In season: mushrooms

Peter Burry of Snellville’s My Quality Mushrooms and Forest Products is all about doing things with all the parts of a tree — firewood, milled lumber, mulch for the parts that can’t be used for anything else — and turning white oak logs into a medium for growing shiitake mushrooms.

Button mushrooms that you typically find at the grocery store grow on composted manure. That’s not what’s being grown in Atlanta and sold at local farmers markets.

Here local mushroom operations are growing varieties such as shiitakes and oysters that grow on dead and decaying wood. A mushroom grower may grow their crop on a mixture of wheat straw, cotton seed hulls or on sawdust to mimic some of the qualities of decaying wood, or they can be like Burry and grow their shiitake mushrooms on logs.

“I think the mushrooms we get from logs are better quality,” Burry said. “They’re thicker and meatier and they have a great texture. I never have any trouble selling them.”

Burry has about 4,000 white oak logs arranged around his property under shade cloth to keep the logs out of direct sunlight. “If the logs get hit by the sun they get really hot and the bark falls off. Once the bark falls off, there are no more mushrooms.”

Each log is 3 inches to 8 inches in diameter and is typically the stuff most loggers would turn into mulch or discard. “We use so much of the tree that there isn’t much tree left to turn into mulch,” Burry said. “Even twigs that are left make great habitats for critters. If my business was large enough to make an economic impact on a larger scale, it could substantially increase the value of hardwood timber stands all over. The value of properly cut mushroom logs far exceeds the value of No. 1 saw logs.”

He makes his shiitake mushroom logs in the winter. “I drill holes in the logs and fill the holes with sawdust that’s been mixed with mushroom mycelium, then the holes are capped,” Burry said. “It takes about a year for the mushroom to colonize the log. Once it takes over, the log goes into production. You soak the log, and in seven to 10 days you get a crop. Then the log rests for eight weeks before you can do it again. You can do that three or four times a year.”

Since Burry’s logs are outdoors, winter’s cold temperatures keep the logs from fruiting, but come spring, the logs will begin producing again.

Burry has selected a Japanese strain of shiitakes to grow. “It doesn’t soak up a lot of water and the mushrooms are really meaty and flavorful,” he said. “They store really well. I work with someone who keeps the culture going for me.”

Burry sells his mushrooms to metro Atlanta restaurants, such as Restaurant Eugene, Farm Burger, Holeman & Finch and Table and Main. And he sells them directly to customers at the Snellville Farmers Market, opening for the season Saturday, June 4.

“I sell in Snellville because it’s where I live, and it’s nice to interact with the community,” Burry said. The market is a lot of fun.”

What do his customers do with their mushrooms? “Most people saute them in butter but people cook them in the microwave. They add cheese. They add bacon. Some of the restaurants pickle them.”

And he has a few tips for selecting mushrooms. “Choose ones where the caps are curled in just a little bit. You want just a little bit of the gills showing. That’s better than ones that are flat out open like a pancake. The slightly curled ones are younger and they’ll store better. They have a higher density and that gives them more of a substantial, meaty bite. The flatter shiitakes have a wetter, limper bite and that makes them not much different from a button mushroom. Good shiitakes don’t have that soggy mushroom texture that people don’t care for. It’s more like eating a piece of meat.”

Yumbii’s Tempura Shiitake Tacos with Sriracha Salsa Verde

Yumbii owner Carson Young streamlined the food truck’s recipe for our readers but notes that when these tacos are served on the truck, the filling includes sweet corn, red onion, garlic and bell peppers in the filling, all seasoned with soy sauce and sweet chili sauce.

One more thing about this recipe. The tempura mushrooms alone are worth making even if you never turn them into a filling for tacos. They’re delicious, especially if you’re using young, locally grown shiitakes.

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1 1/2 cups club soda or seltzer water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Vegetable oil for frying mushrooms

10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried and sliced

10 6-inch flour tortillas

Sriracha Salsa Verde (see recipe)

1 cup crumbled Cojita cheese

Make tempura batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, 1 1 /2 cups club soda or seltzer, cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt. When smooth, transfer to a refrigerator container, cover and refrigerate. This batter is best used cold.

Make flour mixture: In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 1 cup flour, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper. Set aside.

When ready to make tacos: transfer tempura batter to a bowl. Put flour mixture in a pie plate. In a Dutch oven, large saucepan or wok heat oil to 375 degrees. Toss mushrooms with flour mixture until all sides are coated. Shake off excess flour and dip mushrooms into tempura batter. Allow excess batter to drip off and add mushrooms to hot oil. Do not crowd oil. Cook until mushrooms are golden brown on all sides which will take less than a minute. Drain on paper towel before serving. Repeat with remaining mushrooms.

Assemble tacos: In a dry skillet, warm tortillas over medium-high heat. Divide mushrooms between tortillas and top with Sriracha Salsa Verde and Cojita to taste. Serve immediately. Makes: 10

Per taco: 435 calories (percent of calories from fat, 36), 12 grams protein, 60 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 18 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 12 milligrams cholesterol, 418 milligrams sodium.

Yumbii’s Sriracha Salsa Verde

5 tomatillos, peeled and rinsed (about 1/2 pound)

1/2 medium red onion

3 tablespoons Sriracha, or to taste.

1 jalapeno, stem removed, and seeded if desired

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, cover tomatillos with water and bring to a boil. Cook until tomatillos change color and soften. Do not overcook or they will burst.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine onion, Sriracha, jalapeno and garlic. Pulse to finely chop. Add cooked tomatillos and process until smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate. Will keep up to 3 days. Makes: 1 1/4 cups

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 6 calories (percent of calories from fat, 18), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 63 milligrams sodium.

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