The Thrilling (and Delicious) Mystery of Mushrooms
Chef Stephanie Michalak
Turner Farm Culinary Manager
For anyone who has never walked into the woods after a rainfall and gone mushroom hunting, it’s a lot like “Where’s Waldo” with the possibility of poison ivy. Your eyes are constantly shifting, peering far and wide (as well as close and near), looking for any evidence or appearance of whatever type of mushroom you’re looking for. If you ever get a chance to go on a mushroom walk with an excited mycologist, anticipate sharing in elated moments when you uncover a beautiful specimen.
I originally began falling in love with mushrooms while I lived in Maine during a semester study in high school. One of the program’s professors, who routinely offered guided mushroom voyages to eager students, would also stop our field trip bus abruptly for us all to catch a glimpse of a hen-of-the-woods growing proudly on the side of a tree.
Fungi are so fascinating because there are so many in our world, with lives and purposes we as humans still don’t fully understand. As a in high school and colleges, I had many mushroom walks with other students and knowledgeable professionals. Between learning how to test if a mushroom is edible (hint: if you are unsure of how to accurately identify a species of mushroom and do not know anyone who can safely inform you, you should either leave it alone or throw it out), seeing what a destroying angel (a very poisonous mushroom) looks like in the wild, all the way to helping dig up black truffles in France: you begin to respect the heck out of mushrooms and those that spend their lives dedicated to understanding, discovering, and even fostering them.
Retaining the respect and a sense of wonder about mushrooms, there is much room to explore. As a chef, between the seductive shiitakes, ‘exotic’ oysters, and magical reishis, there is an expansive array of flavors, textures, aromas, and ultimately uses for these ingredients. Many cultures across the globe have traditions, dishes, and secrets encompassing mushrooms.
Luckily, with the hard work of Turner Farm’s mushroom grower, Rachel Bellis, and the garden team, we grow and harvest certified organic oyster mushrooms and shiitakes at Turner Farm. If you’ve ever wondered how to grow these varieties or even just how to cook a mushroom to perfection, then our Fungi Fundamentals might just be a great class for you.
Rachel will lead a discussion on mushrooms and how we grow ours at Turner Farm. You’ll even get to see our mushroom production set-up. Afterwards, all the participants will join me in the Teaching Kitchen to prepare a few dishes incorporating mushrooms and talk about many varieties of mushrooms meant for cooking, and even potentially healing.
Join Chef Stephanie and Rachel Bellis for Fungi Fundamentals in the Turner Farm Teaching Kitchen on Saturday, February 17.