The Bay Area is arguably the best place in the country to buy amazing produce. With access to the North Bay, the Central Coast and the Central Valley, we are perfectly situated for stellar farmers-market shopping. Not only can you chat with the farmers, who are always happy to give you cooking tips and growing updates, but farmers markets are also an awesome way to eat seasonally, explore new foods and find better deals than at big supermarkets.
When the word “produce” comes up, we often think green. Maybe you picture asparagus, zucchini or Genovese basil; maybe you throw a carton of strawberries or a few mandarins into your mental market basket. But many of us dismiss one of the most delicious items available at the market: mushrooms! If you’ve actively avoided mushrooms based on the spongy, flavorless button mushroom, it’s time to revisit fungi.
At my local market in Noe Valley, San Francisco, Far West Fungi offers gorgeous, organic mushrooms. While the market stipulates mushrooms must be cultivated, Far West carefully grows a range of tasty fungi at their farm in Monterey County. Their main store is located in the Ferry Building, but they sell all over the Bay at markets most days of the week.
In my basket:
Four of my favorite mushrooms include: maitakes or “hen of the woods,” oysters, king trumpets and baby shiitakes.
Maitakes grow in frilly clusters and have a delicate flavor. Gently separate and sauté the lacy caps until crisp.
Oyster mushrooms also grow in small clusters and have a firm texture and a rich, nutty flavor. Peel the the stems apart and sauté whole.
King trumpets have the meatiest consistency and flavor. Slice the stem and the cap into quarter-inch pieces for best results.
Baby shiitakes have a softer consistency and a deep earthy flavor. Sauté smaller caps whole or slice larger tops crosswise.
Tips for cooking:
Mushrooms are delicious with a quick sauté. Any fat will work, but mushrooms and butter are a match made in heaven. Make sure your pan and your butter are hot; mushrooms taste best when browned or caramelized. Keep your mushroom pieces in a single layer and cook them in batches. Overcrowding will cause them to steam, and they won’t crisp up or brown. Butter and salt are a great way to showcase your mushrooms, but thyme and oregano provide an extra pop. When purchasing and portioning, keep in mind that mushrooms have a lot of water and will shrink significantly. Store mushrooms in the fridge in a brown paper bag until you’re ready to cook them.