Last year, I was introduced to Stropharia rugosa-annulata, or what many folks might refer to as the Wine Cap mushroom. Mary had brought along one of these burgundy colored mushrooms to our Transition meeting and talked about how the good folks at the Garden Farme in Ramsey had been growing these beauties in the wood-chip mulch they use around their gardens. She also shared how the spawn for these tastee and beautiful fungi could be obtained from Field and Forest Products and that they would be great additions to many gardens.
Well I was hooked, so towards the end of June, I ordered a 5.5 pound bag for about $30 and spread the sawdust/spawn mixture to some simple cardboard and wood chip sheet mulching projects I had been doing around my yard, covered it with wood chips, watered, and then waited. By the end of August, I was harvesting my first Wine Caps.
This year I purchased another bag of spawn to add to a new sheet mulching project I did on my side yard and repeated the process. This batch was also started in the early summer and again by early fall I was harvesting more mushrooms from both my old and new beds. It is worth noting that the production from the older beds also produced a good harvest of mushrooms in the spring and early summer, along with a second harvest later in the summer and through the fall.
I have been experimenting with preserving the harvests by drying in my solar dryer, pressure canning, and freezing. And in between the preservation processing, I have been enjoying cooking and eating the fresh ones. To harvest the mushrooms I use a knife to cut off the exposed portion of the fruits, wash off the dirt, cut them up into smaller pieces and then either dry, can, cook, or sometimes just eat them raw.
This fall I have been making a mushroom/bean/ squash or potato stew with them. I pan fry the mushrooms, add onions and garlic or chives, tomatoes, and kale or broccoli. I add a can of beans (spicy blacks have been a nice addition). Then I season with season salt, pepper, basil, and oregano. I then cook up a squash or a few potatoes and add this to my stewing mixtures. I look forward to cooking up more of this concoction with the preserved shrooms in the coming months when my Wine Caps rest up over the winter.
So if you’re looking for a way to covert some of your lawn into food, throw down some cardboard, cover with wood-chips, add some Wine Cap spawn, and start eating instead of mowing. And to expand your eating pleasures plant some other plants in between. Probably harder than it sounds, but the work you put in will be worth the effort, I do believe.