Tuesday, April 10, 2012

At The Table with Shady Oak's Organics

Sourcing vegetables during winter in New England presents a challenge, and mushrooms are no exception. During the warm seasons we are able to procure amazing, wild-foraged mushrooms from local mushroom guy extraordinaire Ben Maleson. Sadly, during the winter we end up sourcing from Oregon and other far- flung corners of the country, that is, until we met Nate Seyler, Devin Stehlin and Leif Johnson, partners and cultivators at Shady Oaks Organics Mushroom Farm at the Cambridgeport Farmers Market. They are year round mushroom farmers that specialize in growing beautiful yellow, pink and white oyster mushrooms as well as shiitakes. After speaking with Devin, it became clear that we should invite them to The Table for a “mushroomcentric” four-course dinner featuring their incredible mushrooms. Before writing the menu, Paul, George, and I headed up to Shady Oak’s production facility to check out the growing process and to brainstorm a menu. The following is a tour of the facility:

From left to right:George, Robert, Leif, Paul and Nate
When we first pictured a mushroom farm on the North Shore the image that came to mind was of a bunch of hippies living in the woods cultivating spores on dead wood in the forest. As we arrived at the production facility a much different picture was presented. Their facility, which is actually a warehouse space on the outskirts of Newburyport, is a pristine, clean facility with a well thought out and organized plan to produce the North East’s highest quality cultivated mushrooms. Here is the flow of production:

 Oyster Mushrooms are grown on straw based medium that is delivered in these bags.
 The straw needs to be sterilized so that competing organisms which discourage the growth of the mushrooms are removed. The straw is placed in a DIY boiler in 50 gallon drum. After the straw is boiled, it's then moved to a clean room and dumped out on a stainless steel table to and spread out to cool.  
 After cooling the straw is inoculated with spawn that is procured from 
one of the bricks that Nate is holding in the above photo. 
 The straw is then gathered in plastic bags and hung in Shady Oak's custom built grow house. The grow house is held at the perfect heat and humidity level to encourage growth of the mushrooms.
 Pictured here are shiitake mushrooms grown on wood medium.
 For now they purchase the wood with spore already inoculated. In the future they 
will be installing a system to create their own Shiitake growth medium.

We welcome any and all mushroom fans as well as supporters of local small farmers to join us At The Table With Shady Oak’s Mushroom on Thursday May 3rd. Menu to follow…

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