Both mushrooms and locally grown ingredients are enjoying a surge in popularity, growers say. Therefore, it is not surprising that local mushroom growers are increasing their production by growing mushrooms indoors.
“We have noticed an increasing interest in mushrooms from a culinary and even fashion point of view. Plant-based, local and nutritional options are becoming increasingly popular,” said Charles “Chip” Foote, founder of Flush with Mush in East Milwaukee.
That’s flush, like a mushroom harvest or a state of plentiful supply, Foote said.
Flush with Mush isn’t the only local operation dedicated to indoor mushroom growing. Crops on Top, a Riverwest urban farm that sells fresh produce to chefs and consumers, has been experimenting with indoor mushroom cultivation and plans to add more mushrooms to future production, according to Joel Lichosik, who owns the farm with his wife Jamie.
In Janesville, Misty Dawn Farm Mushrooms has been in operation since 2014, growing mushrooms on logs in the woods.
The popularity of mushrooms in the kitchen is not surprising. They are low in calories, high in fiber and a good source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants. Their meat-like texture and hearty flavor have long made them a popular choice for those reducing or eliminating meat from their diets.
“With COVID, more people are cooking at home and thinking about their health,” Foote said via email. “It has also given people the time to look for alternative and more interesting food options, beyond what you would typically find at the grocery store. ”
Indoor-outdoor Wisconsin crop
Flush With Mush grows both indoors and outdoors.
“Different challenges grow in both environments. When growing outdoors, you have to engage with nature; especially variable weather and wildlife. Indoors, it’s more difficult to maintain a sterile environment and regulate temperature and humidity,” Foote said.
Flush with Mush’s fruiting chamber is an 8′ x 8′ fresh air access room that is humidity, temperature and light controlled to create optimal conditions for the mushrooms.
“Every little thing can affect how the mushrooms grow. Lighting, temperature and humidity are the biggest factors affecting them. For example, more fresh air results in larger oyster mushroom caps and smaller, shorter stems,” Foote said. “Different amounts of light affect their color.”
Research and trial and error are keys to flush success, especially since every strain is different, Foote said. Pink oysters, for example, are tropical and love heat and humidity. Many other strains couldn’t take it.
“I mainly grow indoors in special mushroom grow bags,” Foote said. “They help keep the substrate sterile while the mycelium colonizes it. …”
“At the moment we are growing three to five different varieties depending on the week. We mainly grow blue oysters, lion’s mane, king trumpets, chestnuts, black king oysters and shiitake. I’ve grown over 20 different species and will rotate a few in and out depending on the season,” he said.
Flush is currently producing 30-40 pounds a week but will do more once the market season starts. “Harvest time” is year-round, at least for what is produced indoors.
“[The outdoor crops]have more of a summer and fall crop here in Wisconsin,” Foote said. “I mainly grow indoors, but we do vaccinations, do beds and harvest a few bags outside in the summer.”
A tree trunk vaccination essentially imitates nature with the root structure of the fungi.
The logs are freshly cut, ripened for a few weeks, and then transplanted with wooden dowels covered with mycelium. The stoppers must then be coated with wax to protect them from contamination and retain moisture.
“Depending on the variety and the wood, it can take up to two years before you see a flush,” he said.
praise of the mushrooms
One benefit of shrooms is the almost instant gratification. Foote says he loves watching them grow.
“It’s a pleasure to see the progress even overnight! “
Flush with Mush’s current bestsellers are pink oysters in summer and lion’s mane in winter.
“The lion’s mane is my favorite. Noelle’s (Noelle Parker runs the business with Foote and does the marketing) Favorites are chestnut and lion’s mane. Chestnuts have a nice snappy texture when cooked, and lion’s mane, along with beautiful vines, has medicinal properties.
Noelle also enjoys reishi as she makes homemade tinctures and teas from it. Reishi has been used for centuries around the world for its medicinal properties.”
While Foote’s primary focus is growth, Parker handles other components like marketing and licensing — though she’s also concerned with growth. “We both work together and that’s one of the keys to our success,” said Foote.
Last year, Flush with Mush also carried merchandise from Snip Stitch and Patch, a business founded by friend Carol Ann Waugh that sells mushroom-themed aprons, masks and pouches.
“They all sold very well. We have also seen many mushroom themed garments online and in stores. Our friends keep sending us links to mushroom clothes,” Foote said.
However, mushrooms are more than fashionable. Mushrooms are also considered healthy for the environment. The Mushroom Council published a report on the environmental impact of growing mushrooms in 2017.
The study found that producing a pound of mushrooms requires far less water and energy than most other agricultural crops. It also has a low CO2 emission rate.
Foote was familiar with the power of the mushroom before he started growing it because, he says, he’s been in the hospitality industry his entire life — from bartender to cooking to serving to delivery. But his interests went beyond the kitchen.
“I have always had a love of nature. With that came a fascination for the forest and the things that grow/live in it. Mushrooms have always been one of the most interesting things for me. So I decided to continue cultivating. Noelle is involved in social work but also has a lifelong love of the outdoors. It was quite an adventure!”
Flush with Mush will be available at the Riverwest Gardener’s Market in June. It also supplies restaurants like The Original, Tess, Easy Tyger, and The Milwaukee Club.
Flush is also looking for room to expand and plans to add an order form to its Foote Said website.
Flush see facebook.com/flushwithmushllc/. or flushwithmusllc.com/,
Mushrooms take an unusual turn in this rich appetizer, with the velvety texture of cheesecake, an earthy flavor from the mushrooms and a nutty note from Gruyere. First published in the Journal Sentinel in 2010, the recipe comes from the former Café Soeurette in West Bend.
Hearty shiitake, cremini and ramp cheesecake
Makes 6 to 10 servings
1 3⁄4 cups flour
1⁄2 cup ground walnuts
2 tablespoons of sugar
3⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 cup (1⁄2 stick) butter
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons plus 1⁄2 cup sour cream (divided)
1 1⁄2 cups sliced shiitake
1 cup sliced creminis
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced ramps
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
1⁄2 pound mascarpone
4 whole eggs
1 egg white
1⁄2 pound Gruyere, shredded
Prepare the dough: In a bowl, mix together the flour, nuts, sugar and baking powder. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks with 3 tablespoons sour cream, then stir into batter mixture and knead well. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface and line a 10-inch springform pan with dough. Keep refrigerated. (Or divide batter among six 4-inch springform pans.) Wrap aluminum foil around the outside of the pan (or pans) to the top.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare the filling: In a skillet or skillet, sauté both mushrooms in olive oil over medium-high heat until golden, being careful not to crowd them in the pan, this will allow them to brown evenly. Add ramps and fry until tender. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cool.
In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, mascarpone, and remaining 1⁄2 cup sour cream; add whole eggs and egg whites. Beat until smooth. Fold in the chopped Gruyere and cooled mushroom mixture. Pour into a pan lined with batter. Place the skillet in a larger skillet and pour hot water into the larger skillet to reach the side of the springform pan to within 1⁄2 inch of the top. (The foil keeps water from getting into the pan and doesn’t crack the top of the cheesecake.) Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack. To remove, loosen the edges with a knife, then loosen the springform pan. Keep refrigerated.
Serve warm at room temperature.
Here is a recipe from foodandwine.com for an elegant salad of lightly sautéed oyster mushrooms and arugula, topped with thin slices of ham and Pecorino Toscano. This recipe was first published in the journal Sentinel in 2010.
Arugula salad with prosciutto and oyster mushrooms
Makes 10 servings
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1 pound oyster mushrooms, thickly sliced
1⁄4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 inner celery ribs, cut into 2 x 1⁄4 inch matchsticks, plus 1⁄4 cup celery leaves for garnish (divided)
10 cups baby arugula (10 ounces)
6 ounces Pecorino Toscano, shaved with vegetable peeler (1 1⁄2 cups)
6 ounces of thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
In a large non-stick pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Pour into a bowl and let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon zest, and remaining 1⁄4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add celery matches, arugula and mushrooms and toss gently. Transfer the salad to a large platter or bowl, garnish with the Pecorino Toscano, prosciutto and celery leaves and serve immediately.