By Emily Meagher
Saratoga’s Wednesday farmers’ market, which concludes its 2021 season at the end of October, is a gem for finding less conventional varieties of fresh, local produce. This season, a crowd favorite has been the diverse offering of seasonal mushrooms by The Mushroom Shop, a new vendor.
Partners Jacob Howard and Elise Olsen have always enjoyed gardening, growing vegetables and flowers, and keeping houseplants. About six years ago, they decided to try growing something new, one of their favorite ingredients to cook with: mushrooms. That hobby turned more serious this past winter when a local farmer offered a part of their land in Salem to build a proper mushroom farm. Thus The Mushroom Shop began.
The past year has been full of learning curves for the young farmers. Through the seasons, weather affects how mushrooms grow – even in a controlled environment. To provide fresh, quality products, they don’t sell mushrooms cut more than three days before markets, so preparing the crop for harvest close to market days can be challenging.
The unpredictability of the crop also makes for happy surprises. This summer, Howard and Olsen changed the recipe for the medium they use to grow their fungi. The lion’s mane variety took very well to this change – just 4 of the mushrooms weighed over 15 pounds!
An abundance of lion’s mane wasn’t a problem for the couple since it’s their favorite variety to cook.
“It’s so versatile. Its tender, meaty texture makes for a great seafood substitute, perfect for recipes like lion’s mane “crab” cakes, “shrimp” scampi, or hearty chowder. Or cook it like steak by searing thick slabs in a cast-iron skillet or on the grill,” says Howard.
The Mushroom Shop offers a variety of seasonal mushrooms, both farm-grown and foraged during the couple’s woods walks in Salem. Their products also include dried mushrooms, mushroom seasonings, and grow kits.
This November, The Mushroom Shop will join the Saratoga Farmers’ Market’s winter season at the Wilton Mall with 50 other local vendors. Howard and Olsen look forward to sharing their enthusiasm for all things fungi with market customers, who can expect to see several new cold-weather varieties at their stand this winter, like enoki, beech, black pearl oysters, king trumpets, and nameko.
This week’s recipe: Lion’s Mane Scampi