Thursday, June 19, 2014

Take care of your shiitake!

Wowsa mushrooms! This summer is turning out to be perfect for mushrooms – cool and wet periods followed by days of hot and dry conditions. They love it! Last week, our first full week brought us over 60 lbs in the harvest. We are thanking the mushroom gods, and you for your support!
We've been sharing tips with our CSA members and restaurant accounts this year and want to pass along the info to you as well.

If you are interested in getting fresh shiitake mushrooms you can find ours for sale at the Piggery in Ithaca, as well as at our CSA Pick-up, Thursdays at the Westy from 5 - 8pm alongside the Plowbreak Farm CSA

Dining out? You will find our mushrooms on the menu of Maxie's, Agava, and the Carriage House in Ithaca, along with occasional appearances at the Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg and Macro Mama's at the Ithaca Farmers Market (Tues & Sat)

Our thanks for all the support. 

First: The basics! In other words, how to properly store, care, and enjoy mushrooms.
Keep them in the fridge in a paper sack or container with loose lid (mushrooms need to breathe), where they should be good for up to one week.

Cut the stems and save them for soup stock! (start a container in your freezer, mix with other veggie scraps etc) You can also compost them, but the stems have as much flavor and nutrition as the cap – they are often just a bit woody.

Slice or dice caps and lightly sauté in medium-high heat with your favorite oil or butter, adding salt and/or pepper to taste. Shiitakes cook well with onions, garlic, and really almost anything.

You actually need to cook shiitake for at least a few minutes to break down several chemical bonds, allowing your body to absorb the nutrition completely. (Did you know mushrooms were nutritious? High in B and D vitamins, iron, potassium, and many enzymes too!)

Drying shiitake mushrooms is rather easy. To prepare, snip of the stems with scissors (don’t forget they can be used for stock!) and then either dry whole or slice in about 1/4” pieces. (if you slice up they dry faster) You then have three options:

1)    A food dehydrator. Set the temperature to about 140 degrees and place shiitake on the drying trays. Usually takes about 6 – 8 hours. They are ready when about “leather” hard – this means they are not squishy at all, but also not brittle or flaky.

2)    If your stove is gas and has a pilot light that stays on in the oven, you can prepare mushrooms as above and place on cooling racks or cookie sheets, the oven will dry them nicely over 1  - 2 days.

3)    The Sun! This is our favorite method (see attached photos). Simply lay caps on screens or cookie sheets something with holes is best) and lay out in full sun. Takes 1 – 2 days. Keep in mind that a sudden rain burst can ruin a batch, so only do this when you are around or won’t forget to bring them in. You should also bring them in at night, as cool condensing air will “undo” any drying.

Did you know that drying mushrooms in the sun can actually BOOST their Vitamin D content?

Once dried, mushrooms can be stored for many months (or years?) in sealed mason jars or they can be vacuum packaged. Be sure to monitor them to ensure they remain dry. Some folks add a bit of brown rice to the jars to absorb extra moisture.

Be sure to always dry your mushrooms with the GILLS UP. This preserves the nutrition and flavor. Dried mushrooms are really flavorful and delicious, keep well, and are a wonderful treat you'll be glad you stored away for the off-season!