In this week’s AJC Food section, I have a story on mushrooms with recipes from chef Drew Belline, who oversees the culinary operations at No. 246 in Decatur and St. Cecilia in Buckhead, and is a longtime devotee of foraging for wild mushrooms.
“When I think about wild mushrooms in Georgia, it always makes me hypersensitive to the seasons — particularly to the spring, summer and fall,” Belline says. “Three mushrooms come to mind that tend to be in abundance during those three seasons. In the spring, it’s morels, the summertime, chanterelles, and in the fall, maitakes — definitely my three favorites.”
I also paid a visit to Love Is Love Farm/Gaia Gardens at East Lake Commons, where Joe Reynolds nurtures shiitake mushrooms that he sells in East Atlanta and at other area farmers markets. He also teaches classes on growing mushrooms at home. Fresh-cut hardwood logs are drilled with holes, inoculated with shiitake spores and sealed with cheese wax.
“Then we play the waiting game,” Reynolds says. “It takes anywhere from eight to 12 months for the colonization of the logs. Over three to five years, we can get multiple harvests from a log until the shiitakes have eaten everything they can and the colony dies off.”
Reynolds currently gets $16 a pound for shiitakes, the most expensive price of any crop he grows on the small urban farm. But, he points out, a pound is a lot of mushrooms. And, of course, the meaty texture and delicate flavor are well worth it.
At home, Reynolds likes to use shiitakes in elemental dishes that showcase their umami essence. “I’m a pretty simple cook,” he says. “My favorite thing to do is cut them into strips, saute them in butter and serve them on toast with a little salt. That’s delicious. I think they’re delicious with eggs, too. They make a great quiche.”
Do you enjoy foraging, growing or cooking with mushrooms? What are some of your favorite mushroom varieties and mushroom recipes?
— By Bob Townsend, AJC Food and More blog.