The Mushroom People - Carolyn & Zach
If you've been to the Havre de Grace Farmers Market in 2020, you've met my sister, Carolyn, and her partner, Zach. Carolyn and I always joke about how we share zero memories from growing up together, despite being only 2 years apart and *definitely* growing up together. I remember one night in 2019 when Gary and I had her and my mom over for dinner, and we *tried* to go down memory lane... every "do you remember..." turned into a "no, I don't remember that, but do you remember..." and ended with us all rolling in laughter over the absurdity of it all.
Since our childhood memories vary so greatly, I wanted to sit down with her (and Zach) to learn more about how their relationship with food, and mushrooms, has developed to this point in their lives.
Tell us about your relationship with food - how has it developed over your life? what dietary guidelines or restrictions do you follow?
Carolyn: Ever since I had agency over what I ate my diet has fluctuated between vegetarianism, veganism, and the spaces in between. During my journey into adult life I began finding a lot of meaning in buddhist principles - one of these being the principle of ahimsa, do no harm. In my relationship with food I try to act sustainably and ethically, reducing my negative impact on fellow lifeforms and the planet. Through this entry to eating a predominantly plant based diet, I have found the incredible variety of foods that are available to me. I have found that I love foods that make my body feel good! Mushrooms have been a major part of this journey, and mushroom dishes are always the highlight of my culinary week. I'm looking forward to learning more about foraging mushrooms in the wild too!
Zach: Food has always represented gathering for me. Whether I'm sharing a meal with friends or family, food acts as a perfect catalyst for conversation, laughter, and togetherness. I personally don't stick to any strict diets or guidelines but I try to keep a vegetarian kitchen; fruits and veggies just make me feel good! I'll admit I wish I didn't have such a sweet tooth, but what can you do?
"There are so many mushrooms out there that could save the world..."
What is your favorite mushroom, and why?
Carolyn: This is a hard one!! Flavor and texture wise, I love shiitake's. They have a versatile and satisfying texture and a slightly sweet flavor that is really highlighted with a little salt. I could probably eat pounds of them in a week if I let myself.
But it's hard to pick a favorite mushroom when you look at everything about them! As a scientist, I'm really interested in the research going on around mushrooms. Lion's mane is an amazing edible mushroom we have at the market. It has been shown in some preliminary studies to have neuroprotective and neurogenic properties and may help prevent nervous system diseases like parkinson's and alzheimers. Amadou and Reishi mushrooms can help save bees with antiviral properties. Oyster mushrooms can help clean up oil spills. Cancer researchers are looking at Turkey Tail mushrooms for enhancing the efficacy of chemotherapy. It's amazing. There's so many mushrooms out there that could save the world in other ways too.
Zach: Although I enjoy exploring the multitude of edible mushroom varieties, I think my all-time favorite is Crimini! They're a classic and so versatile, throw them in a salad or on top of a pizza or mix them in with a nice gravy and you're in for a treat.
What's your favorite recipe, or cooking method with mushrooms?
Carolyn: I love to use King Oyster mushrooms to make vegan Bao Buns! You will need something to steam them in, like a rice cooker or a dedicated steamer. They are a lot of work to make but WELL worth it. Having a cooking partner is handy - I make the filling and Zach makes the dough.
Zach: There's nothing like diner-style home fries and a mushroom omelette for dinner.
"Mushrooms are for Everyone!"
What advice can you give people who are new to mushrooms?
Carolyn: Keep exploring! Most people think of mushrooms as all the same, but the diversity of flavors, textures, colors, and uses among fungi is staggering. I truly believe that there is a mushroom for everyone!
Zach: Don't knock 'em until you try 'em! Mushrooms are for everyone!
What do you love about the farmers markets
Carolyn: One of my favorite parts of the farmers market is helping people explore their tastes and the diversity of mushrooms. It's great recommending a mushroom to someone and hearing from them at the next market about what they cooked and how they liked it. I love to see people get excited and curious when they see a mushroom they haven't seen before or learn something new!
Zach: Farmers markets are a great way to get in touch with your food and your community. It's so special to make a connection between the people growing and the people eating your food.