Fun with Fungi

Dietitian and mushroom grower Kimberly Baishnab shows off a cluster of her oyster mushrooms. Photographer: Duane Tinkey.

Writer: Lisa Holderness Brown

Dietitian Kimberly Baishnab has a surprising side hustle: growing mushrooms in her Johnston garage. She started the Local Shroomery of Des Moines in May 2021 as a one-woman business, selling oyster mushrooms at the Valley Junction Farmers Market and to customers through social media. 

“Owning a shroomery comes with regular jokes about magic mushrooms and playful comments such as ‘I’ve gotta get me some of those’ from people passing by the market booth,” Baishnab says with a laugh. That’s why she makes a point of marketing her homegrown mushrooms as gourmet and for culinary purposes: “I want people to know that these mushrooms won’t leave them in an altered state of consciousness, but they are exotic-looking and fun to cook with.” 

Her dietetic training also keeps her researching the multiple health benefits coming out about mushrooms, including possible heart benefits and immune support, as well as being a low-carb, low-fat source of micronutrients. 

Years ago, while completing her dietetic internship in Peoria, Illinois, she was drawn to a farmers market booth selling shocking pink mushrooms and she started asking questions. She found out oyster mushrooms grow in clumps of 10 to 40 caps each and come in amazing colors and artful shapes. 

“They’re fairly easy to grow,” Baishnab says. “As a fungus, oyster mushrooms can feed on essentially any organic matter, but I use bags of pasteurized wheat straw for the growing medium. Mushrooms do need a very sterile environment and take a bit of experimentation to get the process right.” 

Baishnab loves talking mushrooms. Ask her about how she prepares oyster mushrooms, and you might need to pull up a chair. She’s passionate about cooking with the fungi and readily shares her recipes and cooking tips. So far, she sells only oyster mushrooms, but she’s hoping to offer lion’s mane mushrooms soon, which are being studied for possible neurological benefits. 

As of press time, Baishnab sells her mushrooms through Raccoon Forks Farm CSA and social media. Check out her Facebook and Instagram pages @localshroomery.dsm for updates.

Mushroom Basics

“I recommend a covered container such as a cardboard carton or bag topped with plastic wrap. You don’t want them to dry out or get too slimy from too much moisture,” Baishnab says. 

Flavor and Texture
Oyster mushrooms are meatier and chewier than portobello or button mushrooms. “I’d say almost more steak-like, so they make a great meat substitute. Taste-wise, they are fairly mild but do become more earthy and flavorful when cooked,” she says.

Swapping Oyster Mushroom Varieties
Each variety has a unique flavor, but all oyster mushrooms can be used interchangeably. That said, size and texture differences can drive pairing recommendations. 

Cooking Suggestions
“I love to sub oyster mushrooms for meat in a pulled pork-style vegetarian sandwich, and also serve them in stir-fries, on pizza, and air-fried as mushroom chips. The possibilities are countless,” Baishnab says.

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