Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Sizing Up Mushrooms
Full of mystery and intrigue, mushrooms are an edible fungi. But there’s no mystery for Zlatko Vidmar, an international mushroom specialist. Throughout Zlatko’s career he has been in demand by the worlds top mushroom companies throughout Europe (Italy, Hungary and Germany), then in China and Viet Nam.
In 1999 Zlatko and his family moved to Canada and in 2008 bought an ailing mushroom farm in Amhurstburg. Zlatko saw it as an opportunity to grow mushrooms the way he’s always wanted to - organically. Today Vidmar Oganic Mushrooms (Vidmar-funghi.com) has over 21,000 square feet of production in 7 growing rooms.
Mushrooms grow so fast you can almost see them growing. Certainly you can see the size difference between a mushroom in the early morning and the same mushroom 8-hours later, they almost triple in size. As the mushrooms grow they have to be thinned. The very first, smallest mushroom to be plucked to make room for the others are called ‘button’. Denis claims they’re the most tender, juicy and flavourful of all mushrooms.
The same is true for brown mushrooms and when they’re picked, they’re graded starting with button, then cremini which are larger, portobelini which are between 2 to 3-inches in diameter and full Portobello mushrooms, or ‘the ports’ as they call them on the mushroom farm, is 3 to 6-inches in diameter.
Inside the growing room is 12 beds with rich black compost and littered on top are hundreds of mushrooms of different sizes, all fighting for room to spread out their caps. Every day the mushroom beds are harvested, or thinned to ensure the remaining mushrooms have room to grow larger. So on a mushroom farm they’re not necessarily picking for size (or ripeness as any size mushroom is ready to eat), but to create space for the remaining mushrooms to stretch and grow. On each wagon the pickers push in front of them they have boxes of varying size mushrooms so they can thin, pick and grade all at the same time.
Zlatko’s son, Denis runs the business while Zlatko works his magic in the mushroom dirt. “I eat mushrooms every day because it’s important to test my product every time it goes into the market,” says Denis who goes on to explain that mushrooms are better the simpler they’re prepared.
Denis prefers to simmer his cremini mushrooms in sweet butter for a short period of time like 3 to 7 minutes in a very hot pan. Just last night I reduced some red wine and beef broth and added some of Denis mushrooms. The mushroom juices mixed with the other flavours and when almost all of the liquid was evaporated, I popped the pan into the oven with a bit of butter to finish them off. Oh yum, meaty and delicious.