Howard Berk of Ellijay Mushrooms has been harvesting shiitake and oyster mushrooms since 2018, growing his mushrooms on mountain farmland shared with Buddhist monks.
Not only is Berk sold on the flavor of his mushrooms, but he’s also a believer in their health benefits. “We talk a lot about the health benefits of shiitakes,” he said as an example. “They’re one of the mushrooms that have natural vitamin D and they have tons of amino acids.”
Berk sells to many Atlanta restaurants, including El Ponce, which provided the recipe for Mushroom Birria in this story. The public can purchase his mushrooms at stores and markets across the Southeast, including Whole Foods Market, Your DeKalb Farmers Market, Sevananda Natural Foods and Garnish & Gather, as well as the Ellijay farm itself.
When Shannon Williams of Cumming-based Noble Fungi Farm retired from his job at UPS, he started researching mushrooms and their health benefits. “I learned about the health benefits of turkey tail mushrooms and researched how to make a tincture,“ said Williams. “When I had a good response to the tincture, and my joints stopped hurting, I began telling everybody — my family in Indiana, the neighbor next door, my barber.”
He bought a turkey tail mushroom grow kit and when those did well, bought kits for other mushrooms and put up a grow tent. Soon he was deep into growing specialty mushrooms, expanding from one mushroom variety to the almost dozen he now grows. During market season, he can be found weekly at the Green Market at Piedmont Park and occasionally at the Cumming farmers market, with oyster mushrooms in several colors, chestnut, king trumpet, lion’s mane mushrooms and others depending on the season.
During the pandemic, childhood friends Bill Corcoran and brothers Austin and Branden Taylor shifted their growing business from microgreens to gourmet mushrooms. In 2021, they launched Snellville-based the Horti-Culture on their 19-acre farm. “We started with cultures in February, and by March and April, we were harvesting mushrooms,” said Corcoran. “I had grown up working in the restaurant industry, so my friends in the business became our first customers.” Currently, the Horti-Culture sells their mushrooms to Under the Cork Tree in Sandy Springs, Three Blind Mice in Lilburn and Trend Urban Cafe in Stone Mountain.
The public can buy the Horti-Culture’s oyster, lion’s mane, chestnut and other mushrooms at the Atlanta Mushroom Market, the Snellville and Avondale Estates farmers markets, and the Liliburn and Flowery Branch markets when open.
Two mushroom growers and an Atlanta restaurant share recipes using local specialty mushrooms. Because the mushrooms don’t travel a long distance, they are fresher and keep more of their nutrients. Store your mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator, avoiding plastic bags and containers. There’s no need to wash the mushrooms before cooking. Simply trim as needed.
Vegan Rainbow Mushroom Stroganoff
When Shannon Williams of Noble Fungi Farm began growing mushrooms, his eldest daughter Rena adapted the family’s stroganoff recipe to use a combination of golden, blue, pink, elm and brown oyster mushrooms. Making it with just one variety of oyster mushrooms will be just as delicious.
Birria is a traditional Mexican dish of beef or other proteins prepared in a spicy broth. After cooking, the broth and proteins are separated, and the broth can be served on the side, or used to cook beans or rice. This recipe comes from Roberto Montalvo, general manager of El Ponce restaurant in Poncey-Highland. Mushroom Birria is a filling option for El Ponce’s tacos and quesadillas. The restaurant prepares this dish using oyster and shiitake mushrooms from Ellijay Mushrooms.
Achiote is a spice that can be found in stores carrying Hispanic groceries.
Note: For nutritional calculations, “salt to taste” is defined as 1/16 teaspoon.
Lion’s Mane “Crab” Cakes
Lion’s mane mushrooms have a unique stringy texture that makes them a perfect substitute for crab or lobster, so much so that lion’s mane “crab” cakes are the most popular culinary use for this variety. Lion’s mane mushrooms are available from mushroom farmers at local farmers markets and at Whole Foods Market or other natural food stores. Call to confirm availability.
Bill Corcoran of the Horti-Culture provided this recipe and suggests serving them with a green salad and a few lemon wedges. “These cakes are also great served on a bun like a burger,” he said.
Mushroom ketchup is available at natural food stores.
Sweet and Spicy Aioli
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