Posts Tagged ‘mushrooms’

On a night when I tried a new first in the creative realm (no further detail until after the surprise :), I’m posting about another first for me this year – a new recipe. Or more accurately, a new dish that I am making, since I don’t really follow recipes very well.

Wood ear mushrooms

A couple of weeks ago, I was working in the yard and saw a lot of jelly mushrooms. They are the jelly ones that are translucent and sometimes come in the shape of an ear growing on branches. We get a lot around the yard (when oak branches fall, generally have them) and I’ve been gathering the branches with these in our mushroom compost pile for over a year. They were in a massive flush!

harvest of wood ears

I walked around the yard with Alon (who wouldn’t let me get his picture) and we harvested a bunch (see pic)!

After celebrating the abundance and giving thanks, next on my to-do list when this happens is a crash course in mycology. I was pretty sure about them, but wanted to be really sure. So here’s the low-down:

  • These are in the order Tremellales , and there are no known poisonous in this order.
  • This mushroom (most likely Exidia recisa though appears like
    auricularia auricula)

    is common throughout N. America and goes by many names,

    Tree ear, Wood Ear, Jew’s Ear etc. I didn’t perform a spore print but the most common – though frequently not in the books – look alike is Exidia recisa, which has some info posted here.
  • Related species is the a. polytricha (Mo Ehr), which is common in Chines markets and dishes, including Hot & Sour soup.
  • Both the auricularia are edible and apparently have a very similar mild flavor.
  • Auricularia species contain polysaccharides, which act as immune system stimulants and anti-carcinogens. These mushrooms are also reported to affect blood cogulation and may affect coronary artery health.

Check this site (with references) for more mycological geek time.

Given that this is a key ingredient in Hot & Sour soup, I just had to figure out how to make that! I found a recipe and modified it (on the fly, surprise surprise). I cooked it despite not having 2/3 of the ingredients! I even forgot the sour, and it was still really good! (when I cook something that makes Tirza very happy, it’s definitely worth paying attention to!).

Later that week we visited a Chinese grocery (a treat for the Nomads) and stocked up on several helpful ingredients. Below is pretty much what I up doing for the Souper Sweet Valentine’s Day event. Since the soup won “Best International” and we were asked to share our recipes…here we go:

Hot & Sour Soup Recipe from the Nomad’s Cafe


  • 12 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha or red chili paste+garlic
  • 3/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sliced shittake mushrooms
  • 1 can peeled straw mushrooms (don’t know these and haven’t used but were in original recipe and sound good!)
  • 1 can sliced bamboo shoots
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts
  • 4 large carrots cut in match sticks (or whatever, if you don’t like cutting:)
  • 1 cake soft tofu, sliced into 1/4 inch cubes (didn’t do this either)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup dried black fungus (wood ears), soaked in water for one hour, drained and sliced.
  • finely chopped scallions for garnish

If you like your soup more brothy than chunky, add even more water (I’m still trying to figure out the ratio…I more than doubled what it called for and it’s still chunky).  Note that all spices are approximate and should be adjusted to your pallet (I don’t actually measure anything when cooking this).Also, as a confession, I leave out the corn starch and didn’t miss it in the experience at all.


  1. Bring stock to simmer, add soy, shittakes and stray mushrooms, Sriracha/chili paste. Simmer for 10 min.
  2. Add white pepper, vinegar, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrots, wood ear fungus, tofu. Simmer 10 min.
  3. Pour in the eggs in a very thin stream over the surface. Let stand for 15 seconds before adding the sesame oil.
  4. Serve with garnish of scallions.

Hope you enjoy! If you have comments or questions, feel free to add them below.

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Tonight I presented our first experience inoculating logs for mushroom cultivation at the Mushroom Club of Georgia meeting. The whole process, since initial idea till now (with completed logs) is only two months (or less). We’re new to this, but we dove into it and learned a lot in the process. I put together some slides to show the process, what we did, how much time it took, and how much it cost. See slides below. Since it’s TIrza and my anniversary today, special thanks to Tirza for making it a community night!

It was great to learn from others tonight about some of the details and experience items. Great panel with lots of experience:

  • Katharine and David have been growing mushrooms for 14 years and have a wealth of local experience. They talked about there process for adding a few new logs each year to keep a steady supply, how they stack them, and getting logs off the ground (with bricks/blocks) to make them last longer. They also answered a lot of questions from the audience and let me know that I should see oysters in 3-4 months but shiitakes won’t be for a year.
  • Brandy Arts talked about the approach to fungi integration into life and gardening she learned from working with Paul Stamets. Lots of great resources in a digestible form in Mycelium Running. She proposed integrating fungi into gardening as a source of fertilizer. She says the school she teaches at (where Alon is at!) will be doing a project to use hair + mycelium to clean up oil. Send those kids to the Gulf Coast!
  • Rod Stafford geeked out on his chemistry-lab-inspired mushroom cultivation setup. He brought in petri dishes, the sterile jars filled with rye seeds and mycelium and then the bags where he grows the mushrooms. He showed pictures of a laundry basket filled with hay that was busting out oyster mushrooms! In September, he’s giving a talk about his “lab in a box” setup. Amazing patience and attention to detail he has!!

Slides from our experience:

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Mushroom Log Day Tomorrow!

Tomorrow we’ll be working on our mushroom logs! 80+ logs and 2,300 spawn will become one 🙂

We’ll be working all day at the Nomads Lounge. If you’re interested to learn about cultivation of edible/medicinal mushrooms, please feel free to drop by. Also, if you want to be more involved and are willing to help out for a couple of hours, you’ll be rewarded too!

RSVP for event and find details on Facebook page.

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Since the Winter Solstice, a vision of mushroom abundance has been part of my year’s manifestation. The last few weeks have seen a lot of progress in this area and I want to catch up those following the blog and curious about growing mushrooms. First off, confessions – I’ve never cultivated mushrooms before. But they pretty much grow everywhere, and are the decomposers for the planet, so I figured it couldn’t be too hard!

Some simple steps I took over the last year were to:

  • search for species I know in the local woods (I have found oyster mushrooms at two locations in my neighborhood and turkey tails in many places).
  • Create a mushroom habitat (a wood pile that has mushroom species I like and feed…the birds like it too!).

This year was time to step it up, though. We’re currently working on two ways of doing that, the first of which is taking shape: Log-based edible mushroom cultivation.

Getting Started: Choosing Mushrooms / Spawn

About two weeks ago, I finally got around to ordering plug spawn. I’m mainly interested in the overlap of medicinal and edible properties of mushrooms. So I went to researching varieties, the logistics of growing them, and what works well locally (Atlanta, GA). After attending the Mushroom Club of GA’s meeting and interacting with members on their mailing list, I learned that a strain of shiitakes available from Mushroom People works remarkably well here (#510, wide temp range). My other preferred supplier is Paul Stamets’s company, Fungi Perfecti. Paul does an amazing amount of research and evangelism and carries the banner of “mushrooms will save the world” (check out his latest book). So buying from fungi.com means supporting a great cause, and from Mushroom People means supporting a local(sh) supplier.

My order consisted of:

  • 1,000 shiitake plugs
  • 1,000 pearl oyster plugs
  • 100 lions mane plugs
  • 100 chicken of the woods plugs
  • 100 maitake (hen of the woods) plugs

I have to admit I was really close to going for the price advantage (and becoming a reseller!) of a big bag from Mushroom Harvest. I got talked out of this for the pain of drilling 12,000 holes…

If you’re interested in a comparison of these suppliers, check out my brief recap here.

Next Steps: Medium…Logs!

Based on what I was wanting to order, I started mapping out what species I could probably obtain for growing these mushrooms. Based on those, species that worked and are common here (and/or fairly accessible to me) include:

  • oak
  • sweetgum
  • beech
  • tulip poplar
  • maple
  • american beech

A few general principles I was taking into account:

  • The logs need to be very recently cut (most people recommend no more than 3-4 weeks since cut)
  • The logs should be harvested before leaves are out on trees

This led me to get concerned – how would I have logs for mushrooms and not have to cut trees? This was my biggest personal fear / objection to mushroom cultivation. I know that mushrooms do wonders for the health of forests, but how could I justify cutting trees to grow them for personal consumption?

I began searching for ways to get logs. I had found two places where sweetgum and birch could be harvested without anyone minding. I still felt bad (though I’m not a huge fan of sweetgum, I like river birch a lot). As if in answer to that concern, I decided to check other options this morning before heading off to cut trees. I turned to Craigs List. Within half an hour, I had found 3 viable options of logs (two of which were within the perimeter) and was organizing logistics to pick them up!

The first location I visited had downed three trees, two very large sweetgums and one mid-sized oak. I filled a Ford F-350 (rented from Home Depot) until I hit the payload limit (3,000 pounds). I managed to get a great assortment of reasonable sized logs and big stumps (for the chicken of the woods and maitake). I then visited another site where trees had been taken down at an apartment complex and an assortment of great mushroom-log sized (4-8″ diameter) logs were available. In both of these places, the logs were already cut up! All I had to do was load and haul away.

The result? I got about 80 logs worth in one day. Now it’s time to prepare for the drilling, plugging and waxing day! Two weeks till that…in the meantime, I’ll be organizing my logs, figuring out what to do with them (how to stack) and where to put them.

Keeping an Eye on the Goal

Want to check out oyster mushrooms growing? Here’s a 1 minute time lapse video:

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Tonight I went to the first meeting for 2010 of the Mushroom Club of Georgia. It was my first meeting (thanks for Robert Hamilton for pointing me towards the group), and I felt at home right away. The room we were in was packed (apparently there was word that morel season is about to start and everyone wanted to know more!). I went to learn about the club and they did a nice overview presentation, with many members giving insight into what they do, including:

  • Walks: this is definitely the highlight. Wander in the woods with knowledgeable folks and collect mushrooms, identify species, etc. The first hike is on April 3, free and open to all. Most walks are members only though, so be sure to join.
  • Educational meetings: the club meets on the second Thursday of the month and has informative talks. Next month includes a biochemist talking about how medicinal mushrooms actually work.
  • Fun events: there is an annual event for southeastern groups on Oconee. Everyone who went had a hard time describing it but clearly enjoyed it massively!

I’m looking forward to my first walk and am hoping to go on April 3.

At the meeting, I found I had something to contribute so I figured that meant I should share. I’ve had some exposure to mushroom identification and collecting, thanks to some friends, and tonight I even got some further backing for what I learned about a medicinal mushroom from a health practitioner, so here goes…

Turkey Tale Tea!

Turkey Tales are an incredibly common mushroom, even in the city. It’s easy to identify, gorgeous, and medicinal.

Note that the underside of Turkey Tails are pourous (not gills) and are white.

The easiest way I know of to access the medicine of turkey tails (believed to be a general anti-viral and anti-bacterial) is by boiling. The recipe, known as Turkey Tail Tea, is easy – just throw a handfull of Turkey Tail mushrooms into a crock pot and let simmer for 48-72 hours. After that point the good medicines are released. Just get a cup and drink!

I was amazed the first time I had this – these mushrooms are very pleasant and have a mild, nutty, aromatic taste. Drink some and stay healthy!

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