Edit ModuleShow Tags

Fall for Minnesota Mushrooms


Published:

Wild chanterelles and lobster
mushrooms to Doug Flicker at
Piccolo. Photos by Mike Kempenich.

As harbingers of spring, Minnesotans revel in the flavor and season of morel mushrooms. But fall’s mushrooms make a brilliant contribution to seasonal cuisine as well, and definitely deserve a Twin Cities Taste spotlight. Minneapolis local Mike Kempenich agrees; he’s the chief “fun guy” and owner of The Mikeology Store, a Minneapolis-based cultivator of exotic edible mushrooms, and he says “now is the perfect time” to savor the flavor of seasonal mushrooms. 

As one of 52 exotic mushroom cultivators in the U.S., Kempenich is kept busy cultivating about 2,000 pounds per week of exotic mushrooms such as oyster, king oyster, maitake, and chicken of the woods. Kempenich is a savvy forager, always hunting for the perfect specimen. He harvests ideal wild specimens at the peak of their season, and then brings them into the lab so that he can clone and cultivate them in a somewhat surprising environment—a 3,000 square-foot warehouse in Brooklyn Park.

chicken of the woods mushrooms

Mike with chicken of the woods

“You have to maintain an environment that the mushroom is used to in the wild,” said Kempenich. “You can imagine that it’s complicated and challenging.”

Chicken of the woods (or sulfur shelf mushrooms) are attention-grabbing with their bright orange and yellow shelves. Mild in flavor, meaty in texture, chicken of the woods are as versatile as their namesake, so they’re flawless in pasta sauces and soup. As a case in point, Kempenich says one of the best bowls of mushroom soup he ever ate was a chicken of the woods mushroom soup at Café Levain.
 

Hen of the Woods mushrooms

Mike with hen of the woods

Maitake (or hen of the woods mushrooms) are also popping up on market shelves and menus. Maitakes have a fairly pronounced umami flavor and a texture that pairs well with beef. Valued for heartiness and rich in vitamins B1, B2, D, as well as vegetable fiber, Kempenich says hen of the woods mushrooms are great on the grill (or roasted with a bit of olive oil and garlic over a bonfire).

As for his location in Brooklyn Park, Kempenich says he wants to be as close to the market as possible to ensure the best quality and freshness. Mikeology mushrooms markets include Seward Co-op, Mississippi Market, Eastside co-op, and The Wedge, and you’ll see them popping up on seasonal menus at more than two-dozen local restaurants like Piccolo, Saffron, Sea Change, Vincent, Café Levain, the Sample Room, and Travail.

If you can’t get enough of this mushroom stuff, check out this charming video Kempenich produced last fall about foraging for hen of the woods and chicken of the woods mushrooms in the early autumn.
 


growing mushrooms

Pictured: These dangling logs of pressed wood shavings are used to grow cloned oyster mushrooms in the fruiting chamber at the Mikeology mushroom farm in Brooklyn Park. Photo by Mike Kempenich.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

Have a food-related question? Email rhutton@mnmo.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Taste Blog

Grilled Walleye Tacos with Mango Salsa Recipe

Combine fresh Minnesota fish with a taste of the tropics in a quick-and-easy meal you can make at home or the cabin

Pizza Lovers' Camp for Grown-Ups

Overnight pizza-centric camp on July 7 combines pizza amore with classic outdoor camp activities

3 Things to Eat This Week: Pride Edition

Pride weekend is also one of your last chances to eat at wonderful restaurants before they close

Ask Jason: Best Ramen, Shrimp, Dinner Date, and More

Your food questions answered

Stout-Marinated Grilled Tri-Tip Recipe

Treat dad or any lucky guest to flavorful, juicy beef with a splash of beer in the mix with this recipe from meat expert Bruce Aidells

6 Foods to Pack for the Cabin

Don't head north to the cabin without these delicious necessities

The Driscoll’s Difference

Driscoll’s goes to great lengths to ensure every clamshell on the shelves is packed with only the most flavorful, deliciously ripe berries.

Meet the Joy Makers

Meet the Joy Makers

Back to School Prep! Bento boxes are Easy Breakfasts that can be Prepped Ahead

The strategy for conquering the crazy weekday mornings is the all important prep.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags