Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Fun with Mushrooms

Fun with Mushrooms

How do you get your kids to eat mushrooms? Play with them? Make them into funny characters with carrot stick legs and red pepper eyes? Or hide them under that thick layer of cheese on their pizza? No matter what way you try to get them to eat them, they always seem to make it from their plate to the garbage (or in my case, onto my plate).

Now back-up. Start again. Let’s try to first get them interested in mushrooms, then maybe, just maybe they might request them at the next family dinner.

Here are some great mushroom activities that will not only get the kids involved with mushrooms, but will create an interest that just might spread to their dinner plate.

Mushroom Spore Prints
Fun, easy and educational, this activity shows the kids how, like other fruits and vegetables, mushrooms have “seeds” too. See what kind of spore prints your kids can make.
- Large Portabella mushroom with dark visible gills
- White sheet of paper
- Large Glass Bowl
- Hairspray

Make this activity fun by asking your kids to come to the grocery store with you to pick out their portabella mushroom. When you are ready to start cut the mushroom stem off just below the cap, so that it sits flat. Place the mushroom cap side up (gill side down) on a white sheet of paper and cover the cap with a glass bowl. Leave it covered, undisturbed for 24 hours, which could be hard, the kids are really going to want to take a peek. Carefully remove the bowl and remove the mushroom cap from the paper. Voila, your first mushroom spore print. Be sure to stray the paper with a thin layer of hairspray, this will keep all the mushroom spores intact. Let the kids colour them, frame them or just post them on the fridge.

Mushroom Art
This activity works best with the agaricus mushrooms; white, crimini, and portabella, the bigger the better. This one could get messy with the little ones. Use a tempera paint for easy clean-up.
- Slice a mushroom into halves from the cap down through the stem.
- Use the halves to dip into tempera paint and make mushroom prints.
- Let them dry, then hang them on the fridge or frame them.

Mushroom Surgery
Get the kids doctor kit out, it’s time to play mushroom surgery. This activity it suitable for all the varieties of mushroom, and dressing up as a doctor makes it that much more fun. Ask the kids if they can identify the following parts on the mushrooms:
- Cap
- Stem
- Veil
- Gills
Using the different varieties will mix things up a bit. Keep them whole or cut them up. Bring in a microscope or magnifying glass for a real close look. Ask the kids to describe what they see. You could even use these mushrooms later in a mushroom medley sauté, provided they are not too handled.

Now, take a step back and admire all the hard work you have done. With all these great activities you might be one step closer to actually getting the kids to eat mushrooms.

Find great parent and teacher mushroom resources, and fun kids activities online at www.thecapcrew.ca.

Friday, February 2, 2007

How Shiitake Mushrooms Are Grown

How Shiitake Mushroom Are Grown

Shiitake Mushrooms, or Lentinus Edodes as they are known by their technical name, certainly pack a punch when it comes to their great Umami flavour, brightening up any meal you serve them with. But where are they before they hit your dinner plate? And even before they hit the grocery store? Let’s find out just where shiitake mushrooms come from.

Shiitake mushrooms were originally cultivated on natural oak logs, a process which took two to four years to initiate. This process was so lengthy because it can take up to four years for the mycelium to colonize the wood sufficiently enough to produce fruiting. When the mushrooms did fruit it was on a seasonally basis; fall and spring. This would usually last about 6 years. With new technology mushroom farmers are now able to create artificial logs that produce shiitake mushrooms much faster.

Oak sawdust, straw, corn cobs and other organic materials are mulched up and packed into a poly bag where it is sterilized and inoculated with spawn. These bags are place in environmentally controlled rooms, where the humidity and light are set at the ideal growing conditions for shiitake mushrooms. These man-made logs will start to produce shiitakes in seven weeks. Once the shiitake have started to fruit, it takes another 7 days for them to be ready for harvest. Once a log is completely harvested and the first flush is finished, the log is soaked in ice cold water for about 1 hour. This re-actives the mushroom mycelia causing the log to start fruiting again. This new process will take about 4 months compared to the six year cycle on natural logs.

Shiitake mushrooms are harvested by hand, so you know you are getting quality, and delivered to your local grocery store within 12 hours of being picked.

Contrary to popular belief the shiitake mushrooms that you buy in Canada are not imported from Asian countries, but are grown right here in Canada. Now you know that they are definitely fresh.

Stay tuned, as we will discover how oyster mushrooms are grown.