Specialty mushrooms on the rise
“We still handpick all of our mushrooms,” said Linda Phillips Steller, leading an impromptu tour of the family business, Phillips Mushroom Farms in Kennett Square. “We grow shiitake mushrooms in those houses down there.”
It’s National Mushroom Month, and growers have plenty to celebrate. Exotics like shiitake, enoki and oyster are trending with U.S. sales topping $96 million last year, up 4-percent.
“I think the consumers are learning more,” explained Daniel Rahn, project manager at the American Mushroom Institute. “They’re taking an interest in varieties that in the past were not as popular, but they’re showing up more on store shelves and in restaurants.” Nutrition’s a big draw. “People are watching their diet. Mushrooms are healthy. No doubt about it,” said Jim Angelucci, Phillips’ general manager. “Oyster mushrooms have some of the same compounds as the statins that we take.”
“A lot of people like them for their medicinal value,” agreed Joe Evans of Oley Valley Mushroom Farm. “I have a lot of people asking me about lion’s mane (aka pompom) mushrooms. Supposedly, they’re good for MS and lupus.”
Plus, “it’s a tasty mushroom,” he said. “If you sauté them in butter, they taste like lobster.”
Another favorite: maitake, dubbed hen-of-the-woods for its ruffled appearance.
“I would say it’s just pure umami. It’s just got a very rich, wonderful flavor,” described Dorene Pasekoff of Hill Creek Farm in Pottstown, who discovered wild ones on her property. “They do help the farm’s bottom line.”
Back at Phillips, the tour continued in the mushroom museum, where visitors enter a climate-controlled room, featuring maitake and more.
“We’ve seen a rise in mai-take with the chefs,” said Jill Phillips Gray, Steller’s sister. “Shiitake’s probably themost popular of the specialty mushrooms with the consumer.”
Make your own shiitake “bacon” or shiitake mushroom spread.
“The uses of mushrooms are limited only by your imagination,” Angelucci added. “You can get them every day, and you can use them in every way.”
Shiitake mushrooms Olive oil Shiitake finishing salt/ sea salt
Remove stems and thinly slice the caps. Toss in bowl with olive oil and salt. Spread on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until crispy. Enjoy on soups, salads or right off the pan. RECIPE COURTESY OF PHILLIPS MUSHROOM FARMS
Holiday Shiitake Mushroom Spread
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps chopped (2 cups)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms (2½ cups)
2 tablespoons shallots or scallions, chopped 3 tablespoons dry sherry ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper ¼ teaspoon thyme leaves 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup reduced-calorie mayonnaise
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, cook and stir until golden, about 5 minutes. Add shallots; cook and stir until mushrooms are browned, about 5 minutes. Add sherry, salt, black pepper and thyme; cook and stir for 1 minute; cool. In a food processor, combine mushroom mixture, cream cheese and mayonnaise; process until smooth. Place in a covered container; chill at least 1 hour. Serve with crackers and sweet pepper strips. Serves 10 to 12. RECIPE COURTESY OF PHILLIPS MUSHROOM FARMS
Pom Pom Bake
1 pound pompom mushrooms, torn into ½-inch pieces
6 cups fresh spinach, chopped 4 cloves garlic, minced ¼ cup olive oil Salt and pepper ¼ pound Gruyère, grated INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, toss together mushrooms, spinach and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake 30 minutes or until cheese melts and has lightly browned. Makes 4 cups. RECIPE COURTESY OF PHILLIPS MUSHROOM FARMS
The Woodlands at Phillips Pom Pom Crab Cakes
1 pound pom pom mushrooms ½ stick of butter 1 teaspoon lemon juice ½ teaspoon Old Bay (optional) ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper ½ cup garlic aioli or mayonnaise 2 eggs ¼ cup bread or cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons fresh minced chives
Dice the pom pom mushrooms and sauté in butter until slightly softened. Mix the pom pom mushrooms with remaining ingredients. Shape into cakes and sauté 5 to 7 minutes per side. Top with truffle aioli.
1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoons white-wine vinegar 1 cup canola oil ½ cup truffle oil INSTRUCTIONS
In Cuisinart, blend eggs, vinegar and salt. Using a drip tube, add oils with machine running. RECIPE COURTESY OF CHEF NATALIE JENKS
Royal Trumpet is the trademarked name for king oyster mushrooms.
Oyster mushrooms are available in different colors
Try pom pom mushrooms as a crab or lobster substitute.
Maitake is “probably our most difficult one,” says Linda Phillips Steller.