Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Holy Shiitake!!

Fall Flush October 2014

We finally got our flush we have been waiting all year for!  Everyone has been asking all market season when we will have shiitakes. Well they have arrived :)  Matt and I cut mushrooms all morning and Juniper helped put them in the bags (She is such a good little helper already, plus she loves them too)

We don't recommend harvesting without scissors but since she is 16 months......this will have to do

This is our second year growing the mushrooms on logs that Matt inoculated over 2 years ago.  Matt actually cut all one hundred logs to specifics and drilled the holes to put the mycelia in. After those holes were covered in wax, we waited.  Hopefully we will get mushrooms for another 2 years or so, Matt told me the average life span of the logs producing is around 4 years.

Now, a little information about how beneficial Shiitake Mushrooms are for you: 

I managed an herb shop when I met Matt and I learned a tremendous amount about the immune building characteristics of mushrooms in general.  The only culinary experience with mushrooms I had was limited to portobellas and button mushrooms traditionally found at the supermarket.  The mushrooms that people were requesting for healing were from a different realm it seemed.  The three main ones were Shiitake, Maitake, and Reishi. There are many more to mention but because we are growing Shiitakes, I'll keep it cliffs notes style.  Each mushroom has its own wonderful healing properties that can be very specific, for example Cordeceps are a mushroom found growing on a caterpillars head and it can be used for stamina and energy.  The common denominator found with these mushrooms is that they have been found to build immunity and strengthen the body to fight off viruses, bacteria and reverse some diseases. 

Multiple mushrooms explode from the bark:  Some holes even produce 2 or 3 mushrooms at a time.

Shiitakes are amazing not only because they are so delicious and versatile to cook with,  but they also help stave off the cooties.  If you would like to know the nutritional value and some other really nice information about the health benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms, click here .  I wondered if we were to have been mushroom hunting instead of gathering what we have grown, would come across wild shiitakes.  If there are any hunters out there reading this, any information would be greatly appreciated.  I read that the percentage is low and that China is the number one grower/exporter of Shiitakes. Which brings me to another important keynote:  Make sure any mushroom you buy is organic; mushrooms are sponges and they absorb any and all environmental toxins surrounding them.  And it is very important to store them in paper bags in the refrigerator since the moisture level is pretty high. If they are stored in plastic bags the mushrooms will be ruined, unless you are like us and eat them too fast to store them:))

Now that is a lot of mushrooms! Juniper can't keep her hands off of them.

So what do I do with our flushes and all the mushrooms we get to eat???? Well simply, we saute them with butter after slicing them. YUM.  I also dehydrate a good bit to make sure we have some for winter.  I plan to make a nice creamy soup tonight and am looking forward to maybe making some tinctures in case we get any cooties come through the household.  Remember how anti-viral they can be?  I'll post the recipe for Creamy Mushroom Soup below which I have also frozen for casserole dishes to use later.  Either way we will be at Poplar Grove on Wednesday with our last flush of the year and hopefully will get some more cuttings for Saturday's Downtown Rivermarket in Wilmington.  Hope to see you there and Enjoy!!!

Recipe for Creamy Mushroom Soup   

2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
2-3 cloves Garlic (crushed and minced)
2 yellow onions ( diced )
2 lbs shiitake mushrooms (diced)
1 pint of coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock

Saute garlic in oil until brown. Add onions and saute until translucent then add half the amount of chopped mushrooms.  Transfer all cooked ingredients into blender and add coconut milk. Blend until smooth then add back to pot to simmer with the vegetable stock. Add stock slowly until desired consistency.  Serve with crackers.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Harvest Days: Perfect Lunch for a Vegetarian

After harvesting for the market today, I thought it would be nice to share (or brag, for that matter) how delicious and spectacular my lunch was this afternoon.  Of course I have taste for quality control and make sure I can explain what our food tastes like freshly picked.

Thinning with the block system

I have been sprouting for some time now and trying to get into growing microgreens however I cannot rationalize the economics behind all that since I know what goes into planting them.  Please don't get me wrong, I stand strong with the belief that the nutritious benefits from sprouts and microgreens are of the utmost healing and alkalizing however, the difference between sprouting and growing microgreens are significantly different. First, with microgreens you need a medium which can be costly if your standards are as strict as ours. We get our soil mix from Seven Springs in the Raleigh area which is organic and yes we drive up there to get it.  Then there is the cost of the seed itself.  You would have to purchase bulk for sure but unless you are saving your own seed which is a whole other topic I cannot imagine that being economically beneficial either. 

My point with all this rambling is how lucky I am when it's time to thin the transplants before actually transplanting them to the ground. My midday snack is basically microgreens!  In order to ensure the plants do not get too 'leggy'  we have to keep a watchful eye on their growth.  Because we use the block system, and depending on the germination rate of the seed we use (biodynamic seeds seem to have an excellent germination rate by the way)  we typically put 2-3 seeds in each block.  Once they sprout and start growing, we need all the energy to go into only one seedling, so we have to thin them.  I don't know if most growers just toss the sprout but I collect them all for one big handful of nutritious deliciousness!  I especially love the brassicas.  They tend to have the most flavor and sometimes I like to close my eyes to taste and figure out which one is which.  Kales, broccoli, mustards, cabbages, you name it they are all wonderful.


Well we just finished thinning our next succession of transplants and they should be ready in the next week or so to go into the ground. We have a few nice rows of arugula and salad mixes in the ground already.  Our favorite mix hands down is the Asian Green Mix which has a combination of Tatsoi, Mizuna, Red Russian Kale, and some Mustard for flavor.  Overall, the mix is not hot because of the mustard, it really just adds flavor.  You will find the recipe for what I do with this salad below. Although it can be a nice braising mix, we prefer it as a raw salad. The freshness is something I have never experienced before we started growing our food.

Asian Mixed Greens w/ Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms

Recipe for Asian Mixed Salad:              
Makes 2 Large Salads

1/2 lb of our Asian Greens
1 Red Onion (sliced)
2 Tbsp Organic Raw Sugar
1 Mango (peeled and diced)
1/2 cup of sliced almonds
2 Tbsp of Tamari Sauce

Basically the onions need to be caramalized and everything else is self explanatory.  I usually saute the onions in coconut oil when making this salad but you can use olive oil if that is all that is on hand.  After the onions are translucent add the sugar and stir til dissolved. Turn down the burner to a low temp and let cook for about 15-20 mins.
Arrange the salad as you like and add Tamari at the end for taste.  Sometimes we don't even use it for a salad dressing. The flavors come through just right with all the other ingredients. I use Tamari because it has a less salty flavor than traditional soy sauce.  Enjoy!