by David Hirsch
Steve Sierigk www.hawkmeadowfarm.com has been supplying Moosewood with his home grown fresh shiitake mushrooms for several years. Fresh shiitakes, Lentinula Edodes, have been a part of peoples’ diet for at least a couple of thousand years. Aside from their rich mushroom flavor, they have nutritional benefits as well, being a good source of vitamins, [especially D], minerals, and antioxidants.
I went to visit Steve’s place, since I’ve always been curious about mushroom growing. In a shady spot, under pines, hemlocks and maples, near a running stream, oak logs are set-up in an A-frame configuration. The oak logs have been inoculated with a fungus that will eventually grow mushrooms on their surface. This is a practice that comes with patience; the first harvest will be in about 1 year from inoculation. An immersion in cold water for 24 hours is the next step after inoculation, a great value of the nearby stream. Logs range between 30 and 40 inches long with diameters of 4 to 8 inches, so moving them around is certainly a physical process. Steve has between 1000 and 1200 log sections, but he recommends about 20 logs for the home gardener interested in growing their own. Some commercial growers use oak sawdust to raise shiitakes, but the flavor and nutritional profile is much better with log grown mushrooms; giving a higher yield of Lentinan- the complex carbohydrate that is beneficial to the immune system.
1 log will yield about 8 flushes of mushrooms in its life span, with the first 3 being the most prolific. While the inoculated logs will survive weather as cold as -30⁰ F. they produce here in the Finger Lakes region in the warmer temps of late spring, summer and early fall. Logs should be covered during rainstorms and high winds to protect the delicate texture of the mushrooms.
We’re happy to have these delicious, healthful treats as part of our locally grown “pantry”, appreciating Steve’s efforts. Here’s one of our favorite ways to feature shiitakes, adapted from a recipe in Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special.
This substantial salad or side dish uses fresh shiitakes mushrooms as a complement to delicate, sweet spinach leaves in a tangy, garlicky sauce. This dish can stand on its own as a light meal, especially when accompanied by good bread to sop up the juices
- 10 ounces fresh spinach
- 1¼ pounds large fresh shiitake mushrooms cut in ¼ inch slices
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup thinly sliced small red onion rings (optional)
- Rinse and stem the spinach.
- Drain it well or spin it dry in a salad spinner and place it in a serving bowl.
- Rinse the mushrooms and trim the stem ends.
- Slice the caps and the stems into ¼-inch slices
- In a saucepan or skillet on medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until it is hot but not smoking.
- Sauté the garlic for just 30 seconds, until golden, and quickly stir in the shiitakes
- Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until the mushrooms are softened.
- Stir in the lemon juice or vinegar. Immediately pour the hot mushrooms over the spinach and toss well.
- Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste and continue to toss until the spinach has darkened in color and wilted.
- If you wish, top the salad with thinly sliced red onion rings. Serve.