Mushrooms in the Market?

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This year’s Market Garden Project promises to be an exciting one with the addition of organically raised mushrooms making their debut. So for all of you mycophiles out there be prepared to enjoy fresh gourmet mushrooms. We are planning on raising shiitake mushrooms which are not your average, run-of-the-mill mushrooms found on pizzas, but extremely flavorful delights packed with nutritious vitamins. Shiitake mushrooms have been grown for centuries in Asia and boast many health benefits. According to Paul Stamets, mushroom grower and guru, shiitake mushrooms contain up to 55 milligrams of niacin per 100 grams dry weight, possess compounds which have anti-cholesterol effects, and contain lentinan, a polysacharide that was “found to almost completely regress the solid type of tumors of sarcoma-180”. Traditionally, shiitake mushrooms have been grown on oak logs that have been innoculated with wood dowels containing the mushroom mycelium,

 

shiitakemushrooms

 

unfortunately this is a very long process, sometimes taking up to a year for mushrooms to begin forming. Fortunately for us, new methods have been developed which allow for much quicker harvests, sometimes as short as 1 to 2 months! With these new methods we hope to have shiitake mushrooms available throughout the summer for our Market Garden Booth at the UT Farmer’s Market. Since this is our first attempt with mushroom cultivation we are anticipating a challenge but we remain extremely optimistic that this will result in a smashing success. Please stay turned to our blogs for more updates on our exciting new adventure in mushroom cultivation.

Homemade Organic Kombucha

 

 

Kombucha is sweetened green or black tea, which is, then, fermented with the help of a SCOBY. It stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.  It’s a very simple process where the SCOBY eats the sugar in the tea and releases beneficial  bacteria and organic acids, such as glucuronic acid. Glucuronic acid is a powerful detoxifier. This living, raw organic beverage has many other health benefits such as is listed below:

  • Probiotics – healthy bacteria
  • Alkalizes the body – balances internal pH
  • Detoxify the liver – happy liver = happy mood
  • Increase metabolism – rev your internal engine
  • Improve digestion – keep your system moving
  • Cancer prevention
  • Boost energy – helps with chronic fatigue
  • Relieve headaches & migraines

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While shopping at my local natural food grocery store, I came across organic raw kombucha. It was close to $4 for a 16 oz bottle; but, I still bought one thinking that if it cost that much it must have some benefits.  The taste was amazing, and there were so many flavors to choose from.  Within a few minutes of drinking this naturally carbonated drink, I felt a boost of energy and was in a happier mood.  I started buying them on a regular basis, and soon realized it was becoming an expensive habit.  So, I decided to learn how to brew my own.

Brewing 1 gallon of kombucha

First, it’s very important that all your ingredients are organic. The pesticides and other chemicals used in conventional agriculture can hurt the living SCOBY–ending the necessary  fermentation process.

 

Ingredients:

1 gallon of spring water or purified water.

I’ve heard that purified water is best because there might be some minerals in spring water that might hurt the SCOBY. I’ve used both and both worked; so, it’s your choice.

6 bags of organic tea

Black tea will give you a deep, flavorful, amber brew. Green tea will give you a crisp, light, fine brew. Oolong is kind of in the middle of black and green.  It’s normally not recommended to use other types of tea that are flavored

 

1 cup of organic cane sugar.

This will be the food for the SCOBY. Depending on your fermentation period, there will be almost no sugar at the end of your brew.  7 days can give you a sweeter brew; 9-13 days can give you a less sweet, vinegary taste–which is my favorite.

1 SCOBY and a 1/4 cup of kombucha

This can be bought at any natural food store like Three Rivers Market on N. central. The SCOBY will contain the kombucha needed. You will find the SCOBY in the freezer aisle. It’s pancake shaped, tough, light brown gelatin– living organisms–that is the main ingredient in making kombucha.

 

Supplies: Make sure all your supplies are clean as possible.

 

  • Big stainless steel pot
  • Wooden spoon
  • 1 gallon glass jar (plastic and steel is bad for fermentation)
  • 1 Breathable Cover (washcloth, paper towel, coffee filter)
  • 6 16oz glass bottles with lids (beer brewing bottles work best or mason jars)
  • *pH Strips (this is not really necessary but it can help you determine if the kombucha is ready. I just taste it and if its to your liking then it’s done.)

 

Make the tea

Bring ¾ gallon of water to a boil then lower heat. Add 1 cup of organic sugar and stir for 5 to 10 min till the sugar is dissolved. Add 6 bags of your favorite green or black tea and  steep for 10 minutes then remove the tea bags or you can leave the bags in for a stronger taste during the cooling process.  Let the tea cool down completely then transfer it into your 1 gallon glass jar. Add the remaining ¼ gallon water.

 

Adding the SCOBY

Make sure the tea is completely cooled down before adding the SCOBY into your 1 gallon glass jar. When you add the SCOBY you will also add ¼ cup of the kombucha that came with it.  This is your starter. Cover your 1 gallon glass jar with your cloth and wrap a rubber band around it.  The SCOBY will sink to the bottom but during the fermentation process it should float to the top.

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Fermentation process

You need to place your 1 gallon tea with the SCOBY in a dark room where there is some type of air movement, so no closets.  The best temperature range to brew kombucha is 70◦F – 80◦F. Any colder and it will take much longer to brew, hotter and it will brew to quickly, giving you kombucha vinegar which is great for foot baths.  You will let it brew for 7-13 days undisturbed.  On the 7th day you could start tasting it.

 

The best way to taste your kombucha is to insert a straw between the scoby and the inside edge of the glass jar, by plugging the top end of the straw you will trap some kombucha in the straw for tasting.You do not want to disturb the SCOBY to much.  Here is when you can drop of kombucha on a pH strip. Kombucha is has a pH of 3.5 – 2.8. It’s a weak acid so when consumed it will actually alkalizes your body.

 

Surprise

When your fermentation process is done, you will find another SCOBY (baby) on top of the original SCOBY (mother). Now you can brew 2 separate gallons of kombucha and when that’s done you will be able to brew 4 gallons.  Before bottling your kombucha, remove both SCOBYs with clean hands. If you use soap make sure you rinse it all off. The SCOBY can be stored in a mason jar, add a cup of kombucha you just made and cover with a cloth or you can start the brew process right away.

 

Bottle it up

Use a food grade funnel to pour your kombucha in your 16oz glass bottles.  Make sure you have the lids and store them in your refrigerator or the fermenting process will slowly continue altering the taste.   Kombucha tastes the best when chilled.

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Flavoring (add before bottling)

Fruit – my favorites to use is mango, pineapple, strawberry, goji berry (wolfberry), blueberry, passion fruit, blackberry, and pomegranate. I have experimented with different combinations of these fruit and I encourage you to do the same.  Always use organic fruit, add pieces of fruit  or in a blender and liquefy.  Fill 10-20% of bottle with the fruit.

Herbs- a combination of Elderberry and lavender flower creates one of the most elegant tasting kombuchas I’ve ever had.  I’ve use mint, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla, and many others. I recommend you experiment and find your own special flavor. I would suggest you start at about ¼ teaspoon then adjust to your taste.

Superfood- Cacao, Maca, and Spirulina .  This will give you a chocolate tasting kombucha that will increase your energy level and puts you in the best mood.  Cacao is high in magnesium which is known to better your mood and Maca (root from Peru) is rich in vitamin B which improves energy.  Both of these super-foods have many other benefits.  Start off with a ¼ teaspoon and then you can adjust it to your taste.

Once you have added your fruit and your kombucha is sealed tightly, put the bottles back for a seconds fermentation for 7 day. The bacteria and yeast in the kombucha will eat the sugars from the fruit while making healthier byproducts and CO2 making it a fizzier kombucha.

I just explained how I brew my own kombucha.  Everyone has a slightly different method and uses less or more of the ingredients. Some people add more sugar or use more tea bags so I encourage you guys to experiment to find your own method.

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