You see, all of this rain has brought about a flush from the mushroom bed I installed last year. Now we have an overabundance of beautiful, tasty, wine cap mushrooms. With my several posts on Facebook regarding what we'll do with them, one person requested a blog post about our experiences. So, this one's for you Annie!
First, let me just say that growing mushrooms is easy - even in North Dakota. I purchased peg spawn from Field and Forest http://www.fieldforest.net/store/index.php?main_page=page&id=3&chapter=0. They were rather inexpensive and you can grow wine caps on wood chips or straw. They are also great because they have a very distinctive wine or brown 'cap' to them, making them easy to identify if other species come up on your bed.
Wine caps grow on many different types of wood chips. For best results make it at least 40% hardwood, and aged no more than 3 years.
Peg Spawn is just as the name implies comes as a little wooden peg covered in white 'mushroom sperm'.
Prepare your wood chip bed so they are at least 4 inches deep on top of well drained slightly scuffed up soil.
Mine is right next to the barn where cattle used to be so the soil is rich and filled with composted hay and straw - how perfect! Now all you have to do is toss some water to them during dry times.
Then more little heads will appear.
And if you have a wet spell like this spring - a lot of little heads!
I like to pick them while the cap is still nice and round instead of being flared out. Once the mushroom cap flares out they are getting ready to 'spawn' or send out their spores so if any of them get ahead of me and get to the spawning stage, I like to just leave them go. I'm not sure it is true but it makes sense to me that the ones I leave are spreading spores for next year.
Once picked, I store them in the fridge in a paper bag. Storing mushrooms in a plastic bag or container just holds too much moisture and they get soggy, slimy - yuck. So into paper bags it is.
After we eat our fill on the grill, in salads, sandwiches, wraps, sautéed with steaks, deep fried stems and what not, I dehydrate the rest. These will be perfect in soup and stew this winter.
Wine cap mushrooms have a very distinctive taste - nuttier than a portabella and very woodsy as they would say on Food TV. I like it. I have noticed however that when cooked, they take on the flavor of whatever they are cooked with and amplify it - the MSG of the mushroom world!
So that's it - you'll want to be sure to check them twice a day when they are in season as they grow really fast. They will show up early in the year and if you're lucky once again about September in our area. You should refresh your bed with new wood mulch every or every other year and add new spawn every other year to keep it going.
So Enjoy and remember, mushrooms for Fun Guys!