Posted in Gardening

You CAN grow mushrooms outdoors in the desert Southwest!

A while back, I spotted some of my local gardening friends on social media successfully growing mushrooms, by adding the spawn to their raised beds. The mushrooms would poke their way out, between the wooden boards. That gave me the idea to re-create this environment, but make it even better for mushrooms.

After rummaging through the scrap pile, I scavenging some 2x4s for a frame, thin slats for the sides, and a couple pieces of plywood, for the bottom, and a lid. It only took about an hour to tack it together.

Part one: background and building the crate

It took a while for it to get cool enough for what I thought would be ideal for growing mushrooms. Then, I populated the crate with a lasagna of wet cardboard and craft paper, mushroom spawn (from North Spore), and compost.

Part two: populating the mushroom crate, and early harvests

The experiment went so well, I got a few successive flushes, and had to come up with all sorts of ways to cook and store the mushrooms. I also got some good tips from friends about how to make it even better, and other outdoor growing beds to try out.

The experiment is ongoing, as I figure out how to protect the mushrooms in the tree well, determine how long they’re going to keep producing, and consider the next varieties to try in the crate, come Fall.

The cool folks over at North Spore hooked me up a coupon code! So if you want to try a mushroom grow yourself, just follow this link, and use code SHOESTRINGMARTHA for 10% off.

If you want to read even more about the whole shebang, be sure to check out the interview they did with yours truly.

Posted in Gardening

Grow your own grain: amaranth

My first memory of amaranth was as a child, as my mom toting me along to her weekly trip to the hippie natural foods store. The products were labeled with all sorts of things I’d never heard of — including amaranth. I just loved sounding the name in my head. Once I got my greedy little hands on some carob-coated honeycomb or some such, I had forgotten all about it.

Fast forward to adult me, deep into gardening, who bought some seeds that promised to be easy to grow in our extreme summer heat, and looked gorgeous, decked out in fiery red plumes.

I have been growing it every since. Partially because I enjoy it so much, but also because it self-seeds so readily. Every season, I think, “I don’t think I’ll sow amaranth this year,” only to find it popping up in some random corner of the garden.

Here’s how I grow it, and what I do with the grain:

Later on, especially when the stores shelves were wiped out of wheat flour, I started thinking about using it as an alternative flour. I knew that it’s often used in many cuisines, as well as by people who eat gluten-free. So I tried my hand at grinding into flour, and using it in a few basic recipes.

This year, I told myself again that I am not sowing amaranth, but after I top-dressed the garden with our compost, guess what’s popping up all over the place!