Friday, February 25, 2011
Okay so I wrote this post a few days ago but when I went to add photos I realized the Russian had run off with the point and shoot camera with all my pictures from last weekend and he's currently freezing in - 20 C Winnipeg. No problem, I'll just wait and post about it in a few days, while I wait for the mushrooms to grow. Except that the mushrooms decided not to wait. They have completely exploded in the past two days. And there's a good chance they may take over the house by tomorrow. So I've harvested some tonight and I do have my good camera here for some recent shots but I'm a little embarrassed to say I failed to document their progress- it just happened so fast!
Last weekend work sent me to Montreal and while I was there I had a chance to check out a magical little shop called Mycoboutique which features everything you'd ever want to know about mushrooms and other fungi!
There's a refrigerated case that holds fresh mushrooms (since it's February not many were local and none were locally foraged) and related products like miso and kefir grains.
There's also a huge rack of dried mushroom including many locally foraged. They carry many supplies to grow your own as well, ranging from one time use kits to spore inoculant for various species using the drilled log technique. Lots of gourmet mushroom products ranging from dips and soups to full cooked and frozen meals are also available; some cooked right there in their in house kitchen! There's also a lot of really great resources and even a mushroom picking equipment area- now I'm coveting a mushroom basket! All in all, it's an absolute heaven for fungi lovers and well worth a special trip.
Of course I wanted to buy everything in the store but since my budget (and room in my luggage) only allowed for a small purchase, I decided on a kit to grow shiitake mushrooms. Other options included enoki or oyster mushrooms; they usually also carry kits for King Oysters and button mushrooms but neither were available the day I was there. The spores for each type of mushroom are inoculated into a sterilized sawdust mixture and kept refrigerated to keep them from pinning (sending out what we call mushrooms). Detailed directions on how to encourage fruiting are inside the box; mine however needed no help at all! Perhaps because the box sat at room temp in my hotel room for two days before I brought it home, I already had tiny mushrooms forming when I opened the kit. A quick dousing in cold water and some exposure to light seemed to be all they needed to take off!
The directions suggest keeping the kit in a cool but humid location and surprisingly, exposed to light but not direct sun. It seems most mushrooms (buttons being the exception) require some light to fruit; although they don't produce chlorophyll like green plants, they do need light to stimulate fruiting, and mushrooms exposed to light actually produce Vitamin D, something I can surely use this time of year. The optimal room for this in our apartment turned out to be the dining room which averages around 18 degrees C and has a north facing window. Because we have forced air heat which can be dry I adapted the kit to maintain some humidity by loosely covering it with a clear plastic (poly) bag as suggested. It seems to be working well - I ate my first crop of smallish shiitakes in less than a week. At that point they weren't fully mature but they were dense and sweet and delicious!
Today however they have reached monster proportions, look like proper shiitakes, and I need to figure out what do with them all!
I'm thinking mushroom soup, mushroom pierogies, or maybe just a dish of mushrooms sauteed in butter, yum! Like most home grown things, the difference between a fresh mushroom vs those you can buy at a store is astonishing. I don't know if I can ever buy another mushroom again now I've tasted these.
The kit gives instructions on how to reset the substrate for a second fruiting and in some cases it can be coaxed for a third. In theory it can continue to fruit indefinitely, however the kits are a limited by the amount of available nutrients and on average produce about 600 gm of mushrooms. Since Shiitake mushrooms average about $10/lb the kits aren't really cost effective at that rate. I asked about supplementing the sawdust with additional cellulose in some form and was told it is possible but unless the substrate is completely sterilized you'd risk introducing other organisms that are potentially harmful. So does anyone know where I can obtain sterilized hardwood sawdust? Because I think I just became a mushroom farmer!