do you know the mushroom man?

rick and his son, eric

it’s rick! he and his sons eric (15) and dalton (18) sell me my goods every saturday morning at the east liberty farmer’s market. i knew i had to befriend rick after our first conversation, in which he was telling me about seeing “the decemberists” play in town a few months ago. i knew he was cool.

baskets and baskets and baskets of 'shrooms

rick and his sons are learning all about mushrooms from someone by the name of john cignota, who ran a course at the local food co-op on growing mushrooms. john sends rick off to the east liberty farmer’s market while he sells them from the lawerenceville farmer’s market on saturday mornings.

rick and his kids go mushroom hunting with john, and say in a good spot, they can find them growing every 6 miles or so. 6 miles!!!! think about that!! when it comes down to it, some real work goes into putting food on our tables. -and knowledge. you can’t just eat any mushroom you find. it takes some know how to spot safe ones, to know what they are. rick must be hip the amazing things his kids are learning when they’re out in the woods hunting for mushrooms. self sufficiency, life skills.. but also just spending some time in the woods with your dad is great (and rare for most people). they’re also learning how to grow their own mushrooms at home. how cool is that?

every week, they sell 20-30 lbs of fresh mushrooms, such as morel, chanterelle, shiitake, maitake, portobello, etc. each variety has its own unique taste. each has its own place in the culinary world. after practically robbing the farmer’s market every weekend, i dump out my loot, wash off my mushrooms, and fry them up in butter. that’s it, just butter. that’s all they need. they haven’t been sitting in the back of a semi truck for over a week, drying out and absorbing strange smells and flavors. these are pure, mushroomy mushrooms. my favorite to eat on its own is maitake. it is really meaty in texture, and it’s great with eggs.

i usually get a big paper lunch bag full for $5, which lasts through a few meals. i try to eat them within a few days so they don’t get yucky.

buttery samples

with his coleman grill right there at the farmer’s market, he fries them up to sample out to passersby. go get a few bites from him, he will be happy to talk to you and let you stand there and snack. rick reminds me every week to be sure to clean and cook them, don’t eat them raw. he said the best way to clean them is to dunk them in a big bowl of clean water, agitating to get all of the critters out. i always change the water and give them a second dunk to be safe. i then cut the mushrooms off of the trunk, and throw them into some hot butter and let them cook for 10 minutes or so. one of my favorite autumn dishes is roasted squash with buttery sheep’s head mushrooms. i also put them in  my omelette almost every morning.

here is a link to the east liberty farmer’s market, which includes a list of foods that can be purchased there. i’ll add that i for the past few weeks, an amish farmer has been selling his goat cheese there. we bought some white goat’s cheddar, which is tangy and delicious. he samples every cheese he carries, and will let you sample all of them and ask for seconds. what a nice guy.

i tend to do quite a bit of bragging about the east liberty farmer’s market. i really respect the smaller vendors out there that are bringing real food to my table.  so here is a big thank you to rick and his awesome mushrooms!

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