results from the ideal larger-sized red maple logs were compared to standard shiitake logs inoculated and managed under the same conditions. NOTE: These results are from the first year of fruiting only and do not necessarily represent the overall capability of each wood type over the life of the logs.  Red maple and similar softer hardwood species tend to have shorter fruiting lives than oak logs which remain the recommended log type for shiitake cultivation.  


By selecting for log parameters (coarse bark, >5.5”/14cm diameter), allowing sufficient rest time between felling and inoculation, and controlling for competing fungal disease, red maple logs are capable of producing yields comparable to other wood species commonly used in commercial cultivation of shiitake such as Sugar Maple and Oak species.

There are abundant advantages to being able to utilize Red Maple over standard wood species including cost per log ($2.00 versus $3.00, respectively), increased availability and abundance of Red Maple, increased speed of stand regeneration after wood harvest, faster spawn run in a softer harder, and public willingness to harvest weedy wood species.

Disadvantages – the weedy nature of Red Maple means these logs are more prone to re-sprouting (Figure 1). This livelihood means that the log is still capable of fighting against fungal colonization. To reduce these chances, we recommend letting the logs rest at least 4 weeks (optimal time still being determined) from cutting until inoculation. Secondly, because Red Maple is a softer hard wood, the average life of the log is shorter than hardwoods typically used for shiitake cultivation. Lastly, softer hardwoods like Red Maple are more prone to contamination by competing fungi. Altering log management to reduce these risks may be necessary.

We at Field and Forest Products are constantly striving to improve and clarify the standards for shiitake cultivation to improve success. To do so, we are working on a follow-up to this study examining timing of cut and optimal length of rest time to increase productivity comparing Sugar Maple and Red Maple. We also believe this data will be transferable to other invasive soft maple species such as Norway Maple (Acer platanoides). We will share those results with you in the future!

This two-year research project was funded by the North Central Region of Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program. You can read the full report here on their website:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Lion's Mane, a Memorable, Medicinal Mushroom

by Laura Kahles

When people ask us what the medicinal benefits of Lion’s Mane (aka Monkey Head, Pom Pom, Hericium erinaceus) are, we typically respond, “It helps improve memory function and promotes nerve regeneration.” While true, there is more to be said about this charming character. The Chinese more commonly use this mushroom to aid in digestion and alleviate gastric ulcers. It is also filled with beneficial polysaccharides and polypeptides. These big words simply translate into “medicine” that can boost the immune system and help with the fight against certain cancers including some stomach, esophagus, and skin varieties.  Who knew that such an adorable fungus could secretly be a superhero.   

What's not to love about this photo?

I have consumed mushrooms in many forms. The most common is straight consumption of both cooked and raw mushrooms (remember bacteria and parasites often take joy rides on mushroom fruiting bodies, so eat raw mushrooms at your own risk). Working at a mushroom farm certainly gives me ample opportunity to eat a wide variety of these tasty treasures and Lion’s Mane is no different. Although I long for the rich buttery flavor of the wild Hericium, I have more access the sawdust block variety, which is also flavorful and enjoyable IF picked early. Be sure to cook Lion’s Mane on a low simmer or add it to a hearty soup or stew. This full bodied mushroom won’t leave you hungry.

The Lion's Mane mushroom. This one is pink in color due to high humidity conditions in the fruiting room.

I have also had my fair share of mushroom teas, but I find they are either to flavorless or too mushroomy (yep… I just said that). If I decide to sit down to a cup of my favorite mushrooms in a drink form I like to mix them with a few of my favorite herbal buddies. Any of the various mints, chamomile, or rooibos. A squeeze of lemon or a drop of wild orange essential oil never hurts. To each their own when it comes to jazzing up fungus water! I do try to keep it healthy and natural, we are after all trying to use it as a medicine. Honey is my sweetener of choice. Make sure mushroom teas are made using a relaxing simmer, as opposed to a violent boil, which can cause damage to the valuable medicinal components.
If you are interested in getting the full benefits and flavor of your mushroom, a real shock to the palate, try juicing them! The F&FP staff did this with Lion’s Mane, and it was... well... an experience I personally will never forget. Mary Ellen did the juicing. The mushrooms (25% of the weight) along with carrots, apples and kale were put into a juicer and voila! She served them to us in cute little cups (she tricked us is what she did), and cheers, we guzzled them down. While not the most enjoyable beverage, I can rest easy knowing that the medicine lurking within the mushrooms was served to me in full effect, no damage from the heat involved with some of the other processes.
A wonderful blend of juices, including Lion's Mane

My favorite way to consume medicinal mushrooms is in a concentrated tincture form. I prefer this because it doesn’t take much effort to add it to my everyday food or beverages, and I don’t usually notice it as an ingredient. Tincturing is a straightforward process. Basically mushrooms are suspended in alcohol where they sit for several weeks. Once that process is complete the alcohol is drained and the mushrooms are reused for a 6-8 minute low simmer in water. After straining out the mushrooms the water and alcohol are combined to create an almighty elixir. For more details on this process visit my previous post, Reishi Tincture: A Cure All.  

I would love to see the Lion’s Mane continue to rise in popularity, so if you haven’t tried it out yet please consider! The health benefits alone sure have me convinced. Hold up your tiny glasses of juiced Lion’s Mane and let’s cheer to health!

Check out the bonus Lion's Mane recipe below:

Louisiana Style Vegetarian Gumbo with Lion's Mane, Okra and Zucchini
by Mary Ellen Kozak

After years of cooking Lion's Mane, I have a short list of ways to capitalize on this mushroom's list of of culinary attributes. Lion's Mane is surely one of the more unusual of the cultivated mushrooms. It has a fairly distinct and strong flavor, chewy yet soft texture, and it seems unlikely that something with a hairy texture could be so invincible in the cooking pot. Lion's Mane prepared in this medium-slow cook method is mild flavored and pliable with a slight chew, feeling solid, like a bite of shrimp. Its soft texture is downright succulent in contrast to the soft and slippery okra. This is my first go at a gumbo, which I'm learning has many styles and versions. This one is vegetarian-lite, can be loaded with healthy Lion's Mane which makes for a fabulous lunch or a light weeknight supper and you'll feel remarkable healthy after eating it.

Louisiana Style Vegetarian Gumbo


1 T oil

1  onion, diced
1 c sliced bell peppers
3 large stalks of celery, sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
6 c vegetable (or chicken) broth
14 oz can whole or diced tomatoes (or pint jar of your own)
1 1/2 c  okra, (if using frozen okra, thaw slightly for easy slicing)
2 small zucchini, sliced
1/2 lb (about 3 c)  Lion's Mane, torn into bite size pieces
1 tsp file' powder (ground sassafras leaves, or sub 1/2 tsp thyme and 1/2 tsp marjoram ... but try to find the file powder!)
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of hot sauce
A few grinds of black pepperOptional: 2 tsp arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 c cold water (for a thicker gumbo)
Hot cooked rice


In a soup pot, saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms over a low-moderate heat. Add the bell pepper and celery and cook a few more minutes. Add the seasonings, tomato and zucchini and partially cover. Simmer for about 25 minutes. If you prefer a thicker stew, add the arrowroot or cornstarch and return the stew to a moderate heat for a few minutes. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve over a fluffy cooked rice.

Gumbo recipe adapted from www.thespruce.com