Soaking logs

I wrote about our log soaking last year and shared a video of the new system.  As I said then, it would get much faster once everyone got used to the new system. After a whole season of learning tips and tricks last year, this process has gotten much faster and easier.

Here’s a video of Andy loading the logs into the tank last weekend. (Warning to our mothers: close your eyes about 30 seconds in and pretend nothing happened!)


Force-fruiting is going well and the mushrooms are picking up the pace!

fruiting mushrooms

What’s in a name?

Cherry Tree House Mushrooms.

It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue (well, unless you’re us and you’ve been saying it for 9 years). We’ve heard, and answered to, a lot of variations over the years:

  • Cherry Treehouse Mushrooms
  • Cherry Tree Mushrooms
  • Cherry Mushrooms
  • Treehouse Mushrooms

Besides being long and a bit unwieldy, the name hasn’t really matched us well for years. We chose the name when we started growing mushrooms at our house in Minneapolis, which we called the cherry tree house. Full story here. As difficult as the name is, it has been more difficult to think of a new name.  We’ve had numerous conversations over the years that usually devolve into silliness or fizzle out as we realize we just can’t come up with something we like better. A recent conversation went something like this:

Jeremy: Okay, let’s take this back to the beginning. We’re starting a farm! Isn’t this exciting? What are we going to call it? Something with “mushroom farm” in it.

Aimee: Why?

Jeremy: Because we grow mushrooms.

Aimee: Why?

Jeremy: Because…I like mushrooms.

Aimee: Why?

Jeremy: Ha, ha! I hate that question.

Aimee: This is the best conversation ever!

Jeremy: We did mushrooms because goats weren’t legal in the city when I started the farm!

Aimee: [silence, accompanied by the look you sometimes give your partner when you’re a bit exasperated…you know, “the look.”]

We went on thinking about how else we could define the farm. Does the name need the word “farm” in it? Should we use a word that would show our location, like “Clayton Mushrooms Incorporated,” or something with Blackbrook? Apparently that’s the name of a creek nearby…but of course there is also already a Blackbrook farm! Well, our farm is in Polk County. Nope – we will not have the word “Polk” in our farm name! We need something evocative, something that feels woodsy. I guess it should have “farm” and “mushrooms.” (I know what you’re thinking: “why?”)

We searched blogs and sites online with various lists of “easy steps for naming your farm” which weren’t really easy and didn’t really help us pick a name. I liked the idea of picking a name that was funny.

Jeremy: Our name can’t be funny.

Aimee: Because you have no sense of humor?

Jeremy: You got it.

I am happy to say our marriage survived this conversation…but we haven’t quite come up with a name. At one point Jeremy was sure we had come up with THE new name. But a few days later, we were both feeling lukewarm about it. I said to Jeremy, “Of course this new name doesn’t roll off the tongue and sound great. It’s not the name we’ve gone by for 9 years. It’s going to be be weird and hard to get used to a new name!”

But the time really has come to re-name. We’d like to ask you, our supporters and fans, to let us know what you think. Here are some of our ideas. Let us know in the comments, or drop us a line, or comment on Facebook: which name(s) do you like the best?

  1. Cherry Tree Organics
  2. Heartwood Mushroom Farm
  3. Heartwood Mushrooms
  4. Northwoods Mushroom Farm
  5. Northwoods Mushrooms
  6. Woodland Mushroom Farm
  7. Woodland Mushrooms
  8. Cherry Tree House Mushrooms (for anyone who feels they can’t handle the change – it’s okay to say so!)

Before and After

We had a lot of “before and after” on the farm this last week. As I mentioned last week, we got a start on turning all of that cut wood from last year into firewood. Jeremy thinks he got through maybe 1/3 of the pile of wood. There is a LOT of firewood!


Last weekend I was also working on that darn pack shed again. It’s SO CLOSE to being painted! But it’s not there yet. There are just a few bits at one end that are too high up for me to reach and we don’t have scaffolding. We have one ladder that is too tall and one that is too short!  So Jeremy has to finish those bits when he finds some free time. In between painting the pack shed and stacking firewood, I got to work painting a room in the upstairs of the farm house. We thought it could use some freshening and brightening up.


All this week Jeremy has had temporary folks coming by to help with the big fall project of moving the 5,000 logs in the woods up to the shade structure at the front of the farm. That is a bit of a long term project, though hopefully it will be wrapped up by the end of November if not sooner!  With the crew on hand Thursday, Jeremy decided it was time to take the shade fabric down from the shade structure. They’ll have to move the fabric on and off as they move more logs in and if the weather warms up to pick mushrooms. But with snow in the forecast, we don’t take any chances leaving the shade fabric up. We left it up once about 2-3 years ago and the weight of just a couple inches of snow from that early snowstorm bent the pipes of the shade structure!  We definitely don’t want to go through fixing that again.


We’ve got more to do to button up the farm for the winter and Jeremy is already contacting loggers looking for the new batch of 5,000 or so logs for inoculations to start in December.

I’m going to take a break from regular weekly email updates over the winter – you’ll just be hearing from us when there is a Winter Market happening. You won’t miss us too much though – Winter Markets are practically every other week now!

Recipe: Wild Rice and Shiitake Stew

Mmm, it is the season for soup and for wild rice. This recipe sounds amazing… but I have to be honest: I ran out of time this week and didn’t get to make a batch. I have no pictures to show you how yummy it looks!  You really can’t go wrong with wild rice, broth, and shiitakes though. So if you make this recipe, tell us how it turns out!


Wild Rice and Shiitake Stew

Serves 3 or 4
1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
8 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup wild rice
2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks or small celery root, diced
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. oregano
1-1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose Flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp. rosemary
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
pepper to taste
1/4 cup friesago or parmesan cheese, finely grated

If you’re using dried mushrooms, place them in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for at  least one hour, or until plump. Remove the mushrooms from the water (save the water) and pat dry.

Remove mushroom stems, chop caps and set aside. Place the wild rice in a wire strainer and rinse with cold water. Place the rice in a pot and add water so water is 3/4 of an inch above rice. Bring to rolling boil for ten minutes then simmer, covered, until the rice opens and becomes fluffy, or about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally while simmering.

While the rice cooks, heat butter or oil in dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery with salt and cook until the onions have softened and turned translucent, or about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, or another 15-20 minutes.

Add the garlic and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir until they become sticky and there is no more visible dry flour. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine and mushroom water (if you don’t have mushroom soaking water, you can put in about 1/2 cup of broth). Simmer the mixture until it has thickened and the liquid has reduced. Stir occasionally while simmering.

Add the bay leaf and stock. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes to meld the flavors. Add the rosemary, milk, and wild rice. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until the soup has thickened to your liking. Stir in the vinegar, half the cheese, and pepper. Serve immediately with remaining cheese sprinkled on top.


adapted from recipe provided by Northern Lakes Wild Rice

Recipe: Shiitake Spring Rolls

Another fun way to eat shiitake! Jeremy says spring rolls are just a vehicle for eating peanut sauce, and I can’t argue with that. But if you can’t eat peanuts – don’t worry. The sauteed shiitake are so tasty – especially if you saute them till they’re just a bit crispy on the edges – you won’t miss the peanut sauce at all.


Shiitake Spring Rolls

Serves 4
1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
8 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms
1-1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 oz. rice vermicelli
4 rice wrappers
1 bunch cilantro
2 to 3 oz. microgreens, sprouts, spinach or baby lettuces
1 scallion
1 small carrot
thai peanut sauce
4 Tbsp teaspoon hoisin sauce
4 Tbsp finely chopped peanuts, or to taste

Cooking Instructions
If using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water to cover for an hour or two, then pat dry with a towel. Save liquid for soup stock or other recipe. Remove stems, then heat oil on medium low heat. Slice mushroom caps and saute until fragrant and soft, or about 5 minutes. If mushrooms look dry add more oil to the pan. Set aside.

Add vermicelli to boiling water; boil until al dente or 3 to 5 minutes. Drain. Prepare vegetables. Slice scallion into 2 to 4 inch slivers; grate carrot; wash and de-stem cilantro; and you may want to chop lettuce or spinach.

Fill a large bowl with hot tap water and dip a rice wrapper in water for 15 seconds to a minute or until soft but still holding its shape. Lay wrapper on cutting board and place ingredients at the center – like a burrito – starting with the mushrooms. Fold in the ends so that the filling stays inside and roll up tightly. Recipe makes four spring rolls; serve immediately with peanut or peanuts/hoisin sauce.

Recipe: Mushroom and Chevre Bruschetta

Confession time: We have a TON of mushroom recipes (as you might imagine) and when I started up this little weekly update I planned out what recipes I’d share each week. I’ve been looking forward to this week for a while, which is designated “shroom + bruschetta” week.  For recipes we don’t have pictures for we’ve been trying to make them up that week and get pictures, but that doesn’t always happen.

But mushroom bruschetta is easy! And so yummy!  Jeremy whipped up a batch yesterday for dinner and it was… SO. GOOD.  Amazing!  Unfortunately, what he made (and painstakingly photographed) is not actually the recipe we had all ready to go! The recipe below is basically a fancier version of what we usually make. It just goes to show the versatility of this recipe.

Our version? Jeremy sauteed shiitake and oyster mushrooms and a bit of garlic. He spread a couple slices of lovely baguette with butter and seared the buttered bread in a hot cast iron pan. The mushrooms/garlic were piled on top and sprinkled with a little grated parmesan. I promise you: this little mushroom topped toast is absolutely divine.

But this version with chevre sounds pretty amazing too. You will not be sorry, whatever version you try!


Mushroom and Chevre Bruschetta

Serves 4 as appetizer
10-12 ounces shiitake and/or oyster mushrooms
extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves – 1 peeled and finely chopped, the other halved
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves picked
1 sprig summer savory, leaves plucked – optional
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 dried red chili, crumbled
1 small pat butter
1 lemon
3 oz. herbed chevre
4 small slices bread such as sourdough

Trim stems from mushrooms and save for soup stock. Chop mushroom caps. Put a large heavy frying pan, big enough to hold all the mushrooms in one layer, over heat and add about 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. When hot, add all mushrooms to the pan and give it a shake to
toss the mushrooms in the oil. Add the chopped garlic and fresh herbs and stir again. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and the crumbled chili, add to the pan and sauté gently for a few minutes. If the mixture becomes dry, pour in a little more oil.

Once the mushrooms have started to turn a golden color, after about 3-4 minutes, add the butter and a nice squeeze of lemon juice(not too much) and toss again.

To finish this off and make it into a creamy sauce, spoon 2-3 tablespoons of water into the pan. Simmer for a little longer, until you have a nice simple sauce that just loosely coats the mushrooms.

Toast the bread and rub toast with the cut side of the remaining clove of garlic. Place each slice on a serving plate, top with a healthy dab of chevre and pile the mushrooms and pan juices on top.

adapted from Jamie’s Oliver’s “Jamie at Home”


This is the time of year when the mushrooms really start going crazy. The temperatures and humidity are just right and the mushrooms are extra happy. It’s also when we first start to see the fruits of our labor in the spring (pun intended!)

Jeremy was giving a tour of the farm a few days ago and saw the first of the mushrooms popping out on our 2017 logs. We never soak and force-fruit logs in their first year. They just lay out in the woods growing mycelium and basking in the dappled sunlight. Usually in August and September they test out their fungus growing powers and pop out several mushrooms per log. With almost 5,000 logs in the woods this year, that’s going to be a LOT of mushrooms.


The first of the 2017 mushrooms!

Not to be outdone, the logs that we force fruit get a bit crazy too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All these mushrooms are picked by hand, so there is a LOT of picking to do! They can also grow incredibly fast. Jeremy will go through in the morning and pick the mushrooms that are ready and by late afternoon a bunch more mushrooms, that weren’t ready in the morning, will be ready to pick.

Unfortunately, August is one of the slowest months for mushroom sales! Orders from co-ops and groceries are down and the farmers market isn’t as hopping as we would like. We’ve got mushrooms on sale right now at The Wedge and Seward Co-ops and the other co-ops in the upper Midwest that carry our mushrooms will have them on sale by the end of next week. Just our way of enticing more people to buy and cook mushrooms. We’re selling mushrooms to Restaurant Alma and Northern Fires Wood Fired Pizza as well, so those are two other ways to get your mushroom fix.  We’d like to sell mushrooms to more restaurants. If you work for a restaurant that might be interested, drop us a line!


Farming is hard

I know, I said I’d regale you all with stories about how to keep mushrooms at the right temperature and humidity. I changed my mind – sorry to disappoint!

It’s been a hard couple weeks on the farm. As I mentioned briefly last week, we lost an employee so we’re down one worker on the farm. Just as I was sending the newsletter out last Friday night, our brand new Farmers Market employee quit. This person runs every other Saturday market and all the Sunday ones, so Sunday at Kingfield might be canceled for a little while. Do you know anyone in the Twin Cities who loves the farmers market and would like to work at the farmers market selling mushrooms? We’re looking for someone!

For a couple of months Jeremy has been working to get into more stores and just last month we excitedly announced that we were in Kowalski’s and Lunds & Byerlys. Last week Kowalski’s dropped us, after just a couple weeks, because the mushrooms just weren’t selling. This was a blow and it makes us worry about other new stores we’re working to get into, and the stores we’re already in.


It’s pretty cool to see our mushrooms for sale at the co-op!

When it comes to selling mushrooms I feel like we’re up against a lot. First is the pervasive message in our society that “cooking is hard.” It’s too hard, too hot, too messy, takes too much time, etc, say the marketers for restaurants, fast food, frozen dinners, and all manner of prepared, precooked, packaged, and convenience foods. Probably most farmers face this hurdle to some extent, some more than others. I think we have an additional hurdle to this: for those people who do choose to cook, there are a lot of people who don’t know what to do with mushrooms. Or mushrooms seem sort of exotic and they aren’t easily thought of when ingredients for a meal are gathered. Or, worse yet, people have had bad experiences with mushrooms and are just sure they hate mushrooms! How many of you grew up with spinach cooked horribly and you assumed you hated it, till you had it cooked a different way?

Another problem is cost. People want the absolute cheapest possible food they can get. We balk at the price of milk and bread and apples. How could those cost so much!? How soon will they be on sale? Is there a store that sells them for cheaper? The part of my brain that budgets for grocery shopping understands. But the rest of my brain now knows how much work goes into all this food. Raising animals, planting and nurturing seeds, months or even years of work before you finally have something to sell. And then all the costs for processing, packaging, shipping, the costs for paying for the appropriate government-approved storage facility or washing facility or packaging facility, the costs for inspecting the farm and the buildings, the costs for licenses, permits, and all the other paperwork. The way our farming system is set up right now, you almost have to be a gigantic farm in order to make any money. Think about how many middle men are demanding a chunk out of the 99-cents you paid for those eggs. How much is left for the farmer?

Cost affects mushroom farms too. Where do all your super cheap mushrooms come from? Most likely China or the east coast, from gigantic farming operations. How can a mid-size (or even small) mushroom farm compete? We can’t of course.

And: farming is hard work! We’re finding there aren’t a lot of people who want to do it. It can be back-breaking, monotonous, exhausting. You’re working outside when it’s blazing hot, or pouring rain, or freezing cold. I guess it takes a special sort of crazy person to sign up for that!

So if farming, and mushroom farming in particular, is so darn difficult, why do we keep doing it? Believe me, we ask ourselves that question a lot! Sometimes the answer is: because we have so much time and money sunk into this, we can’t stop now! Sometimes the answer is: well, what else would we do? And sometimes the answer is: because it feels like the right thing to do. We’re being good stewards of this little piece of land we have, finding ways to use it responsibly and not hurting the earth. We’re growing food that is high quality, nutritious, and beautiful. We’re helping to provide a local source of mushrooms for this region so those who choose don’t have to buy them from thousands of miles away. Though it comes with a lot of difficulties, it’s fun to be doing a kind of farming that’s pretty rare.

We are grateful for the support of our community – all of our family, friends, and regular customers at the farmers market. We keep doing this for you too. You all seem to love these tasty mushrooms.  So keep eating mushrooms, and tell all your friends and family  how amazing mushrooms are!

Recipe: Basil Gnocchi and Oyster Mushrooms

This recipe is adapted from something we saw in Saveur Magazine a few years ago. It walks you through making the gnocchi from scratch (of course, it’s Saveur!) but you can probably find pre-made gnocchi at the store if you’re not feeling so adventurous.

Serves 4 to 6
6-8 oz. oyster, shiitake, or other mushrooms
1 lb. russet potatoes, unpeeled
Kosher salt, to taste
4 oz. basil
1 1/4 cups semolina flour or all purpose flour, sifted plus more
2 eggs, beaten
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 tbsp. olive oil
8 tbsp. butter
2 to 3 tbsp. canola oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 to 6 tbsp. finely grated Parmesan or crumbled Friesago cheese

Put potatoes into a 4-qt. pot of salted water; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; let cool. Peel potatoes; pass through medium plate of a food mill into a bowl.

Finely chop basil, then stir together with potatoes and semolina and form a well in center. Add eggs and salt and, using a fork, beat eggs into potato mixture. Transfer dough to a work surface dusted with semolina; knead to combine. Divide the dough into 6 portions. Roll each portion into a 1/2″-thick rope. Cut ropes into 1/2″-wide pieces; transfer to semolina-dusted sheet tray.

Working in 4 batches, add 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. oil to a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add dough pieces and cook, flipping once, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet. Wipe out skillet and repeat with remaining butter, oil, and dough pieces.

Wash mushrooms as needed and trim off dirtiest spots, as well as stems. Pat dry. Heat canola or another heat-tolerant oil on high. When hot, add enough mushrooms to cover bottom of the pan. Sear each side of the mushroom caps, then set aside. Wipe out skillet and repeat with remaining canola oil for second batch of mushrooms if necessary.

Toss dumplings, mushrooms, and garlic in the skillet until hot. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan. You may have more dumplings than you need; if so, reserve for another recipe.

Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine.

Log jams

Sometimes a task is small, but the longer you wait to do it the more important it gets – or at least the more of log jam it creates. A few years ago Jeremy joined a farmer journey-person program through the Land Stewardship Project.  During one weekend, they brought up the idea of “weak links” and “log jams” – those things, little or big, that block production or slow things down.

As we settle into the new farm, there are plenty of weak links and log jams we know about and others we’ll undoubtedly discover along the way.

One small one is that the only place to wash hands was in the house, so people had to walk all the way back to the house from the pack shed or high tunnel or wherever they were. We always wear gloves when picking and sorting mushrooms, but we still want to wash our hands. Jeremy picked up a little hand washing sink last week and got it installed in the packing shed.  Yay! That will save a lot of walking.


One task that has grown larger and larger in importance over the months is electricity. Jeremy ran an extension cord out to the high tunnel and that’s all the electricity we’ve had out there for over a year. Finally this last week we got a sub-panel out there which gives us more power for running lights, drills, and, most importantly, our big 30-inch agricultural fan.  Basically a giant box fan, it  sits at the top of the high tunnel and draws the warm air out. This helps us regulate the temperature in there so it doesn’t get too hot for the mushrooms. In fact, there are so many issues around making just the right environment for happy mushrooms, I think that will have to be the subject of next week’s update.


Here’s the giant fan. Stay tuned for a video next week!

Yet another project we’re working on is how to keep the humidity at the right level. Jeremy dragged out a system he had from way back when we were in Maplewood.  It was set up for a different space and for sprinkling instead of misting, so we need a bunch of new parts. That particular solution is on hold until we get those parts. For now, Jeremy has installed some sprinklers that have a moisture senser and timers. This saves a lot of time as farm workers don’t have to go out to the hoop house a couple times a day and spray down logs by hand.


Laying out the misting system, looking for all the parts!  And below, sprinkling the logs.


All this time we’re saving we can put into all the other projects that still need to get done! Like: getting a computer set up in the pack shed for tracking mushroom production, getting another hand washing sink and first-aid station set up in the hoop house, lots of organization, and, most importantly, snuggling with Spore.

This last week we also said goodbye to one of our employees so we are looking for a new person. There is housing available. If you might be interested, drop us a line! More details here.