“What can I get for you?” Ashley Dietrich of Oley Valley Mushroom Farm asked with a smile.“A half pound of criminis,” answered a woman surveying the selection at the Phoenixville Farmers’ Market.
“Where’s the bug guy?” a man enquired.
“That’s my Uncle Joe. He and Angie are at a wedding this weekend,” Dietrich replied.
They chatted a little longer as she bagged the mushrooms, rang up the order and moved on to the next.
“The shiitakes sold out. I only had 3-and-a-half pounds of them. They went like that,” Dietrich said, snapping her fingers for emphasis.
What better time to enjoy them? September is National Mushroom Month. And growers have a lot to celebrate. Nationwide, mushroom sales topped $1 billion last season, according to the USDA.
“I like that they’re versatile. You can use them as a meat replacement, especially the portabellas,” Dietrich suggested. “There are so many different varieties of mushrooms. You can find the one that works for you.”
Her uncle and aunt, Joe and Angela Evans, founded the Pike Township mushroom farm in 2000.
“We started growing for friends, and we thought we’d like to do it for a living,” Angela Evans explained.
Building on her husband’s background in biology, they took some courses at Penn State and made the switch from hobby to business.
“I think what people don’t realize is: Mushrooms have great nutritional value. They have cancer-fighting properties, not just shiitake, all of them,” Evans said.
She and her husband follow organic practices, keeping the farm chemical- and pesticide-free. They also handle picking, packaging and sales to places like the Phoenixville Farmers’ Market and Artisan Exchange in West Chester.
“I love mushrooms. I love my customers. I love the markets I sell to. I love all the different people I sell to, the chefs,” said Evans, who harvests about 4,000 pounds of mushrooms from fall through spring.
Growth cycles last five to 20 weeks.
“Some varieties are more temperamental. Some are more heat sensitive than others,” she noted. “We’re going to be adding a new variety this year that’s kind of difficult to grow. We’re adding maitake.”
“I really like maitakes,” said Erin Bause of Bause Catered Events in Pottstown. “I like shiitakes. I like any kind of mushroom.”
The chef shared her recipe for Brunch Mushroom and Egg Casserole.
“It’s a brunch casserole that we’ve done many times for people – the morning after a wedding brunch or an anniversary,” she described. “It has a lot of flavor. Mushrooms add body to things.”
Evans wholeheartedly agrees.
“I cook with mushrooms all the time,” she said. “I love them all. I really, really like the trumpets.”
“If you have a recipe that calls for a certain type of mushroom, you can substitute any mushroom,” Evans added.
Two of her favorite recipes: Chicken with Red Wine and Mushrooms and Shrimp with White Trumpet Mushrooms.
As for Dietrich, “I love them just on the grill with some olive oil, salt and pepper.”
She’s also a fan of mushroom quiche and mushroom soup.
So when a customer exclaimed, “I love mushrooms!”
Dietrich enthusiastically replied, “I love them too!”
Chicken with Red Wine and Mushrooms
4 slices bacon
¼ cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 ½ cups crimini and shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 large shallot, chopped
3 sprigs dried thyme, plus more for garnish
1 cup red wine
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Cook bacon in a large skillet. Remove cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Place flour in a large freezer bag. Season with salt and pepper. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Cut chicken breasts in half. Place chicken in bag and lightly coat with flour, shaking off excess flour.
Heat skillet with bacon drippings over medium heat until hot. Cook chicken over medium/high heat for 1 minute until just starting to color on one side. Turn chicken over. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and continue to let chicken sit, covered, for another 10 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate.
Using the same pan, increase the heat to medium. Add mushrooms, shallot and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
Chop cooled bacon and add it to the mushrooms along with the wine and broth. Increase heat to high. Using a spoon, scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Sauce will thicken slightly and reduce by almost half. Reduce heat to low. Add 1 tablespoon butter. Stir until melted. Return chicken to pan. Coat with red wine sauce.
(Courtesy of Oley Valley Mushroom Farm)
Shrimp with White Trumpet Mushrooms
3 slices smoked bacon (optional)
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound white trumpet mushrooms, cut into scallop size pieces
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley, minced
Sauté bacon and garlic in olive oil until garlic is soft. Add mushrooms and sauté about 3 minutes. Add shrimp and sauté until they are just pink. Add lemon juice, wine and water. Reduce a little. Add butter and fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice or pasta. Serves four.
(Courtesy of Oley Valley Mushroom Farm)
Brunch Mushroom and Egg Casserole
1/4 cup chopped cooked bacon or chopped ham
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 chopped sweet onion or scallion
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté onions and mushrooms in butter for 2 to 5 minutes with salt to taste. Set aside. In a blender (or bowl), mix the eggs, milk, pepper and salt. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Pour the egg mix in and stir in the bacon, mushroom/onion mix and cheese. Dust the top with Parmesan and bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.
(Courtesy of Bause Catered Events)
Care and handling
• Choose mushrooms without visible moisture on the outside or in the pack
• Store bulk/loose mushrooms in a paper bag or keep in the original package and refrigerate.
• Mushrooms with open veils have more intense flavor and usually are better when cooked.
• To clean mushrooms, use a soft brush to remove any traces of peat moss or soil; or rinse quickly and pat dry.
• Soaking fresh mushrooms or rinsing open-veiled mushrooms may add excess moisture.
Source: Mushroom Council