September and October are perfect for planting Wine Caps!
September and October are perfect for planting Wine Cap mushrooms! We talk a lot about the benefits of Wine Cap mushrooms in the garden environment. There are so many great things about growing this mushroom, and one of those things is that you can fall plant this mushroom for happy returns come growing season 2021! You will find that the addition of Wine Caps can benefit almost any landscaping or garden project on your list, but we plant it for four big reasons:
1. Warp-speed organic matter conversion for soil improvement. Wine Cap mycelium is a powerful decomposer of wood chips and straw mulches. Probably the most influential soil improvement tool that farmers and gardeners utilize is generating biomass to maintain or increase soil organic matter. By making a Wine Cap bed you have already committed to increasing soil organic matter by laying down wood chips and/or straw (congratulations!), but adding Wine Cap spawn speeds up the process. Wine cap mycelium can digest straw and woody litter within a summer or two, quickly converting large thick mats of organic material that are high in carbon to a rich fungal layer of organic matter and humus, reducing the need for fertilizers.
Follow our progress in quantifying the benefits (click on links below):
2. Mushroom harvest within a few feet from the fry pan. Wine Caps can be grown in the wood chip mulch that you use to mulch in your annual and perennial landscape plants. Close at hand, they are highly visible and a delight to bring in from your yard to the kitchen for a quick lunch.
3. Wine Cap mycelium as a bio-filter. Nowadays torrential rain events seem to be more and more common, certainly true in our home region of the Great Lakes states. If you are trying to minimize run-off from a parking area or livestock pen to a waterway or ditch, loading natural run-off paths with myceliated straw can capture loads of particulates in the runoff, scrubbing it clean as it makes its way to your local tributary.
4. Wine Cap mushrooms are good to eat! In fact, this is the biggest reason we plant Wine Cap beds! And a Wine Cap bed can produce LOADS of mushrooms. It is also a FUN mushroom to pick; kids love it as much as adults (and so do farm market customers).
Planting time for Wine Caps
You can plant Wine Cap any time from early spring through fall; it's best to inoculate when nighttime temperatures are mostly above freezing and when daytime temperatures are below 85 degrees (F). Fall is a great time to plant because the temperatures are perfect for establishment and the days are likely to be shorter with lots of humidity through the nights (less fear of beds drying out). Most beds take 2-3 weeks to establish before freeze-up in the fall, so if you wait until the ground starts to freeze you will want make sure the beds are plenty deep to protect the spawn.
Interested in starting a Wine Cap bed now? Click here!
How to harvest your Wine Cap mushrooms
Braised Wine Caps with Artisanal ButterWine Cap mushrooms have two great culinary attributes: they are colorful and they are crunchy. They are mild tasting mushrooms, and more vegetable-like (think asparagus and cucumber), unlike the rich and woodsy umami flavors we have come to love in Shiitake and Maitake mushrooms. In developing this recipe, we embraced the simplicity of this mushroom and avoided the cloying and even overwhelming effect of pan frying. Instead, we simmered the mushrooms in water infused with aromatic herbs and then lightly dressed them with a compound butter. A little dish of these are sublime; suitable for the most elegant dinner party or spooned over toast for lunch.
1/3 lb (or about 2 c) Wine Cap mushrooms (buttons are best)
2 c water or enough to fill the pan about 1/2 inch
1/4 c dry white wine (optional)
A sprig or two of aromatic herbs, preferably fresh (thyme, bay leaf, rosemary or sage)
Salt to taste (about 1/4 tsp per cup water)
Clean the mushrooms, slice the caps if the gills are very exposed. Larger buttons should be sliced in half, length-wise, keeping the stems intact.
Place the mushrooms in a sauce pan and cover with water: about 1/2 inch up the pan. The mushrooms do not have to be fully immersed in the water. Add the aromatics, salt and wine (optional). Cover the pan bring the water to a boil, then reduce the water to a simmer. Set the lid slightly offset to allow the simmering liquid to vent, occasionally stirring the mushrooms.
Once the liquid is reduced to just a thin sauce, spoon the mushrooms onto a warm serving plate and dab with a compound butter for enrichment. You can use any light sauce, but I am very partial to this easy Gorgonzola Butter recipe:
Artisanal Gorgonzola Butter
1 small clove of garlic, pounded with a few pinches of sea salt
3 Tbsp softened butter
3 Tbsp room temperature gorgonzola cheese (creamy gorgonzola if you can find it)
Combine all ingredients (add a dab of heavy cream if it needs moistening while mixing). Roll into a log and refrigerate until ready to use.
Butter recipe from “Vegetable Literacy” by D. Madison
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