Farmers' Kitchen—Magnificent Mushrooms

Jimmy Horton and Heather Ewing
Jimmy Horton and Heather Ewing

Written By

Jimmy Horton

Written on

August 17 , 2016

Many of us are brought up to fear mushrooms. Often to the point of never thinking of them as the wonderful, delicious, and nutritious food they are. Many people I talk to are surprised to find out that they can eat more than just the common button mushrooms that are found in almost all grocery stores. But who can blame them? Those mushrooms are often the only choice! But the fact is, there are hundreds of choice edible mushrooms out there.

Here at Champlain Valley Mushrooms we love fungus! My partner, Heather Ewing, and I started cultivating mushrooms about four years ago and have been growing our knowledge and our farm ever since. Currently we’re producing oyster, shiitake, lion’s mane, and wine cap mushrooms. Each one of these mushrooms is unique and requires its own method of cultivation.

It’s amazing what can be used to grow oyster mushrooms. Coffee grounds, wood pellets (sawdust), straw, and even toilet paper are just a few mediums that offer enough nutrition for the wonderful oyster mushrooms to thrive. We grow our oyster mushrooms on pasteurized wheat straw mixed with mushroom spawn (seed) that is packed into plastic sleeves. Holes are then poked in the bags where the mushrooms will grow. From start to finish, the mushrooms will grow in a month’s time into big, beautiful mushroom bouquets.

Shiitakes, on the other hand, have a much pickier diet, preferring freshly cut hardwood logs. To start, we cut down dormant trees in the winter before the sap starts running. When the weather warms up a bit, we begin inoculating the logs. This includes drilling holes, filling them with spawn, and sealing the holes with wax. We then wait an entire year for the logs to be ready to produce shiitake mushrooms. Although this is our preferred method of cultivation, shiitakes will also grow on hardwood sawdust. Personally, I believe the shiitakes grown from a hardwood log are superior to a sawdust-grown shiitake in flavor and beauty.

Learning about mushrooms and fungus has been a great experience. They are everywhere we are, in one form or another. With each breath, we inhale spores so small they can only be seen under a microscope. Under the earth’s surface we walk on mycelium (mushroom roots), which grow in all directions undetected. It is easy to forget how intricate and interconnected our planet truly is. Living day to day, I feel fortunate to have a job that always keeps me thinking, learning, and experiencing life close to the roots (or to the mycelium...) of our humble planet. And honestly, I just really enjoy eating the mushrooms of my labor!

Champlain Valley Mushrooms is located in Orwell. You can find our mushrooms on Saturdays at the Rutland Farmers’ Market, Sundays at the Dorset Farmers’ Market, and at Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op. Check us out on Facebook–

About the Author

Jimmy Horton

Jimmy Horton

Jimmy Horton and Heather Ewing run Champlain Valley Mushrooms located in Orwell. You can find their mushrooms on Saturdays at the Rutland Farmers’ Market, Sundays at the Dorset Farmers’ Market, and at Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op.

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