EPISODE 4: WOODLAND MUSHROOM CULTIVATION
"When the mushrooms began fruiting from our first logs it was mind blowing. The transformation of wood into medicinal food...I was hooked"
Nestled at the edge of the Finger Lakes National Forest lies Hawk Meadow Farm, a woodland farm specializing in forest grown Shiitake and Lion's Mane mushrooms. This past summer I had the privilege of living in a cabin at Hawk Meadow and interning with the owner and founder of the farm Steve Seirigk.
30 years ago Steve and a group of his friends who were living on the property at the time began inoculating logs with Shiitake Mycelium to supply their miso soup making. To their surprise a year later mushrooms were popping out! For the past ten years Steve has been growing them at a small business scale selling on average 40 pounds a week to restaurants during the late spring, summer and early fall.
"This is about nutrition, ecology and decomposition. We are just players in the drama of decay".
Once he began to see the connection with forest management he realized this was a way of adding value to logs that were already being cut or needed to be cut to improve the forest health. Steve and his team now grow mushrooms on about 1,500 logs a year forcing about 125 of them to fruit each week by soaking them in the cold water of the creek. This 24 hour soak tricks the mushroom into thinking it is the change of seasons and they send out loads of Shiitakes.
In the deep summer heat, working in the creek under the shady pine trees was one of the most enjoyable forms of food production I have ever experienced. Being a fair-skinned person who burns easily I felt a kinship with the mushrooms who needed to soak in the water and lay in the shade to be productive. Shiitakes are the only mushroom that can be forced to fruit and many believe they have been domesticated from thousands of years of people cultivating them across Asia. They are also highly medicinal and Steve makes tinctures from the damaged mushrooms to extract their immune system boosting compounds.
"Growing mushrooms is healing in more then just eating them, the work is very healing too"
Many landowners around him are cutting beech trees out of their woods to help make room for other trees because they can become too aggressive and cause problems. This is a great opportunity for Steve to grow shiitakes and the beautiful Lion's Mane mushroom which is also highly medicinal and taste lot like crab meat!
There are so many layers to their farm. Not only are they doing forestry and cutting out smaller trees that are overcrowding their wood, they are also using those logs to grow wild simulated mushrooms and medicine. Their integration into the forest was beautiful to witness, take part in and share!