The Mushroom People
Last week the Star Journal had an article on organic farming in Rhinelander. This week we feature another organic operation, with a fascinating specialty.
By Jared Raney
Mushrooms. People seem to love them or hate them, but one duo is seeking Rhinelander citizens on the same page with their organic mushroom operation.
Filling just the space of a small barn, Cody Bates and Veronica Pickar of Kind Root Organics have a box full of mushrooms at market every week, throughout the entire summer.
They specialize in Oyster mushrooms, growing five varieties, including two unusual new varieties: pink and gold oysters.
“There’s a really bad stigma with bright-colored mushrooms,” Pickar said. “So a lot of people, the bright colors might intimidate them a little more.”
“Variety to variety tastes a lot different,” Bates said. “The golds and the pinks tend to be a little bit on the sweeter side, our darker colors will lean more toward the nuttier flavors.”
In the last year, Kind Root joined Certified Naturally Grown, a non-profit organization that provides affordable organic certification to small farms across the nation.
CNG’s model is a cooperative effort where farms are actually certified by other CNG farmers in the area, which helps to keep costs low and creates a sense of community among organic farms. Kind Root was certified by the owners of an organic apple orchard near Antigo.
“There’s an open door, people want it, it’s going to become more and more popular as well in the future here,” Bates said. “If there were more local organic farms, they could provide food to all the local economies and we wouldn’t have to have huge commercial farmers spraying herbicides and pesticides and synthetics all over the fields.”
Bates and Pickar have been farming organically for some time, but only recently dove into commercial mushroom growing. Now they are the preeminent mushroom producers in the northwoods, and are already looking for ways to increase production, such as experimenting with humidity and lighting in their mushroom barn.
“We are wild mushroom foragers, mushroom lovers ourselves, and that’s why we decided to start cultivating mushrooms as a specialty product,” Bates said. “It was just kind of a reputation we already had going for us… there was a big passion, and part of our business already. We were kind of already known just from our wild-foraging as the mushroom people.”
Buttered mushroom topping
One of the most intimidating things about mushrooms can be simply what to do once you’ve got them. Here’s a simple recipe from the folks at Kind Root Organics for a mushroom topping. Put it on pasta, a baguette, create a mushroom bruschetta or just eat it plain. The only limit is your imagination.
1/4 lb. Oyster Mushrooms
1 cup of kale, cut into ribbons
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
-Melt butter in wide pan over medium-high heat
-Add the mushrooms all at once
-Add kale and garlic and saute until mushrooms have colored nicely, about five minutes
-Season well with salt and pepper, add lemon juice, and toss
-Serve with you choice of entree or appetizer