Sunday, January 17, 2010

Toys and Tools

For Christmas I received a couple of foodie-type gifts that I thought I'd share.

Cliff's sister sent us a Shiitake mushroom growing kit. We started it right after Christmas and have already harvested the first flush. We got 4-5 BIG mushrooms on the first flush and they were SO good. I sauteed them in butter and served them on steaks.
Here's what the kit looks like while the mushrooms are growing:

The white block is sawdust inoculated with the shiitake spores. The biggest mushroom on the bottom eventually got to be about 4 inches in diameter. We'll try another round next week.

This kit did seem to be rather labor intensive. While I love the idea of fresh organic mushrooms on demand, it was a little too much work for me. Eventually, if we have the space, I'd like to try inoculating a stump or log and grow mushrooms outdoors.

Cliff bought me this cast iron dutch oven that I've been coveting for a couple years now.
dutch oven

It is 5 quarts, which is plenty big enough for us, and a beautiful blue color. It is made by Lodge but enameled like a Le Creuset for a fraction of the price. I'm making chicken stock in it right now.

Last but not least... we've been playing with some winter gardening and we've had success with lettuce. Cliff bought a set of LED grow lights and set them up on his workbench over a couple of 5-gallon buckets. We put lettuce in one and beets in the other. We ate this lettuce yesterday in our chicken wraps:
January Lettuce

A couple things we learned:
1. The grow lights need to be very close (12 inches or so) to the pots when the seeds are germinating.
2. Don't use chlorinated water; it retards the growth. Use filtered water or rain water.
3. Talk to your plants. This is REAL. It isn't actually talking to them that perks them up, but the carbon dioxide you exhale as you speak. Once I remembered my junior-high biology, it all made sense. Plants absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis... people exhale carbon dioxide... as soon as we started "breathing/talking" to our lettuce, it totally flourished! You can have tasty, homegrown lettuce in January. Who knew?