the food out here

Making mushrooms

Posted 5/22/24

[Editor’s note: Hunter’s taking a column week off, so here’s one from 2020, on his new lockdown hobby: growing and cooking mushrooms.]

Many folks have taken to new hobbies as a …

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the food out here

Making mushrooms


[Editor’s note: Hunter’s taking a column week off, so here’s one from 2020, on his new lockdown hobby: growing and cooking mushrooms.]

Many folks have taken to new hobbies as a byproduct of being isolated at home: starting seeds, preparing gardening beds, or impatiently planting outdoors in sheer obstinance and rebellion to snowy forecasts. Perhaps some of these folks don’t particularly care about killing a few seedlings in light of their boredom, as they will have more planting to do following the purge of their initial green investments.

I, on the other hand, feel as though despite being confined to my home for work and, well, everything else, I have even less time than before. Since our neighbors are legitimate vegetable farmers, I’m well coached. I have but to mimic their planting efforts and ask them when I can finally broach the outdoor weather with my many seedlings, which are beginning to beg for elbow room.

To satisfy my impatience, I recently explored a new and diverse form of gardening. It certainly quenched my green thumb for a week or two, as well as provided a lovely harvest and meal before the threat of snow has officially left us. My wife and I were in Walmart several weeks ago, picking up seeds, having already planted the varieties on hand from last year, and while selecting these I noticed a small box kit for growing mushrooms on a nearby shelf.

You may be familiar with them, but at the time I was not. I had been coincidentally reading up on growing wine caps outside and the various methods for getting started with that. But with the convenience of Walmart mushrooms ready to go for the low price of $10, I decided to give it a shot.

As an educator, it didn’t hurt that this particular kit had a hashtag campaign that, if followed, provided another kit to a school of my choosing. So I bought the kit and followed the instructions: Open the box and take out a plastic bag—not unlike a small coffee bag—to soak in water after piercing the bag to allow the moisture in.

After soaking for a night, I removed it from the water and placed it back in the handy-dandy box that had a window cutout for the perforated area to grow through.

Just a few days later, the bag formed a large patch of small gray bubbles where the mushrooms were beginning to grow—I learned this is called pinning.

A day later, the mushrooms had started to form, and a day after that they had small heads about a half-inch wide. The whole bloom of mushrooms nearly doubled every day. In just a week, they seemed to reach their maximum size, and according to the directions, they appeared ready for harvest.

With great pride. I carefully twisted off the bloom of fresh oyster mushrooms and brought the fleshy mass to my lovely wife to be prepared for dinner. (We both cook, but her culinary creativity certainly surpasses my own.)

She cleaned the base of the mushrooms off and began chopping them up until they reached a large cubed consistency.

She then made up a terrific pot of fettuccine and started a brown butter and garlic sauce on the side, to which she added our mushrooms with an ample addition of panko breadcrumbs.

Finally, she melded the pasta and sauce together—dragging out the process, I’m sure, because my mouth started watering even before the noodles were cooked.

I plan to continue this new discovery of growing mushrooms with perhaps some new varieties and of course starting them myself as opposed to buying the kit, but for anyone looking for a fast, gratifying gardening experience, I would highly recommend the kit. It can be purchased at the box stores and can also be mailed right to your door—perfect for these times.

The way out here can sometimes feel like time is dragging by. But for you gardeners out there, take that time to stop and smell the mushrooms. They may not be as pretty as flowers, but the way out here also sways heavily to anything that puts food on the table. So have at it, my friends.

food out here, mushrooms, gardeners,


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