The unenlightened labor under the misconception that all mushrooms taste alike. Nothing could be further from true.
But if you’ve never seen or tasted anything but the same old same old, why would you know any differently? Nearly every local supermarket exclusively stocks the small white mushrooms known as (waaaaaaait for it….) White Mushrooms, also called table mushrooms, button mushrooms, cultivated mushrooms, common mushrooms, or champignon mushrooms. But there are hundreds of edible mushrooms, each with a unique flavor and texture (and by the way, fresh mushrooms are never slimy). So let’s just say I was intrigued when I was asked to review an indoor Shiitake mushroom growing kit, which the company (GMHP) guaranteed was “as easy to grow as a potted plant.”(Ha! They should see what I’ve done to some of my houseplants).
Gourmet Mushroom and Health Products (GMHP) offers quite a few mushroom growing kits: Shiitake Mushrooms, Blue Oyster Mushrooms, Sonoma Brown Oyster Mushrooms, Pom Pom Blanc Mushrooms, and Trumpet Royale Mushrooms. GMHP states that each mushroom kit is started with Certified Organic Seed, is designed specifically for in-home mushroom cultivation, and is guaranteed to produce.
Shiitake is a star when it comes to versatility. This dark brown mushroom, with caps ranging in size from 2 to 4 inches, is the most widely consumed mushroom in Asia. It has been cultivated there for centuries. Its earthy fragrance and meaty texture enhances a wide variety of dishes since the results are beautiful whether they are sautéed, broiled, baked, grilled or stir fried. Shiitake mushrooms have traditionally been used to add complexity to stews or soups, and the stems create deeply flavorful stocks. Shiitake may also be stuffed and broiled. – GMHP
The Shiitake Mushrooms growing kit arrived from GMHP in early November. I opened the box and perused the directions, which instructed that the kit should be started within 1-2 weeks after you receive it. Cool. I’ll do it later. I put the directions back in the box, put the box in my office, and there it sat until the day after Christmas.
Crap!, I said when I discovered it. I really wanted to see those mushrooms growing, because this seemed like one of those cool, hands-on science projects we used to get in middle school. Like growing a sweet potato on a toothpick or watching beans sprout.
I figured I’d blown the gig, but I got down to business and liberated the contents from the package. Inside was a short log wrapped in plastic, which according to the included literature, was impregnated with organic Shiitake mushroom spore (sounds like the beginning of a cool movie). As a matter of fact, due to my slacker behavior, Shiitakes were already growing from the log, squeezed tight underneath the plastic, struggling to escape.
I thought it best to start where I was supposed to start, so I freed the log from its plastic and shaved off the mushrooms that were growing. Following the instructions, I carved a small hole about one-inch deep into one of the ends of the log, and filled it with water a few times. I stood the log on top of the supplied sponge. Both then went into a large bowl, to which I added water to keep the sponge wet. Then I covered the log with the supplied plastic sleeve, designed to hold humidity around the log and mushrooms. Then I placed bowl and contents in the sunniest room in my house (indirect light only) where I once again pretty much forgot about it during my holiday madness.
Ten days later I discovered a bounty of Shiitake mushrooms growing from the log. It was like a second Christmas. In spite of my benign neglect, the fungi survived and thrived. It was even easier than growing a houseplant.
I wasted no time making a stir fry and those Shiitakes were delicious.
(Jim at GMHP informed me via email that the mushrooms I scraped off were perfectly fine to eat.)
Gourmet Mushrooms and Health Products offers mushroom growing kits on their website here.