Shiitake and the Taste of Earth
Shiitake mushrooms are prized for their delicate flavor and their nutrient content. Releasing a fifth taste sense called umami, shiitake has a gratifying meat-like, smokey flavor that lingers for hours. They’re also low in calories and high in vitamins B & D. Shiitake are believed to aid weight loss, support cardiovascular health, fight cancer cells, improve energy levels and brain function, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system.
Growing wild shiitakes in the open is not only complicated, time consuming and labor intensive, but they are also highly unpredictable. Versailles Farm has one of the largest shiitake laying yards in Connecticut. Since 1720 this site has been used as farmland, first by Joshua Cornwall, then James Field and Thomas Carpenter, and most recently by Yale University in 1918.
Shiitake cribs in the wetlands of 56 Locust Road. White oak logs are cut into 4 foot lengths, then holes drilled to pack with shiitake spawn and sealed to avoid contamination. Logs are stacked into cribs to allow mushroom mycelium to permeate the wood. After the log has been colonized they are shocked in a cold water bath to stimulate production.
Any chef who tries wild shiitakes will want to have them on their menu. Native to Japan, the shiitake can be used as a substitute for meat or fish. It compliments most any vegetable and it adds a subtly complexity to any dish.
Hurricane Irma woke up 500 mushroom logs at Versailles Farms. We were caught completely off guard. Today we’re scrambling to harvest and share these delicious delicacies with our friends and neighbors.