What it takes to make money, growing mushrooms

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The shitake mushroom wasn't grown in the U.S. until the late 1970's. Before that they were imported as dehydrated mushrooms from China.

But we found out some people in the Chippewa Valley are now making money, by growing their own shitake mushrooms.

Deidra Barrickman has been growing the full flavored mushroom for 12 years on a small plot of land east of Eau Claire.

She says what started out as a hobby -- has grown into much more, “When I bring a log to the farmers market -- people always come up and look and ask questions, they're very interested they may hate mushrooms -- but they're interested in the process.”

The process is exactly what sparked Deidra Barrickman's interest in the first place when she attended an all day seminar on mushroom growing. She says, before the seminar, “I'd never heard of a shitake mushroom before.”

But that quickly changed.

She says her patch has grown over the years, “This is probably around 800 or 900 logs we have now.”

The process starts in the winter when new logs used to grow the mushrooms are cut down. Then several dozen holes are drilled in the logs and shitake spores are injected. She says, “As you can see, they're kind of labor intensive.”

After that she says the logs have to stay well hydrated throughout the summer -- creating a mini tropical forest. She says, “The shitake is native to the jungles of Asia. So they do like heat and humidity -- when we like being in the air conditioning -- they're growing fast.”

The more hot and humid it is -- the more mushrooms Deidra can sell at the farmers market. She says last week she sold between 35 and 40 pounds at $10 per pound.

She says, “I certainly don't do this to make money--because your not gonna get rich doing it -- I do it because I love to grow things.”

And because she says she learns something new about her shitakes every year.

Deidra says the local food movement is also helping create a lot more interest in her mushrooms.

Some of Deidra's favorite shitake recipes are listed below:

Creamy Shiitake Soup
6 Tbsp. Butter
½ lb. Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 med. Onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Flour
1 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Thyme
2 tsp. Catsup
3 cups Chicken broth
1 cup ½ & ½
1 egg

Sauté shiitakes in butter. Remove 1/3 of mushrooms and reserve. Add onion to pan, cook until limp. Mix in flour-cook until bubbly. Add salt, thyme & catsup. Remove from heat, add in broth. Cook, stirring until soup boils gently. Reduce heat, cover & simmer 15 min. Whirl soup (1/2 at a time & add egg) in blender. Return to pan with reserved shiitakes, stir in 1/2 &1/2. Heat until soup steams.

Omelet Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms
10-15 Open capped Shiitakes
¼ cup minced ham
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup minced green onion
1 Tbsp minced green pepper
2-3 eggs
Garlic, salt and pepper

Mix together all ingredients well except mushrooms. Remove stems and rinse mushrooms. Slightly mound the filling into the mushroom caps. Bake in 350° oven for 20 minutes or until egg is fully cooked.

These can also be cooked on the grill over indirect heat with cover closed.

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