Of all things folks might do without when they’re short of cash, mushrooms might top my list. Yet Dad chose to grow mushrooms during The Great Depression. He adapted three limestone caves for mushroom farming and presided over mushrooms with the agility and savvy of a ringmaster in a three-ring circus. He cleaned and aired one cave and harvested and marketed from another while prepping the third for a new crop.
Decaying vegetable matter, a uniform and rather low temperature, a uniform supply of moisture, – these are the general requisites for Mushroom-growing. The decaying matter is supplied by horse manure. The manure is allowed to heat and is turned several times before it is placed in the bed. The heating itself is probably of no advantage except as it contributes to the decay of the material: heat can be supplied by other means if necessary. The broken and decaying manure is placed a few inches or a foot deep in beds. When the temperature is reduced to 90 degrees or less the spawn is planted. As soon as the bed has cooled sufficiently, it is covered with earth or litter to regulate the temperature and moisture.
It’s been more than 30 years since the dean of American cooking blessed the Oregon truffle. Yet, still it gets no respect. In 1977, James Beard was part of a symposium called “Mushrooms and Man” in his native Oregon. In front of scientists and mycology (mushroom) experts from across the country, the culinary icon declared Oregon truffles to be the equal of their expensive, exquisite European cousins – the ones that can sell for up to $2,000 a pound. State fungus cognoscenti mark Beard’s statement as the beginning of Oregon’s commercial truffle industry. In the succeeding decades, however, it’s had trouble taking root.