The Life of a Mushroom Picker -Part 1

MushroomsMost people like mushrooms with their steak, mushroom soup and entrees such as stuffed mushrooms. And as they come nicely packaged we don’t need to think too much about how they are gathered. So here is an article about the day in the life of someone who has picked mushrooms for a living.

Article courtesy of Guest Author Nia from Survival Wytch and Cooking with Nia

In a previous life I was employed as a mushroom picker. Read my account on the life of a mushroom picker and understand why I have changed direction into Affiliate Marketing and completing online Surveys.

The Life Cycle of a Mushroom

To be able to pick mushrooms you need to know all about mushrooms and how they grow. Each room at the mushroom farm has two platforms that stretch from the front of the room to the back for 100 meters. The platforms are raised off the ground on frames, with a space of 1 meter between the top of one platform and the base of the next. The frames are made of 6 platforms each with a depth of 20 centimeters and lined with a mesh to hold the compost. The compost is mixed with wheat seeds that contain a mushroom starter spore. A layer of casing peat is placed on top of the compost.

The mushroom plant or mycelium grows from those spores like a spider web across the compost and when conditions are right sends the first mushrooms or pins through the peat.

The pins are thinned to create growing space for each mushroom as they breach the surface of the peat or casing. The mushrooms grow to become buttons, then cups, then flats.

A cup is when the mushroom veil breaks away from the stalk and begins to open.

The eight week cycle is made up of flushes. And each flush is approximately 7 days duration. The first pins emerge and over the seven days the buttons are picked at a medium size until all mushrooms are removed. The beds rest and the cycle starts again.

In ideal conditions a mushroom will double its size in twenty four hours.

Depending on how heavily the first crop is thinned determines the size of the mushrooms and the size of the crop of mushrooms. If too few pins or first mushrooms are taken the temperature on the beds gets too warm due to crowding and the small flowers open, making a crop of small flats. This isn’t ideal for the growers as the flats are light and it takes a long time to fill a 4 kilo box with light product. Buttons on the other hand are full of water and very heavy.

Growing mushrooms is a technical process and the temperature, water, co2, the mixture of compost, and how they are harvested, all determine the rate at which mushrooms grow and the quality of the produce.

So the growing conditions determine whether the mushrooms are heavy or light, have good color or are stained, are large or small even shaped or crazy organic art that sometimes resembles motor car parts or animals.

Sometimes disease will ruin a whole room full of mushrooms as they are susceptible to all manner of blights spots and bubbles. There are ten trichoderma species that inhabit mushroom farms and can cause problems.

Being fungi it is competing with other yeasts and fungi to break down the compost and sometimes the competing fungi is more virulent so great they ruin a crop….to be continued


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Making Jam

mauviel-copper-jam-panMy grandmother was a fantastic cook. She made bread, sponges, cakes and the most amazing jams, pickles and preserves. Our larder was always filled with jars of fruit in all manner of color. Each sorted into the type of preserve, and the date it was bottled. She was forever giving away bottles of jam to our friends as she always made way more than we could ever use.

I would sit with her as she readied the fruit removing any blemishes that may taint the final result and sucking the jam off the stones as she removed them from the boiling cauldron of fruit sugar and water.

My husbands family had a Damson plum tree. These are a small bitter plum that are not pleasant to eat as a raw fruit, but they make the most amazing jam. Unfortunately Damson plums do not seem to be available in Australia.

There are a number of things to consider when making jam firstly is making sure you have a pan large enough to allow the ingredients to boil briskly without overflowing.

The ripeness of the fruit, the speed of the boiling and the size of the pan are factors that determine when and how well the jam will set.

The jam needs to be tested during the cooking process to judge when it ready to put into the sterilised jars, and one way to do this is to dip a wooden spoon into the mixture and allow it to drip. You know the jam is ready when the mixture no longer runs off the end of the spoon and only a couple of drops form on the end of the spoon, this means the mixture will set on cooling.

The next step is to put a little jam onto a cold plate and leave it to cool slightly. You know the mixture will set when the surface wrinkles when touched and a channel is formed and remains open when you draw your finger through the mixture. As a guide most jams and marmalade’s set at a temperature of 105°C.

Damson Plum Jam

Damson Plums (unlike most plums) are not easily separated from their stones.

1  1/2 kls (approx 3.3lbs) of plums
2 cups of water
4 cups of sugar

Put the water and plums into a pan and boil for approx 15-20 mins. Cool the mixture and then remove the pips. This may require the use of a food mill.  Once the pips are removed return the pulp to the jam and continue to boil until the jam passes the set test.

Remove any pips that may have been missed.

Skim the jam and pour into jars that have been sterilized following the manufacturers instructions.

The above recipe makes a soft, tart tasting jam, which is the appeal of Damson plums, however if you like a firm jam that is not quite so tart tasting add an extra two cups of sugar and one cup of water.

For more information on general jam making, and I urge you to give it a go, it’s fun, this website has lots of information  How to make jam easily.


And of course you will need a selection of jars on hand. I like to have a number of different sizes and shapes. As it is quite satisfying to give a gift of a beautiful jar of jam, nicely presented with a home made label.

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Prosciutto, Zucchini & Ricotta Tart Recipe

ricotta-zuchinni-tart.jpgI recently brought the October copy of Woolworths ‘Australian Good Taste’ magazine. Now I am one of those people who buy cooking books and magazines and rarely use them. However the recipe on the cover drew my eye and off I went and purchased the ingredients.

Well today Paula and I made the Prosciutto, Zucchini and Ricotta tart for lunch. It is quick to make taking about 10 minutes to prepare (this includes the cooling time for the zucchini) and 40 minutes to cook.

The following recipe is adapted from the original because I could not find the right dip. 

Prosciutto, Zucchini & Ricotta Tart
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 sheets (25 cm x 25cm – approx 10″) frozen ready-rolled puff pastry, just thawed.
3 large zucchini with the ends trimmed and sliced very thinly
3 tbs Baby Spinach with Cashew and Parmesan Chunky Dip, we used spinach and cashew with feta dip.
250gms (approx 9 ounces) fresh ricotta
3 prosciutto slices, halved lengthways. We used 5 slices and feel they should be cut into smaller portions.
5 mini roma tomatoes, halved. Couldn’t get the mini type but they would be preferable to the larger tomatoes.
50gms (1.8 ounces) feta, crumbled
Chopped parsley leaves to serve.

Preheat oven to 220° C (425°F).

pastry-base-3.JPGLine a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
Place 1 pastry sheet on the prepared tray.
Place a second sheet on top of the first sheet to make a stack.

Using a small sharp knife make a 2cm-thick border around the edge of the pastry. Do not cut all the way through.

Cover with another sheet of non-stick baking paper and place another baking tray on top.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp on the base.

In the meantime, cook the zucchini in a steamer basket over a saucepan of simmering zucchini.jpgwater for 3-4 minutes or until tender. We used the George Forman steamer for this process.

Transfer the zucchini to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside to cool slightly.

Combine the zucchini and the dip in a medium bowl. Coat the zucchini as well as you can without breaking it up.

Keeping within the border, spread the riccotta evenly over the pastry base.

Arrange the zucchini mixture , prosciutto and tomato over the ricotta.

proscutto.jpgCrumble the feta over the top.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C ( 350°F). Bake for 10 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. We found that we needed to do this for about 18 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley  and serve with a side salad.

This recipe has approximately 15 gms (0.5 ozs)protein, 21 gms (0.74 ozs) fat (8.5gms (0.29 ozs)of saturated fat), 31 gms (1.09 ozs) carb, 3.5gms (0.12oz)dietary fibre, 1610kj (385 Cals).

This tart  proved to be a hit and is very filling.

Chicken and Seafood Paella Recipe

paella2.jpgJust recently we received a non-stick saute pan from the Calphalon cookware company to review. The review will be up on the site within the next few days but in the meantime we have been using this pan to see how it well it performs. (You can see  a little of the pan in the pic to the right.)

The review can now be viewed here.

Tonight the cook in the house made up a batch of paella and it worked perfectly in the new pan. As the pan is a massive 5qt it easily holds enough to serve 6. The cook was very impressed.

As the official taste tester in the house, this recipe was a winner for me. The flavors were wonderful with the mix of shrimp, chorizos (which I love) and chicken.

This one is definitely worth the effort.

Chicken and Seafood Paella
(serves 6)

Ingredients

2 Tbs olive oil
6 chicken drumsticks
2 chorizo sausage, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
425g tinned tomatoes, drained
1 large red pepper, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp ground paprika
2 cups uncooked rice
2 1/2 cups water
juice of one lemon
pinch saffron threads (soak in 4floz water)
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
6oz large peeled shrimp/prawns
chopped parsley

Method:

1. Heat oil in a deep pan.
2. Add the chicken and fry until brown. Remove from heat. (Keep warm)
3. Add chorizos to pan and fry until golden. Remove from heat. (Keep warm)
4. Add onion and garlic to pan and fry until soft.
5. Add tomatoes, pepper, salt and paprika to pan and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Add rice to the pan and fry for 3 minutes, stirring occasionaly.
7. Add the water, lemon juice and saffron mixture and bring to boil.
8. Reduce the heat and stir in the peas.
9. Add the chicken and chorizo to the pan and cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked.
10. Add the shrimp and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
11. Serve topped with parsley.

Verdict from the diners – exceptionally tasty and a recipe well worth adding to the repertoire.

Peanut Butter Cookies – The Easiest Recipe Ever

peanut-butter-flourless-cookies1.JPGI found a great recipe for peanut butter cookies on one of my favorite blogs – Cookie Madness and had to give them a go.

I made them today and they would have to be one of the easiest recipes ever. It pretty much took about half an hour from the time I took the ingredients out to the time they were cooked.

The great thing about these cookies is that they are flour free so if you have a wheat problem then these are a great alternative.

The recipe calls for Mexican vanilla, but I only had vanilla essence but it worked just fine.

I definitely recommend this recipe so head on over to Cookie Madness for the full recipe.