By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Mushrooms from the Saratoga Farmers’ Market often find their way into my meals. Farms such as Mariaville Mushroom Men and Ramble Creek offer a wide array of these low-calorie, high-protein fungi. All are easy to prepare, taste wonderful, and once in a while, I’ve found, lead to pleasant dreams.
What makes mushrooms stand out from other fresh farm offerings? For starters, they are in a category of foods by themselves. As Brie Mazurek of the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Education writes in A Guide to Specialty Mushrooms, “Mushrooms are not vegetables. They are closer to animals than plants and belong to their own distinct kingdom, Fungi. As a fruit is to a tree, mushrooms are the spore-bearing fruiting bodies that allow fungi to produce.”
Farmers’ market mushrooms generally are grown in sawdust or logs. For many years, the varieties available were primarily shiitake and oysters. Now, farmers also are growing lions mane, nameko, chestnuts, and king oysters.
Is there a huge difference in flavor or preparation method for these varieties?
To me, no. There are subtle variations that make trying the different mushrooms an intriguing experience. Often, I pick up a different variety each week to sample and experiment with.
Vendors can offer cooking tips. You also can try this simple roasting preparation, which works for nearly all fresh varieties:
First, give the mushrooms a quick rinse. After they have drip-dried, remove the harder stem edges with a knife and chop the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Heat a skillet. Place the mushrooms in the skillet and cook them quickly on medium-high heat, tossing them frequently with two wooden spoons to keep them from sticking to the pan. This roasting method releases the mushroom’s juices and helps bring out their flavor.
After about five minutes, turn off the heat and quickly add a liquid of choice, such as oil, butter, wine, vinegar or lemon juice, or broth. Often, I add olive oil with a little wine. Continue to toss the mushrooms so they do not stick, and add seasonings such as black pepper, garlic, onions, shallots, chopped rosemary and/or thyme. Remove from the pan and serve.
This week’s recipe: Mushroom Kale Pizza