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How Oxford celebrates The Day of the Mushroom

There is a variety of mushrooms sold at MOON Co-op and grown at Guided By Mushroom's farm.
There is a variety of mushrooms sold at MOON Co-op and grown at Guided By Mushroom's farm.

The Day of the Mushroom is April 16. It’s an occasion to celebrate all things mushrooms, primarily by consuming them and sharing fun facts. Here’s one fun fact: mushrooms breathe like humans – they take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.

We are fortunate in Oxford to have a year-round source of local mushrooms from Guided By Mushrooms (GBM), an urban farm located in New Lebanon, Ohio. GBM provides mushrooms and mushroom-based products to MOON Co-op Market, which includes unusual varieties, such as Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail and Oyster.

Photo by Jim Rubenstein | The Miami Student
Michael Goldstick delivers mushrooms from the Guided By Mushrooms farm to MOON Co-op.

GBM was started a few years ago by Audra Sparks, her husband David Sparks and her brother Michael Goldstick. In a building attached to an ordinary suburban house, the mushrooms are first grown in a sterilized environment, then moved to a greenhouse, then to a workhouse.

Mushrooms come with more baggage than any other food. First is the hallucinogenic reputation. In Wonderland, Alice ate from one side of a mushroom to get bigger and the other side to get smaller.

And then there’s the toxicity. Voltaire wrote that “a dish of mushrooms changed the destiny of Europe.” He was referring to the War of Austrian Succession triggered by the death of Holy Roman Emperor King Charles VI in 1740 from eating poisonous mushrooms.

There’s also the element of mystery. I see folks sneaking around Miami’s Natural Areas looking for morels. Friends travel to unspecified destinations in Michigan to harvest them.

In addition to fresh mushrooms, GBM supplies MOON Co-op with powders and tinctures. Amy Cox, a biologist who works with GBM, recently discussed these products with me while she was delivering mushrooms to the co-op.

Photo by Jim Rubenstein | The Miami Student
MOON Co-op sells mushroom tinctures made by Guided By Mushrooms.

A tincture is typically an extract of plant material dissolved in alcohol. GBM uses 30% grain alcohol. Tinctures are used to help support immune systems and reduce inflammation. GBM recommends adding it to tea, coffee or another hot beverage.

The GBM mushroom powders are a version of umami, which is essentially a high concentration of glutamate. Umami is a Japanese word for “delicious,” because when the powder is sprinkled on food, the flavor is enhanced. Sprinkling mushroom powder is especially helpful in enhancing flavor as a substitute for salt.

Mushrooms are over 90% water and thus act as sponges, absorbing the flavors with which they are cooked. My favorite choice for soaking up mushroom flavor is risotto.

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Chop up lots of mushrooms, place in a pot, cover with 3 cups of water and heat (but don’t boil). Chop a small onion or scallion and 1 clove garlic and cook in olive oil in a nonstick pan for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 cup of rice to the pan and coat with olive oil, adding more oil if too dry.

Transfer around 1/3 cup of warm broth to the risotto pan. Stir with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed. It is OK if some of the mushrooms get transferred into the risotto along with the broth.

Keep repeating the transfer of broth 1/3 cup at a time. Repeat until the risotto is soft, and liquid is no longer being absorbed, usually after 15 or 20 minutes.

When the risotto is soft enough to eat, transfer any remaining mushrooms into the pan and mix with the rice. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese just before eating it. 

Jim Rubenstein is Professor Emeritus of Geography. At Miami, he was Chair of the Department of Geography and Adviser for the Urban & Regional Planning major. He now writes human geography textbooks and consults on the auto industry at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. In Oxford, he is Treasurer of the Board of Directors of MOON Co-op Market.