By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician
Millions of Americans are disconnected to agriculture with more than three generations removed from the farm. They are turning to urban gardening, farm to door delivery services, local farms/farmers markets and even foraging in an attempt to regain that connection. They yearn for control, involvement and hygge where their food comes from.
Foraging. It has become the new bougie term for those who are focused on environmental and sustainable eating. I was talking with a friend just the other day about her son who lives in an inner metro area and had taken up foraging. She was so excited she was almost jumping up and down that he had foraged in the neighborhood and parks to find incredible edible treasures. First off, my hubby hates mushrooms so the way to my man’s heart is to avoid mushrooms. Bottomline, I had no idea what she was talking about.
Second, I was just aghast about going off sidewalk and gathering things from other people’s space (property) and local parks. After further questioning she said he did ask the one neighbor. The top things people forage for are greens, nuts, berries, seeds, and mushrooms. For all you farmers reading, wild spinach, known to you as lambsquarters, is just a field or ditch near you. If you do decide to take up foraging, it is VERY important that you educate yourself on identifying these wild eats.
If foraging isn’t your cup of tea, you are in luck because more than 900 million pounds of mushrooms are grown in the U.S. If I am going to enjoy a mushroom, I prefer to go around the corner to my friends the Gordons at Purple Plains Farm. They have a cool mushroom growing area at their small lavender and mushroom farm. They currently grow shitake mushrooms because they are the easiest to control but have harvested Oyster, Nameko and Winecaps in the past. Their woodland area is shaded with only limited filtered light. A 3- to 6-inch diameter and 3 to 4 feet in length oak log is their first choice when it comes to log selection. This size and variety is the easiest for them to manage and get the most bang for their log. Next step is to inoculate with spawn 9 to 12 months before desired first harvest. Once a baby shitake starts to pop the surface of the log, it’s time to soak the log for 24 hours in a standard livestock water trough. Then, 7 to 10 days later it’s showtime! The shrooms are ready for harvest when the cap pulls away from the pin (the stem). These logs, after inoculation, can last as long as 5 years, soaking and forcing them every 8 weeks if the bark remains healthy. Cheryl’s favorite way to enjoy her shitakes’ is sauteed over a filet.
Nutritionally mushrooms are like a homeland security secret until you unlock those nutrients. Cheryl, a fellow dietitian, tells me that mushrooms are one of those foods that are more beneficial when cooked. Heat helps break down the chitin walls of the fungi and releases all those well-kept secret nutrients. Shitake are bursting with Vitamin D. If the gills are exposed to sunlight post-harvest their Vitamin D levels has been shown to skyrocket. Who couldn’t benefit from more Vit. D? Time to suck it up and load up Paul! What’s on your plate this September? Fantastic Fungi that’s what.
Eat well and Healthy,
Shitake Mushroom Quiche Purple Plains Farm
1 – 9-inch deep dish pie crust
4 oz. sliced Shiitake mushrooms
½ cup sliced scallions
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups grated Swiss cheese
1 ½ cups whipping cream
3 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prebake pie crust (using pie weights or dried beans) for 8 minutes.
2. Sauté mushrooms and scallions in butter for a few minutes until just tender.
3. Cover bottom of pie crust with Swiss cheese. Layer mushroom mixture evenly on top.
4. Combine remaining ingredients and pour on top.