by John Ryan
I can tell summer is settling in. I've spent too much at the plant nursery, the smell of lighter fluid regularly wafts through the neighborhood, and I can't wait to start working at the Farmer's market. As in past years, I'll be selling mushrooms in Chicago at the market on Division between Dearborn and State. If you happen to be in the neighborhood some Saturday morning, stop by and say hello. You can get a good cup of coffee on one corner, buy produce and flowers for the week, then pick up a loaf of spectacular bread at a bakery on the other corner.
I've been selling mushrooms for the last three or four seasons. It's a riot. Actually, the whole open-air market scene is great. The street is blocked to traffic, giving it the feel of a festival. The sun is usually out. And the farmers who grow everything, or at least their friends or family, are literally standing behind their food.
Even the buying and selling is refreshing. It's commerce at its most basic: food, a scale, and a cash box. You pick what you want, put it on the scale and pay for it. No bar codes, no scanners, no tax, no credit card authorization, no check-cashing cards....
Even though a lot of people stop at the mushroom tables just to look, I usually sell out by noon because the mushrooms are beautiful. Portobellos are rarely as big as they are at the market. And since the grower, Eric Rose, picks them the day before, mushrooms are rarely as fresh.
On the table are whites, browns, portobellos, shiitakes, and oysters. (Unlike European markets, these are farmer's markets-you can only sell what you grow. with mushrooms this means that everything you see is cultivated. You won't find varieties that have to be picked in the wild like morels, porcini, or chanterelles.)
Starting this month and running through the summer I'll be devoting a little space to the mushrooms I sell. I'll pass on some facts, opinions, a few mushroom jokes, and of course, some recipes. But even if you can't get to a Farmer's market, or if there isn't a mushroom stand at yours, the mushrooms I'll be writing about are the ones showing up in supermarkets all over.
Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.
This page created 1997. Modified August 2007.
Copyright © 1994-2018,