Sunday, February 19, 2012

Propagating Shitakes

Following are some pictures from the shitake propagation class I recently attended.   Although growing this delicious fungi seems easy with just a few basic steps, it is apparently much more difficult to grow shitakes in the Bay Area then in other regions due to our drier climate.  A great resource for learning more about the subject is Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms By Paul Stamets. 

Our class began with oak logs that had been aged for 1-3 months.  We drilled holes up and down the logs in a triangular pattern. 

spawn plugs
Each hole was then plugged or inoculated with spawn plugs (ordered from fungi perfecti) that had been removed from the refrigerator the day before to warm up. 

Once the plugs were all firmly inserted into the logs, we brushed melted food grade wax over the holes and the ends to seal them. 

At home we soaked our logs in rain water (you can also use spring water) for 8-12 hours.  The logs need to live in full shade and get soaked weekly.  We can  hope to see some fruiting action on our logs after six months (we will be watching for white mycelium growing in the holes and on the ends of the logs). 

My three logs are tucked away in a cool, shaded place.  I just hope I don't forget about them.  It sure will be wonderful to have shitakes growing outside our doorstep. 

Also a video by the Urban Farming Guys, who live in a much wetter climate so their methods are slightly different. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Flint Corn

Every year, in October, we go to Ardenwood Farm's harvest festival to pick a lot of corn.  There is an unofficial u-pick there for organic flint corn.  You can pretty much pick and take home as much as you like for free (although there is an entrance fee).  In the past we would go with the kids to pick several bags of popping corn, which after dried and removed from the cob would last us for the year.  This past October we decided to pick a whole bunch of flint corn as well (aka Indian or ornamental corn).  This variety of flint corn which is extremely hardy is called Zea mays indurata.  I had always thought of flint corn as solely ornamental but then learned that it is very good when ground into cornmeal (can also be popped!).

We have been making our way through our pantry of saved/preserved produce and it just happens that as we move into our homeschooling unit on Native American studies, I am discovering the large stash of flint corn, nicely dried and ready for grinding.  Perfect timing for these little hands to get busy. 

removing the kernels from the cobs

Once the corn was off the cob we had several bowls like this that we put into the grinder.

If you have never used freshly ground cornmeal it definitely is a treat.  The cornbread we made was the best I'd ever had.  It really surprised me how well it came out.  (So well it got polished off too fast to get any pics). 

If you would like to try some too here's our recipe...

Basic Cornbread
2 tbls. butter
1 cup freshly ground cornmeal
1 cup flour (wheat, spelt, or gluten free)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking pwd.
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
2-4 tbls. honey to taste (we add more)
1 cup milk (cow, goat, coconut, almond, etc.)

Preheat oven to 425.  Melt the 2 tbls. of butter in the baking dish or muffin tin in the oven, remove once melted.  Stir dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another.  Combine dry and wet ingredients quickly and pour the batter into the pan.  Bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown on top and beginning to pull away from the edges, about 25 minutes. 

Corn kernels have different colors because of genes that control color.  Each kernel is an individual with its own set of genes, like an embryo.  Kernels are siblings housed on the same ear and so naturally have many different colors…
One-color ears are unnatural products of human selection.  Livestock feeders prefer vitamin-rich yellow kernels, Southerners like white kernels, and Native Americans favor blue.  Years of deliberate selection, careful pollination, and storing of seeds produced these single-color corn ears…Some studies suggest corn pigments promote resistance to insects or fungi that invade an ear of corn…