Spore!

One of our neighboring farms is Sleepy Root Farm. We met them last fall when they came to our first open house. (Yes, we will have another open house! Eventually!) We now have a mushroom add on with their CSA.

Last weekend Sleepy Root hosted a party on their farm for all the local farmers and farm employees to get to know each other. Two of our farm employees, Seth and Roxy, went to the party, and Jeremy followed after packing mushrooms for the CSA.  Sleepy Root had a litter of kittens that were quite popular. Seth, Roxy, and Jeremy all fell in love with one particular cutie and it was decided that we needed a farm cat!  (Well, another one. There were some last year, but they seem to have disappeared!)

So little Spore came home to the farm.

spore1

He is, as you can see, ridiculously adorable and I warned Jeremy that no one would be able to get any work done now that he has everyone wrapped around his little paw.

 

It’s nice to have a snuggly friendly animal on the farm again.  Our flock of chickens and two ducks just aren’t that snuggly!

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Recipe: Grilled Mushroom and Garlic Pizza

You can make or purchase pizza dough for this recipe, or buy a ready made crust.

3 to 4 oz. fresh shiitake, oyster, or other mushrooms, chopped
pizza dough
2 Tbsp flour
up to about 1/4 cup olive oil
2 small to medium heads of garlic
1 to 1-1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
3 to 5 oz. mozzarella cheese
1 to 2 oz. parmesan or friesago cheese

If you’ve bought frozen pizza dough, thaw dough in refrigerator. Several hours before cooking, bring to room temperature on floured surface until doubled in size. Roll out dough until thin using rolling pin or stretching by hand. Use flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to surface or rolling pin. Place on well-floured (and movable) chopping block.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel away outer layers of garlic heads, but without removing skin on individual cloves. Then trim off between a 1/4 and 1/2 of the top of the bulb with a knife, exposing the tops of the cloves. Put garlic heads in baking pan, then drizzle with 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Cover the heads with aluminum foil and cook in the oven until garlic is soft, about 30 minutes.

You can roast the tomatoes at the same time as you roast the garlic. Wash the tomatoes,
then slice in half. Place tomato halves in baking pan, cut side up, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and cook until soft and browned.

After taking garlic and tomatoes out of the oven, turn the oven up to 550 degrees (or however hot your oven gets if it doesn’t get to 550) and cook the pizza crust on a pizza stone for about 5 minutes. If you are using a ready made crust, you can skip this step.

Prepare grill. Grate or crumble cheeses.

Clean mushrooms as needed. Trim away less fleshy stems and save for soup
stock. Slice larger caps into smaller pieces. Heat 1 to 2 Tbsp of olive oil on medium-high
heat, and saute mushroom caps until soft and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. If
mushroom look dry add more oil to pan. Set aside.

Spread roasted garlic on the pizza crust, add tomatoes, and any oil from their roasting, then top with mushrooms and cheeses. Place pizza on grill and cook until the bottom is firm and the cheese has melted. Remove from grill, then slice and serve immediately.

No more “Old Faithful”

More excitement on the farm last week: we got our new watering system installed!

Mushroom farming takes a fair amount of water. In addition to all the water for the soaking tanks (as mentioned last week), we need to water the logs occasionally to keep them from drying out and we water in the fruiting house to help keep up the humidity. Who knew mushrooms were so demanding!?

We were happy to discover that the new farm had an agricultural well, gushing around 80 gallons a minute, already installed and ready to go. Jeremy had used standard garden hoses for years on all the past farms, and the water pressure gets worse the farther the hose goes. So Jeremy went with a nice big lay-flat hose. It was 2 inches in diameter (much more capacity than your standard backyard garden hose), bright blue, and we had about 600 feet of it.  It started at the house, ran through the lawn, up onto the dirt/gravel road running through the farm, then over a rock wall, down through a field, and finally up into the woods where we were resting and fruiting logs last year. It was the only place on the farm that worked for this, so we had to stretch the hose all that way.

layFlatHose

The hose at the end of its journey – in the woods with the resting logs.

Unfortunately, the poor hose managed to find every last random piece of barbed wire, nail, and rusty sharp bit of old machinery, and had several losing encounters with tractor tires.  By mid-summer is more Swiss-cheese than hose. Jeremy patched it and fixed it many times, but he finally gave up. He’d no sooner patch a hole, then move the hose slightly and it would be full of holes again.

It made for a seriously wet and muddy road last year.  Also, one of the biggest geysers from the hose was in the lawn and sprayed right over the fire pit. We have a pile of wood there so it’s always ready to have a little fire – but the whole pile was wet all year, and there was often a little lake around the fire pit! The only ones who enjoyed all this water were the ducks!

For the last couple months Jeremy has been planning the new watering system. He dug a trench from the house, following the same path, but going to the new soaking tanks and fruiting house. Several stops along the way there are spigots so it will be easier in the future to water a field of veggies or fill up the water tanks for pigs. And the last spigot pours water directly into the new soaking tanks.

Sorry ducks  – no more muddy roads and boggy wet lawn!

 

Recipe: Snap Pea and Shiitake Stir Fry

Serves 4

4 to 6 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms
or
1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup short or medium grain white or brown rice
pinch of salt
1 cup garlic scapes or scallions, cut into 1″ lengths
2 cups fresh snap peas
2 to 3 Tbsp canola or peanut oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp tamari or soy sauce or to taste

If using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water to cover for an hour, then pat dry
with a towel. Save liquid for soup stock or other recipe.

Bring 4 cups of water to boil in cook pot and add rice and pinch salt. Reduce to
simmer until rice is tender.

Wash snap peas and remove stems. Wash and trim garlic scapes or scallions and
cut into 1-inch lengths. If using scallions only use the first few inches of the stalk.
Slice or chop mushroom caps. Save stems in the freezer for stock or broth.

Heat 1 Tbsp canola or peanut oil on medium-low heat in wok or sauté pan. When
hot, sauté mushrooms until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Heat remaining
canola or peanut oil on medium-high heat. When hot, add snap peas and garlic
scapes or scallions, and toss frequently until slightly browned. Add mushrooms,
sesame oil, fish sauce, and tamari or soy sauce; then cook for another two or three
minutes.

Place vegetables on drained rice and serve immediately.

Out with the old, in with the new!

Some of our mushroom logs fruit all on their own, when they feel like it. They can’t be forced. All they need is time and the right temperature.  These are our oysters, butterscotch (nameko), lion’s mane and some of our shiitake.

But most of our shiitake can be encouraged (force fruited) by dropping them in a tank of cold water. This “shocks” the mushroom organism (mycelium) and causes it to pop out lots of mushrooms really fast.

For the last 8 years, Jeremy’s mushroom soaking tanks have been big metal stock tanks. He’d go through the shade structure and load up some logs – first in a small hand cart where he could move five or six logs at a time, then more recently in the tiny trailer on our lawn tractor where he could move 10 or 15 at a time.  So, load up some logs, one at a time, into the cart or trailer. Move the cart or trailer over to the stock tanks that are full of water. Move the logs, one at a time, into the stock tanks. Repeat until the tanks are full then weigh the logs down with random chunks of concrete block to make sure the logs are submerged. Wait 24 hours. Take the logs out, one at a time, and transport them to the fruiting area. After fruiting is done a few days later, load up the logs in that same cart or small trailer, and take them back, a small batch at a time, to the shade structure.

This method was fine for a smaller operation, but as Jeremy has been soaking more and more logs at a time he’s had to get more stock tanks.

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And moving all those logs by hand… something had to be done about this! Jeremy has been dreaming for a year or two about new in-ground fruiting tanks. This spring the hole was dug for them and Stuntz Concrete built the tanks.

He had Minnesota Implement build him several “cages” for the mushroom logs. At least 40 logs can be carried in each cage, and then our trusty skid steer picks up the cage and drives it over to the tanks.

Voila! Much faster to soak the logs, and not as much individual handling. Well, it will be much faster once everyone gets the hang of the new system!

Recipe: Grilled Steak with Mushroom Sauce

It might have been a bit too windy and rainy for those of us in the Twin Cities to grill last weekend, so we’ll try again this weekend with another grilling recipe. If it’s too rainy again, you can always throw your steaks under the broiler until they’re cooked the way you like them.  And, if you made polenta last week and still have some left, this is a great recipe to add polenta too.  In our opinion, practically every recipe could use some grilled polenta!

Grilled Steak with Mushroom Sauce

Serves 4

Mushroom Sauce
4 or 5 oz. fresh shiitake or oyster mushrooms, chopped
or
1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup spring onion
1/2 cup water, stock or mushroom water from re-hydrating dried mushrooms
1/2 to 1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 to 1 tsp fresh savory or thyme
1/8 tsp pepper
4 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

If using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water to cover for an hour, then pat dry with a towel. Save liquid.
Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until slightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove caps from mushrooms and chop. Add mushrooms and water, stock or  mushroom water to onions and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add seasonings and bring to boil.
Finally stir in dissolved cornstarch, heating occasionally until thickened, about 2 minutes.
Add salt if needed.

For Steaks
3 to 4 oz. buffalo steak per serving
or
3 to 4 oz. beef steak per serving
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt and pepper

Rinse steaks and pat dry. Rub steaks with oil, salt and pepper, and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature. Prepare grill for steaks. Place steaks on hot grill for two and a half minutes on each side. You can also sear on cast iron skillet at medium-high heat.
Remove steaks to platter and cover until ready to serve.
Serve steaks with drizzle of mushroom sauce. If you like, lay steak on grilled polenta cake and top with sauteed shiitake mushrooms.
Mushroom Sauce adapted from “Simply in Season.” Steak preparation adapted from Wild Idea Buffalo Company website

Recipes: Grilled Shiitake and Asparagus

We have a lovely patch of asparagus on the farm. We haven’t weeded or mowed in that area so searching for asparagus amongst the weeds is a bit like looking for morels – the asparagus blends in and hides! There is still asparagus around, so you should be able to find some in the store or at a farmers market for this tasty grilled recipe. The recipe suggests grilled polenta as an optional addition. You won’t believe how tasty grilled polenta is, so I recommend giving it a try!

Grilled Shiitake and Asparagus

Serves 2 to 4
4 to 6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
8 oz. asparagus
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 to 2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. chopped tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
grilled polenta
chive blossoms

Making polenta is pretty easy, though a bit time consuming. There are lots of recipes out there for it. The New York Times has a pretty good one; follow the instructions for firm polenta.  You’ll want to make the polenta, let it cool and solidify, then cut into squares and brush with olive oil. (Since the polenta keeps for several days, you only need to cut as many pieces as you need.)

Light a grill. In a small bowl, mix the 2 teaspoons of olive oil with the soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar and tarragon and season with salt and pepper.

Brush the shiitake with 2 tsp of the soy vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper. Grill the mushrooms over moderate heat, turning once, until just tender, or about 6 minutes.  You can grill the polenta at the same time.

Transfer the shiitake to a bowl; cut any large shiitake into quarters. Add 1 tbsp of the soy vinaigrette and toss to coat.

Bring a large skillet of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the asparagus to the skillet and cook until crisp-tender, or about 3 minutes. Transfer to the ice water to cool. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange the asparagus on a platter. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the shiitake over the asparagus, drizzle any remaining vinaigrette on top and serve right away. You can serve on the grilled polenta and top with chive blossoms.