By Lindsay Courcelle
We are quite lucky to have access to delicious and nutritious wild foraged and cultivated mushrooms here in the Rutland area. At the Rutland Farmers Market, Champlain Valley Mushrooms, run by Heather Ewing and Jimmy Horton, sell log-grown shiitake mushrooms, succulent oyster mushrooms, wild edibles, and medicinal varieties.
I met Jimmy in 2009 when I worked as an apprentice at Foggy Meadow Farm, run by Jimmy’s father Paul Horton. Even as a teenager, Jimmy was experimenting with growing medicinal herbs and becoming interested in growing mushrooms. He has continued working at Foggy Meadow since then and therefore knows the ins and outs of running a successful vegetable farm. It is not surprising that Champlain Valley Mushrooms has prospered.
With the partnership of Heather, who manages the business end of things, Champlain Valley Mushrooms has been operating for three years. During that time they have cultivated a solid customer base that returns week after week. Heather and Jimmy are kind, knowledgeable, and happy to share their wisdom of the nutritional and medicinal qualities of each type of mushroom.
During the summer months, they grow shiitake mushrooms on hardwood logs. This is an ancient and long-practiced technique that produces mushrooms full of nutrients, vitamins, and flavor. Logs are cut to manageable lengths, holes are drilled, and then sawdust inoculated with mushroom mycelium is pushed into each hole. Eventually, logs are “shocked” by being soaked in cold water. Like magic, the shiitakes grow.
Although the season for fresh shiitakes has ended, Champlain Valley Mushrooms will have a limited amount of dried shiitakes available for sale at the Rutland Winter Farmers Market. Once soaked, the dried shiitakes are perfect for any recipe, and I personally love drinking the water in which they were soaked.
This fall and winter, Champlain Valley Mushrooms will have oyster mushrooms for sale every week at the Rutland Market. Oysters have a delicate flavor and pair well with vegetables and meats. The mushrooms are mineral rich - high in Vitamin D and iron - and have antioxidant and antibiotic properties.
Champlain Valley Mushrooms also sells medicinal mushrooms including chaga and reishi, and mushroom tinctures.
Chaga grows on birch trees and is very hard, almost as hard as the trees on which it grows. Black on the outside, the inner parts are the color of turmeric, a deep orange hue that signifies its health properties.
In other cultures, chaga has been called “King of Plants” and “Mushroom of Immortality.” According to some, chaga has the highest level of antioxidants of any food. Chaga can be steeped to make a fine tasting tea on its own, or it can easily be added to your morning coffee or tea. Personally, I’ve found that I feel happier and generally more balanced when I drink chaga daily.
Whether you want to eat or drink your mushroom nutrients, check out Champlain Valley Mushrooms at the Rutland Winter Farmers Market, the Rutland Area Food Co-op, and the Middlebury Co-op.
To use your mushrooms, here’s a recipe that I came to love this summer. It’s the perfect breakfast or quick lunch, uses up leftover rice and any other veggies you have, and incorporates protein rich eggs and nutrient dense mushrooms.
Mushroom Fried Rice
- 1-2 cups chopped mushrooms (oysters or shiitakes)
- diced onions or scallions
- diced carrots, kohlrabi, broccoli, or any other veggies you want
- diced bacon (optional)
- 2 eggs
- 1-2 cups leftover rice
- tamari soy sauce
- brown rice vinegar (optional)
- butter, bacon grease, or oil
Heat wok or skillet and sauté mushrooms and onions in butter or your choice of fat. (If using bacon, cook that first and sauté mushrooms in bacon fat). Once mushrooms have started to brown, add veggies and sauté. Cook until all have softened. Make a space in the center of the pan and crack eggs there. Fry and/or scramble eggs in center of pan and once cooked, mix throughout rest of ingredients. Add rice and mix thoroughly. Add soy sauce to taste, and brown rice vinegar if desired for more acidity. Serve hot and add additional vinegar or hot sauce to taste.
Lindsay and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, a vegetable farm business in Shrewsbury. Learn more at www.AlchemyGardensVT.com