Austinites sell kits to help you grow your own mushrooms
Growing a vegetable garden is one thing, but what about mushrooms?
In the past few years, I’ve had several grow-your-own mushroom kits cross my desk, but even with what I thought was careful attention to watering and growing conditions, I wasn’t able to successfully grow any mushrooms.
That changed when I got my first 100th Monkey Mushroom Farm kit from Austinites Heather Ralston and Jimm Stack. The husband-and-wife team started growing mushrooms on their own about 10 years ago, and in 2011, they turned that hobby into a business that now ships kits for five kinds of mushrooms across the country.
Both Ralston and Stack are former educators, and the website reflects their passion for education. In addition to more than half a dozen pages featuring just about everything you would ever want to know about mushrooms, as well as recipes for how to use them, Ralston and Stack have written a dozen lesson plans targeted toward kids (and adults) who want to get even more out of their kits than ingredients for tonight’s dinner.
The non-GMO mushroom mycelium are mixed with untreated hardwood sawdust and stored in a plastic bag. The detailed instructions explain how to cut open the bag and spritz the substrate with water several times a day until the mushrooms pop out.
One of the key differences between the 100th Monkey Mushroom Farm kits and those from the California-based Back to the Roots is the plastic humidity tent that keeps the substrate from drying out. (Back to the Roots originally sold kits that used coffee grounds as the “soil,” which is what I was trying to grow mushrooms in, but they have recently switched to wheat bran. I was able to grow oyster mushrooms successfully in the new kit, which costs $19.95 and is available at backtotheroots.com.)
The Austin company also distinguishes itself by offering an array of mushrooms, some of which are hard to find elsewhere: blue oyster, elm oyster, shiitake, pioppino and the newly released lion’s mane, which is said to have a faint taste of lobsters. Prices start at $17 for a small refill bag and up to $31 for the larger kits. 100th Monkey Mushroom Farm kits are available at the Sustainable Food Center’s Farmers Market Downtown and Wheatsville Co-op and online at 100thmonkeymushrooms.com.
Ralston and Stack have also recently released plug spawn kits, which include dowels covered in mycelium that you can insert into logs to start an outdoor mushroom garden. These can take longer to fruit, Ralston says, but because they are rooted in hardwood logs, they can produce edible mushrooms for years.
A heads up about caring for the mushrooms and when you can expect to be able to eat them: I’ve successfully grown mushrooms from three kits now, and all of them have taken even more spritzing over a longer period of time than indicated. I haven’t had much success with the “second flush” of mushrooms that both Back to the Roots and 100th Monkey promote, but I’m still spritzing several kits that have produced one round of mushrooms, hoping that I can coax out one more round.
Wild Rice Casserole
1/2 cup butter (or olive oil)
4 cups sliced mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, or pioppino)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup brown rice
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms and onions. Add pecans and cashews and cook for 1 minute. Stir in rice.
Pour mixture into casserole dish. Stir in the broth, salt and pepper and cover with an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour. Serves 4.
— 100th Monkey Mushroom Farm
Even when it’s not the height of wedding season, the folks at Dagar’s Catering know how to stay busy. Founded by Freddie Dagar in 1952, the company flourished under Albert Dagar, who passed away a year ago. His daughter, Kathryn Albarado, now runs the business, and she shared this recipe from Dagar chefs Taryn Prejean and Jay Brooks that will help welcome in summer.
Spicy Cantaloupe Salad with Watermelon and Mint
This recipe calls for melons that have been scooped out with a small melon baller, but you could also use 1-inch cubes. You could easily double this recipe to serve a crowd at a potluck.
2 cups cantaloupe rounds
2 cups watermelon rounds
1/2 jalapeño, minced
6 mint sprigs, chopped
1 lime, zested
1 lime, juiced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl, combine cantaloupe, watermelon, jalapeño, mint, lime zest and lime juice. Toss, add olive oil and season to taste. Let sit for 30 minutes so flavors combine. Serves 4.
— Dagar’s Catering
KIDS’ COOKING CLASSES
Get kids in the kitchen at summer cooking camps, classes
Foodie Kids, the cooking and kitchen shop run by Austin cookbook author Barbara Beery, has moved into a new home at 3818 Far West Blvd., just a few doors down from its original location. The new space has allowed Beery to expand the number of hands-on classes, parties and summer camps she can host for kids as young as 3, as well as the variety of drop-in sessions at the “makery,” where kids can assemble pizzas and decorate cupcakes. To celebrate the new location, Beery is hosting a grand opening party from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 2. For more details about Foodie Kids, go to foodie-kids.com.
Instead of hosting classes in a place where students come to her, Austinite Lori Hinze teaches cooking classes at schools and community centers across Central Texas for kids ages 5 to 13. In coming months, she’ll teach her Cook, Learn, Grow! three- and four-day summer camps at schools from Dripping Springs to Round Rock, as well as the Jewish Community Center and Lakeway Activity Center. During the school year, Hinze, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and former classroom teacher, offers after-school cooking programs, and throughout the year, she hosts cooking-themed birthday parties in private homes. You’ll find the full schedule for the camps, which cost between $165 and $220 a child, as well as information about her other services, at cooklearngrow.com.
Holy Smokers launch new barbecue sauce
It’s hard to miss Nate Echelberger and Jon Evans when they are dressed as the Holy Smokers, their competitive cooking characters.
The Austin dads dress in robes as they proselytize about pork (or whatever they happen to be cooking that day), but it’s their food that does most of the talking. In 2011, they won first place during the first Austin Food Experiment during South by Southwest and competed in that contest’s national championship in Brooklyn. They have been runners-up in recent Food Experiments, and last week, Echelberger competed on the Food Network show “Chopped.”
But contests aren’t all they do. Earlier this month, the Holy Smokers launched a new barbecue sauce: Sauce On Purpose ($5.49 for 12 ounces), which is available online at sauceonpurpose.com and at local Fresh Plus stores. Phil’s Ice House has developed a Holy Fuego burger that features the sauce, and proceeds of sales go to the Holy Smokers Spirit Fund, which brings “hope and joy to people hungry for it.”