I had absolutely no idea you could grow a mushroom in your house. That is, until I visited San Francisco’s incredible Ferry Building a few months ago and stopped short at the Far West Fungi booth. Underneath a large glass dome sat a log. And off that log grew mushrooms. Shiitakes, no less! I was mesmerized. I couldn’t stop looking at it. And imagining what it would look like atop the white leather ottoman in my living room. Is this a strange thought process?
While I did take several minutes to contemplate whether I should check said log or carry it right on the plane, I exercised restraint.
I kept thinking about it. Mushrooms are mysterious. And elusive. Most can’t even be cultivated. Some will even kill you. How could you grow edible fungi at home? Turns out, this exotic concept isn’t limited to Northern California. It’s a nationwide trend. I found a grow-your-own mushroom kit in the produce department of my neighborhood grocery store. Not surprisingly, the box ended up in my cart.
Fortunately for this curious Farmer, my day job allows me to explore virtually any topic I’m interested in. To get some extra expertise on growing mushrooms, I went to St. Joseph, Minnesota. Kevin Doyle has been growing Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms on shelves stacked from floor to ceiling for decades.
Still, my Oyster mushroom kit remained unopened. Not quite ready to pull the trigger.
In the meantime, I picked up some of Kevin’s mushrooms at the store. And I made this for Jay and a friend:
Farro and Mushroom Risotto
When I read Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver, I was struck by his description of risotto. It’s something Italian mothers make when they are short on time. As in, a simple, easy dinner to get on the table on a busy weeknight. Can you imagine Americans having that same mindset? I think we should adopt it. I created this version using nutty whole grain farro instead of white arborio rice.
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups farro
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
2 ounces dried chanterelle mushrooms
8 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 cups warm chicken stock (preferably homemade)
pot of 8 cups boiling water
3/4 cup sour cream
grated parmesan, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Add the dried mushrooms to the boiling water. Turn off the heat and cover. In a dutch oven or large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender and translucent, about 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add farro and stir. Toast for about 1 minute.
Add stock one cup at a time and stir, waiting until the liquid is almost completely absorbed before adding more. When the chicken stock is gone, use the liquid from the dried mushrooms. Remove the now-tender dried mushrooms from the water and chop. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced shiitakes and thyme, cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Keep warm.
When the farro is tender and risotto looks creamy (even if you haven’t used all the liquid, if you need more, use warm water), turn off the heat. Add formerly dried mushrooms and sour cream and stir. Season with salt and pepper.
Scoop risotto into bowls, top with shiitake mushrooms and garnish with more thyme and parmesan.
Well. Now I’m thinking about my next mushroom meal. With the Oysters from my living room as the star ingredient. It’s time to open up that mysterious box and get that fungi going. I’ll keep you posted.