Last Saturday I picked up some gorgeous fresh pumpkin pasta at the Atherton Market in Charlotte. If you’ve never been to Atherton Market before, it’s a must see. It’s located in the old trolley storage building on South Blvd in the heart of the Southend. It’s a year round farmers market type place open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays – but Saturday is really the day to go. You will find the most vendors on Saturday and the people watching is pretty good too. There aren’t a huge number of vendors, but the ones who are here have really awesome products.
One of the vendors, Rio Bertolini’s, sells a vast array of fresh pasta. They are located in Charleston, SC and their core business is producing fresh pasta for local restaurants, but they also sell at a few farmers markets. I had a hard time choosing a flavor, they were all so beautiful. Flavors included saffron, squid ink, roasted red pepper, beet, and chestnut.
They were doing a special- 1 lb of pasta and a container of sauce for $10. There were only 2 types of sauces, both red. I didn’t think a red sauce was the way to go with pumpkin, so I cooked up some boxed linguine for the tomato sauce. It was more kid friendly that way too. For the pumpkin pasta, I made a browned butter sauce to which I added another fantastic find at the Atherton Market, locally grown shiitake mushrooms. The pasta didn’t have as much flavor as I had hoped, but it was good. I probably should have kicked up the flavor of the sauce a little by adding a shallot – I love shallots and mushrooms together. I had wanted to add some fresh sage to the browned butter, but I couldn’t find any at the grocery store, so I had to use parsley instead – bummer! Am I the only one who experiences not finding something at the grocery store practically every time I go? Yet when the cashier does her mandatory, “DId you find everything you were looking for?”, I always paste a fake smile on my face and say “yes”.
I have never seen mushrooms this beautiful. They were huge! These mushrooms were grown by Sharonview Farm in Monroe, NC. The vendor (or vendress I should say) told me they had just harvested 200 pounds. They are sold for $10 a pound but BEWARE- you will never be satisfied with grocery store shiitakes again.
In North Carolina, shiitake mushrooms grow well on red and white oak logs, as well as sweet gum logs. Apparently they grow fairly easily and are a pretty hands-off crop to grow. It is vital however to keep log moisture content above 35% which I guess can be difficult to do in a drought.
Innoculation is done in the early spring during which holes are drilled in the logs and filled with shiitake spawn which can be ordered from several sources. The holes are then sealed with wax to prevent drying. Then it’s just a waiting game during which attempts should be made to make the environment as hospitable as possible to shiitake and as inhospitable as possible to other types of fungi.
I think I may have found a project for next year.
Do you have any experience growing mushrooms?