Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mushrooms, Mushrooms, and a Mushrooms Festival

Did you know that
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania is the 
mushrooms capital of the world?
(Counter clockwise from top left: pink oyster, gray oyster, maitake or hen of the woods, yellow oyster)

Kennett Square area of Chester county produces 65% of the mushrooms sold in the US.  When you buy mushrooms at the store, check the container to see where they came from and you will most likely see Kennett Square, PA or an area close by like Avondale.

They used to have a mushroom museum but now a mushroom boutique called  The Mushroom Cap displays some of the mushroom museums exhibits at their store.  The store is dedicated to all things mushroom.

Kennett Square has a mushroom festival every year in September.  They have lots of mushrooms for sale, mushroom farm tours, mushroom soup contests, mushroom culinary events, nutritional presentations, a mushroom growing display and a mushroom judging contest.  There were also some local crafters and area restaurant's  selling their wares, a kiddie carnival and some local bands.  It was a bit of dreary, drizzly day but fun.  A little rain is not going to stop me.

 We love going to the soup competition.  We paid $8 to go in the soup tent, try all the soups and then voted for our favorite ones.  Some of the soups we tasted were a classic mushroom soup (super yum), a classic mushroom soup with a hint of smokey chipotle (very good),  a mushroom soup with pumpkin added, roasted mushroom soup, wild mushroom soup without cream added (I am not sure this one worked out that well, sorry) and another mushroom soup that had a lemon thyme foam on top that was a really nice touch.
This is a very busy event.  You could also buy a ticket to taste Pennsylvania wines.
 Longwood Gardens has a restaurant and they have really good soup.  I really loved their wheat grass and Gerber daisy display.  It really brightens up the place!   Longwood Gardens is a beautiful garden that is the legacy of Pierre S. du Pont that was left under the care of a well established foundation to allow everyone to be able to experience the gardens.  The garden are grand and worth a visit and there are many programs and exhibits to enjoy.
This is the Simon Pearce restaurant display.  Simon Pearce has a wonderful restaurant on the Brandywine River that I have been to several times and definitely plan to go back.  SP is best known for his blown glass and has a glass blowing demonstrations at the West Chester location that is fascinating and fun to watch.  They also use their glassware in the restaurant which is quite beautiful and unique.  I wouldn't want to be a waiter in that restaurant because breakage is part of the job description!  Breaking a tray of handmade glassware would have a whole new meaning.
The culinary tent had presentations on cooking with mushrooms featuring chefs from the local area.  I love learning new techniques and interesting flavor combinations but it seemed that the presentation I saw was more about showcasing dishes on their restaurant's menu with too many "secrets", ie products that you need to buy to make the dish.  I felt that these presentations were more promotional than instructional.  I was interested in techniques for cooking and preparing mushrooms.  So, I just moved on.

The mushroom growing display and the judging tent, for me, was the funnest. Here is how the growing display was set up, from the beginning substrate to the final mature mushroom.  If you would like to know more about growing mushrooms try here.
Look at that!  Totally fresh button mushrooms.  But wait there is more . . .
These mushrooms speak for themselves.  These have a mild flavor like the oyster mushrooms and are known as King Oyster (hint:  King of the oyster mushrooms!).
Maitake or Hen of the Woods mushrooms and pom poms.  The maitakes have a deep woodsy flavor and can be used in dishes for a richer mushroom flavor.  The pom pom has a mild, sweet taste and texture that has been compared to lobster.  I want to try the pom poms and am on the look out.  If you see any let me know.

Here are gray and pink oyster mushrooms and if that is not enough . . .
 . . . yellow oyster mushrooms.  They have a delicate, very mild flavor and do to well to be sauteed with butter and onions and/or garlic for additional flavor.  Herbs would probably be nice, too.
Shitakes are meaty and flavorful and aromatic.  They have a deep woodsy flavor and are highly favored to cook with.  They make great sauces (shitake gravy, yum) and sautes.
While Button Mushrooms.  I almost left these out.  These have a mild flavor that intensifies when cooked and are the most popular mushroom sold in the US.  90% of all mushrooms sold are white buttons.  Wow.  I almost ignored these.
Criminis are my go to mushroom.  They have more earthier and meatier flavor than white button mushrooms and can be sauteed, roasted or broiled.  Very versatile and compliments any dish that you would put mushrooms in.
We can't forget about portebellos.  They are a larger version of a crimini and a good substitute for meat because of their size, texture and flavor.  They can be grilled and used to replace the meat in a hamburger for a vegetarian burger.  In my opionion, they are a delicious substitute.

They also were giving lectures on the nutritional aspects of mushroom and some of the research that is going on.  Here is a brief recap.
  • A good source for B vitamins (Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin, Niacin) which are important in metabolic process such as breaking down fats, carbohydrates and fats.
  • Contains minerals such as selenium and ergothioneine which are both antioxidants, copper which helps in the production of red blood cells and has a role in keeping bones and nerves healthy, potassium is one of the major electrolytes that keeps the bodies fluids in balance and keeps nerves, muscles and heart functioning well.
  • Mushrooms contain Vitamin D which has not been found in other fruits and vegetables.  There is also testing going on the convert ergosterol to Vitamin D within the mushroom by exposing the mushroom to sunlight.  Take note of the fact that humans synthesize vitamin D themselves when exposed to sunlight and is believed that only 10 minutes a day prevents deficiencies.
So that is quite enough on mushrooms, don't you think?  I have bought a large amount and variety of very fresh mushrooms and need to go plan something to do with them.  Hopefully, it will turn out well and you will be apprised.  I am looking forward to it.

Here are a few more pictures of the judging tables.  We barely made it in time because they were selling them by the case right after we got there.  Yes, if I had thought about I could have bought 1st place shitakes but then I might have had issues with cutting something up that was so perfect!

Here are a couple of links you might be interested in.  They have a lot more information on mushrooms:  recipes, nutritional info, growing etc.

Fresh Mushrooms

Mushroom Festival 2010 @

What fun!


  1. Great info! There's a mushroom stand at our farmer's market with so many choices...I'll have to get a variety of them this weekend. I'm inspired!

  2. Thanks. Mushrooms can be daunting, you have to just plunge in. The milder mushroom really take on the flavors that you cook them with. I made a mushroom tart that turned out well that I hope to post soon.

  3. Can't wait for that recipe! Mushroom tart=heaven!!

  4. Wow, that's a fab mushroom festival. We went to our local mushroom festival in March of this year. We were excited as it's an area that grows a lot of Turkey's morel mushrooms. HOWEVER, the winter had been quite dry, resulting in a mushroom drought. We had a great day at the festival - just not many mushrooms! :)

  5. I love Mushrooms! Great post! Thanks so much for the info...

  6. Thanks for the info on mushrooms. We like grilled portebellos and a burger bun with mozzarella or provolone cheese!

  7. I love mushrooms so much! I think my favorite dish is mushroom ravioli. Great post, thanks for sharing:)

  8. Becky - When we grill burgers, I like to do a portebello grilled with balsamic vinegar. We always caramelize onions and roasted red peppers is a nice addition and maybe some blue cheese. Now I am just getting carried away here.

    Sprinkled - Now there is a thought. Homemade mushroom ravioli. Never tried this but it sounds crazy delicious - to me anyway.

    JayP - I would love to see a mushroom festival in Turkey and I have never worked with morels, but plan to.

  9. My goodness, thank you so much for sharing these photos. There are so many kinds of mushroom available in the market. Those fresh mushrooms look awesome. Hope you're having a great day.

  10. I love mushrooms..also like it with curry and a bit of chili..

  11. A mushroom cool it that :) Great post and photos :)

  12. What a great way to spend a rainy autumn day. I love mushrooms! Great photos. Thanks for sharing!


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