November 15, 2007

What do You Know About Mushrooms and Truffles?

I am always interested in meeting individuals who are committed to growing really unusual crops, and David Falkowski, the founder of Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton, NY certainly fits that category.  David grows the most beautiful and delicious gourmet mushrooms including blue oysters, king oysters, shiitakes, chanterelles, and hen of the woods.  We met last summer at a local farmer’s market near my home in East Hampton and he told me a bit about himself.  David has always been interested in organic farming, sustainable living, and fungi.  About four years ago, he became certified as a professional mushroom cultivator, and started successfully growing mushrooms in a little room in his house.  It did not take long before local chefs took notice and he was soon able to build a proper facility in which to grow his mushrooms.  Open Minded Organics is a truly artisanal business and David has his hands in every step of the process.  Because mushrooms are so perishable, David prefers to keep his business local, selling to area restaurants and gourmet shops.  However, his delicious mushrooms have recently found their way into establishments in New York City and I will certainly find a place for them in my holiday menus.

Another fungi that I just adore is the black Perigord truffle.  Exotic, earthy, fragrant, and decadently delicious, black truffles grow underground and are praised by chefs all over the world. Look at this snapshot that I took of the black Perigord after the filming of my truffle hunting trip at Keep Your Fork truffle farm in North Carolina.


Here am I with Jane and Rick Smith of Keep Your Fork Truffle Farm in N.C.(They are friends of Franklin Garland)


Once, only found in the Perigord province of France, truffles are now successfully cultivated and harvested in North Carolina thanks to Franklin Garland.  Franklin traveled to France to learn about truffles and became confident that he could produce them in the North Carolina climate.  These fungi need a host plant in order to grow and survive, and in this country, those hosts are hazelnut trees.  Franklin begins by sprouting hazelnuts.  When the saplings are six weeks old, using a trade secret, he inoculates them with the fungus called tuber melano sporum.  The trees are planted in the ground and grow for five to six years before the first truffles appear amidst their roots.  Specially trained dogs are used to sniff for truffles, at which point the prize is carefully dug up.  More truffles continue to grow year after year.  Franklin also sells his inoculated trees to anyone who wants to start a truffle farm.  With the tobacco industry in decline, he hopes that North Carolina will evolve into a truffle capital.  The season for fresh truffles is December through February and Franklin and his wife, Betty, would be happy to send them to you mail order.  You can visit them at

Click here for the full recipe or click on picture below!


Click on the picture below to learn about common cultivated mushrooms, courtesy of Everyday Food.