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Several years ago for my birthday, my husband took us to a Mother Earth News conference in Pennsylvania. So that we could attend more seminars and share what we learned with each other, we split up.
I went to a session about strengthening the soil; he went to one on winter veggies. I went to a session on bio char; he went to one on living off grid, and so on.
The last workshop I attended was on beekeeping. He went to one on growing mushrooms.
On the way home, we talked about what we'd learned and what we'd like to try. According to him, growing mushrooms on stumps in a shady part of the yard would be a snap— as simple as clearing an area, finding suitable stumps and ordering the spawn.
"Great," I said, "let's do it." But somehow we never did it.
So this past September when I saw mushroom growing kits from Sharondale Mushroom Farm at the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival, I picked one up.
"It's not a grove of mushroom stumps," I thought, "but it's a start." Baby steps, you know.
Home again, I placed the little burlap bag of sawdust and mushroom mycelium on the bar in the kitchen. And there it sat.
It sat there through October. (I was busy teaching— so many essays!)
It sat there through November. (Still more essays. And Thanksgiving— lots of cooking, so much traveling!)
It sat there through December. (This time I was swamped with end-of-term tasks: scoring revisions and finals and double-checking final grades— and a project report, too. And then more traveling.)
When we returned home after Christmas, I gave the house a good cleaning and noticed something odd about the burlap bag on the counter top. It had sprouted mushrooms! Without me.
How had that happened?
Life, uh, finds a way.
— Ian Malcom (played by Jeff Goldblum), Jurassic Park
Apparently, I had placed the bag within the sink's splash zone, and the mycelium in the bag had sprouted.
I was delighted. If the kit produced mushrooms with so little care, just think how much it would produce if I paid attention.
Quickly then, after so many months of neglect, I read the directions and followed them, cutting across the mushroom cluster stamped on the burlap bag with a sharp knife then placing the bag in a bowl of shallow water. It was that simple.
Two days later, the mushrooms that had begun growing from the tied-off end of the bag were enormous. I harvested them and added them to the chicken and barley soup I was making that day.
In the meantime, I added a little water to the bowl every morning when I made coffee.
The next batch was ready to harvest less than a week later.
Like the other mushrooms, they'd erupted from the gathered end of the bag.
This time, I decided to do something special with them.
I found several interesting recipes in a wonderful online cookbook by Louise Freedman called Wild about Mushrooms: The Mycological Society of San Francisco Cookbook.
The cookbook has four parts, each comprised of numerous chapters. Recipes are accompanied by informative essays written in an elegant style.
I keyed in on the part titled "A Cook's Encyclopedia of Wild and Cultivated Mushrooms" and found a chapter on the mushrooms in our kit, oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
The recipe for Mock Abalone sounded good to me. It involves coating mushroom pieces in seasoned flour then sauteing them in olive oil and butter.
To make the dredging easy and mess-free, Freedman suggests placing the flour, spices and mushrooms in a paper bag and shaking it.
I altered Freedman's recipe a bit for our tastes, adding an extra clove of minced garlic, and subbing oregano for marjoram and hot Hungarian paprika for regular paprika.
As I cleaned the mushrooms for the saute, removing sawdust particles and burlap threads, I noticed how incredibly, unbelievably beautiful they are— their curled edges and pleated gills; their tender interior canals, so subtle in color. How soft to the touch yet firm they are.
After admiring them a while, I chopped them into small pieces for the saute.
Even then they were beautiful.
The Mock Abalone was delicious.
Freedman suggests serving it with either lemon wedges or soy sauce. We used both, squeezing lemon over the crispy mushroom bits and then dipping them in low-sodium soy sauce.
I can't wait to try another recipe from Wild about Mushrooms. At the rate our kit is producing, that will probably be next week.
© 2018 Jill Spencer
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 10, 2018:
What a great idea. I never thought it's that easy. I love those mushrooms and when we're in Asia we could easily get them but not around where we are in Canada and to think it's so easy to grow them anyway.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on February 01, 2018:
Nice to hear from you, Donna. Hope you're keeping well. I know you're crafting! (:
Donna Herron from USA on January 31, 2018:
Hi Jill - This mushroom kit looks really interesting and fun. I've never seen a mushroom kit, but I'll have to look for one. They look delicious and easy to grow!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 29, 2018:
Your mushrooms do look beautiful! Sounds like they're easy to grow. Enjoy your harvest!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 28, 2018:
Natalie, the kit really is cool. And you don't have to worry about whether there's enough light in the kitchen, which is usually the problem with growing herbs indoors in the winter. Thanks for taking the time to comment. (:
Hi Linda. I wonder if garden centers sell them now? Probably. I'm amazed at how much this little burlap bag is producing-- easily enough for three or four as a side dish. Thanks for stopping by! Have a good one.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 28, 2018:
Hi Virginia. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, my kit sure is working.
Mary, the Mother Earth News conference was really great with lots of groups to attend. Wish I remembered more about biochar. I would have to look at my notes before I could have an intelligent conversation about it.
Hey Larry, no fear! The kit is as safe as buying from the grocery store. lol
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 27, 2018:
This sounds like a great way to grow edible mushrooms. I love the sound of the recipes, too. I'm going to look for a mushroom kit in my area now that I've read your article.
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on January 27, 2018:
What a great article. I love mushrooms but have always just gotten them from the store. I never thought to try growing them or to get too e,otoc on which ones I eat. Thanks for the info!I
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on January 27, 2018:
Love mushrooms. To chicken to harvest them myself.
Mary Wickison from Brazil on January 27, 2018:
Sadly the only mushrooms available where I live are in a jar. I love hearing about your experience.
The quote you use from Jurassic Park, I use a lot here on our farm. Usually, it has to do with weeds though.
I imagine your trip to the Mother Earth News conference was fascinating. Here on our little farm, we often feel lost as to the best way to go forward.
I'd be interested to hear about your experience in the biochar session.
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on January 27, 2018:
I've thought about doing this, but saw some downer reviews of mushroom kits on Amazon. Your results are impressive.
In the summer in NH, I see lots of mushrooms in the woods but am afraid to try them. Knowing the ones you grow are safe is a big plus.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 27, 2018:
Hi Peggy. I think I love it so much because it's winter, and it's the only harvest I'm getting as I didn't grow kale or turnips this year. Thanks for commenting! I hope you do get a kit. Have fun with it! Jill
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 27, 2018:
I absolutely love eating mushrooms and after reading this will definitely start growing my own from a kit such as this. Thanks for writing this article!