Tag Archives: Ray Bradbury

Pod People

Oh, that mushroom guy!  I can’t turn away from his siren song.  Once again, I was walking by his stall at the farmer’s market, minding my own business, intent only on buying a carton of eggs, when I heard him instructing a customer to tear up their mushrooms rather than cutting them, because the uneven edges will produce a more satisfying texture when cooked.

Huh? I swiveled in his direction to listen to the rest of the conversation.  And there, on his table, were containers of completely new mushrooms–ones I’d never seen before.

White fringy pom-pom sort of things, like those fuzzy balls on the back of sports socks back in grade school, but about the size of my fist.

“People say they taste like lobster,” he went on.

I moved in for a closer inspection.  The mushroom guy smiled, his freckle-face as open and friendly as a grown-up boy scout.  “They’re called Lion’s Mane Mushrooms,” he said.

There’s just something about this mushroom vendor and his wares that I cannot resist.  Yes, I love mushrooms.  But it’s more than that.  It’s his earnest, wholesome appearance, like an enterprising young fellow from a 1950’s movie–one who grows mushrooms, sells newspapers, and mows lawns to put himself through college.  It’s also the mild frisson of  science fiction-fueled suspicion that any young man selling weird-looking mushrooms might, just might, be inadvertently working for the alien pod people.  You know, to spread their spores?

Well, if you read old-school sci-fi, you know.   I feel a little shiver of delighted, hopeful fear every time I approach that table.

Anyway, the combination is irresistible.  I came away with a paper bag full of Lion’s Mane mushrooms.

After rinsing them and tearing them up as per instructions, I sautéed the mushrooms in butter and garlic, then liberally salted and peppered.  They had a pleasant, bland flavor, which accepts seasoning well.  While their flavor is not particularly reminiscent of seafood, the texture of the cooked mushrooms is very much like lobster—firm and dense.  Next time, I’d like to sauté them in olive oil and white wine, with a bit of garlic and chili powder.

If you see Lion’s Mane mushrooms for sale in your grocery store or farmer’s market, give them a try.  The risk of colonization by the pod people is relatively low.

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Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in your Cellar!

Strolling around the Farmer’s Market the other day, I was done with the essential purchases and soaking up a little sun while contemplating a few extras.  Eggs, chicken, chard, salmon, strawberries—check.   Now how about some cheese and maybe a jar of raspberry jam?

I passed the mushroom vendor a couple of times as I circled, waiting for the crowd in front of the cheese stand to thin out.  A pleasant-faced young man with sandy hair and a hopeful expression, he stood behind a table burgeoning with oyster mushrooms displayed as if they were growing right out of little cardboard fruit boxes.  The air felt a little cooler around that table, as if it brought with it a whiff of dark, damp basement or cool forest glade.  He looked almost young enough to have sent away for his mushroom operation, to an address he found in the back of a comic book, right between the x-ray glasses and the snapping gum.

The mushrooms were perfect.  Firm, pale, abundant oyster mushrooms crowded each branching stalk, ranging in size from baby pinky toes to silver dollars.  I drifted closer and started searching for the biggest clump.  Because it is, after all, one of the chief pleasures of the farmer’s market, I fell into conversation with the vendor.  He grew the mushrooms himself, he said, rather than foraging them.  He’d recently moved, and had to start his mushroom farm over.  Oyster mushrooms were the first crop in his new place because they were the quickest and easiest to grow, but he’d have more kinds available in the fall.  He also sold kits for DIY mushroom farming…by which I was briefly tempted, but managed to walk away with only a paper bag full of already-grown ones.

The preparation for the mushrooms is so simple that I can’t really call it a recipe but more of a method.  But so often, simple is best when it comes to fresh foods.

Wash the mushrooms gently, pat dry, and cut them from the thick middle stalk.  Place them in a skillet over medium heat and sauté dry for a few minutes until they wilt slightly and release some of their moisture.  Add a small slosh of olive oil, a dab of butter, a clove of minced garlic and salt and pepper, raise the heat, and quickly finish sautéing the mushrooms.

The delicate flavor and texture of the oyster mushrooms really shine with this minimalist treatment.  Most often, I eat mushrooms as part of a more complex dish, such as a stir-fry.   But served simply alongside grilled salmon and greens, the mushrooms hold their own quite nicely.  They could also be served over a plate of pasta tossed with olive oil and parmesan.   Or just heap them on a slice of good crusty bread and have them with a glass of white wine for a lightning fast summer weeknight dinner when you are too tired to bother with much else.

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