In early spring, particularly with the winter weather we’ve been having even as we approach the middle of April, there are few options for super fresh locally-grown food outside those farmers who have some greenhouse production for spring greens. Mushrooms are a great way to have a very fresh, local treat that also happens to be packed with protein, Vitamin D and folate- all great stuff for the end of a long winter.
We are fortunate to have great access to mushrooms here in New England, with a growing number of mushroom farmers in our area who are growing food much more dense and nutrient-rich than the white or brown button mushrooms we’re used to seeing in sad styrofoam packages in the grocery store. Our growers use different substrates on which to grow their mushrooms- wood chips of different kinds, and wheat or soybean is used as the inoculant where the mushroom spores are introduced to spread their mycelia, mushrooms’ version of plant roots. The inoculant is mixed with wood chips, on which mushrooms are then stimulated to fruit as they breakdown the carbon of the wood fibers. The mushroom ‘fruit’ is the mechanism by which the mushrooms reproduce- the gills often found on the underside of the mushroom in the case of oyster mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms, is what produces spores by which the mushrooms are able to spread their seed and reproduce. Mycoterra sells grow kits so you can try this method on your own- a great way to grow mushrooms using only a little countertop space at home.
Thinking about growing your own?
At a commercial scale, this bag production method is popular, but you also may have heard of people growing mushrooms on logs. This method is great for lower-scale production, and if you are growing during the warmer months and have outdoor space in which to do so. To do this, you need freshly cut logs- maple or oak are favorites, as the mushroom taste can vary depending on the wood on which it grows. The idea with using fresh cut logs is that you are not using wood that has already been overrun with mycelium from other wild fungi ready to break down the wood. The logs can be drilled with 7/8inch holes to insert inoculant on wood plug or simply on sawdust into the holes along the logs 6″ apart from one another. Dab a little hot wax over the holes to keep in the moisture, and then let them sit in a cool, damp spot for 6 months to a year. This is when the mycelium grows. ‘Shocking’ the log makes the mushrooms fruit- giving them a quick dose of water, telling them it’s a good time to reproduce. After soaking for 24 hours, the logs are propped up in the open air and will fruit in about a week. If you’re thinking about growing shiitakes or oyster mushrooms, and have a small outdoor space, this is a great way to start.
Where to Find Local Mushrooms
Farmers’ Markets now usually have a mushroom grower or two in their line up of vendors, but you can always try going straight to the grower, too. Many of our growers are very passionate about what they do and are excited to connect with their customers, especially those who show an interest in their techniques, or even in growing mushrooms themselves!
–NH Mushroom Co., Tamworth, NH: Set in the picturesque White Mountains, Eric and Dennis started NH Mushroom Co. offering a consistent, flawless supply of mushrooms to surrounding restaurants, and farmers markets as far south as Dover, NH. They grow lion’s mane, chestnuts, king oysters, elms and blue oysters, among other varieties
-Mycoterra Farm, Deerfield, MA has a deep passion for growing mushrooms; they are excited about spreading the goodness that mushrooms have to offer, and even make body care products that feature the benefits of mushroom extracts.
-Fat Moon Farm, Chelmsford, MA. Farmer Elizabeth made a transition from vegetable-growing to mushroom growing only a few years ago, and has already moved to a bigger facility to accommodate her crop this year! She sells to CSA farmers who want to add a little variety to their shares, and local restaurants.
Learn More about Mushrooms from Our Local Growers
MycoTerra offers classes from time to time on how to grow mushrooms at commercial or homesteader scale. NH Mushrooms Co. offers a tour of their impressive facility every Sunday at noon in Tamworth, NH. This is a great tour, and will give you a full rundown of how they procure spores, inoculate substrate and fruit their array of beautiful mushrooms, from Lion’s Mane or Bear’s Head mushrooms to Chestnuts and Blue Oysters. If you’re making the road trip up to Tamworth, about an hour and a half from Boston, there are lots of great hiking opportunities as the facility borders the White Mountain National Forest and Hemminway Woods, a State Forest. Over the summer, NH Mushroom Co. offers educational mushroom walks through the woods so you can learn to identify mushrooms in the wild- a really fun way to get inside a mycologists head!
Sometime over the summer in 2018 we’ve been asked to team up with NH Mushroom Co. to offer a 3-course meal featuring Mushrooms! We’ll keep you all posted on when you can buy tickets for that.
There are so many ways to eat mushrooms, we’ve even heard or someone making mushroom jerky out of wild-harvested Chicken of the Woods. While we haven’t tried this, we have a number of amazing mushrooms recipes. Below is our favorite recipe that we adapted for our meal kits based on the recipe from NH Mushroom Co.
1- pound Bears head mushrooms chopped to the size of lump crab meat
1- cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 c cooked millet
3- green onions chopped finely
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp horseradish
White Bean Hummus with Preserved Lemon
Fry lion’s mane mushroom chunks in sunflower oil or butter until they release liquid. Remove and mix with all other ingredients. Form patties and pan fry on med high heat in butter or oil for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Top with white bean hummus and preserved lemon, or a vegan aioli