In addition to getting to snack on tempeh during his session with the lovely folks from Smiling Hara Tempeh, he brought home some tempeh of his own making. Well, I should say, in process of being made. I can't do justice to the steps involved since I was elsewhere at the time but I think I understand the procedure in gross terms. They started the process in the classroom by preparing the soybeans (the traditional but far from only legume that can be used), cooking the beans, inoculating them with the starter culture, and putting the mixture into a mold (in this case, a ziplock bag).
Then, he brought it home and had to keep it at a constant temperature--warmer than room temperature but not too warm--so we popped it in the food dehydrator at the lowest setting.
It was supposed to go for 24-48 hours but fortunately, the mycelium spread quickly so when the dehydrator timer turned off early, it didn't screw up everything. We had a lovely brick of tempeh that looks just like the stuff we buy from our local tempeh producers, Smiling Hara and Viable Cultures.
That may not look too appetizing, if you're not already a tempeh fan, but as one who has not yet been won over (thanks to not being short on protein options unlike Jim), I must confess that it was quite tasty when he cooked it up. As with so many things, freshness makes all the difference.
If he ever gets to spend a bit more time at home, I think we'll see him experimenting with making tempeh from black beans and other legumes.
I, too, got to play with mycelium--the white stuff you see all over the tempeh at the end of the process and what is underlying most of the mushrooms you see. Mushrooms are to mycelium as apples are to the tree--they're just the fruit that the organism puts out to spread its seeds/spores.
In my workshop, we learned how to prepare a happy environment for oyster mushroom spawn (small amounts of mycelium). There are many ways to do this but for convenience, we used a method where you sterilize a bunch of straw and when it's cooled a bit, mix in the spawn. That mixture is then packed into a plastic bag and you add some air holes so the mycelium can breathe.
Like Jim's tempeh, my oyster mushroom spawn needed a nice, warm but not too warm place to hang out. Since it needed to be in the dark and be undisturbed for a few weeks, we chose a little-used closet. The idea was that as soon as I started seeing pins--the tiny beginnings of mushrooms--I needed to move it into the light. Oysters love light once the mycelium has had a chance to grow by chowing down on some of the straw. Sadly, we kept having cold snaps and the mushrooms just didn't want to come out and play. Until we went on vacation. Sure enough, the pins emerged while we were away. By the time we got back, only a few hardy shrooms developed in the dark room despite many, many pins.
I hung the bag on the shower rod near a window in the guest bathroom and misted the bag each day as instructed in hopes that it might fruit again. A couple of weeks and much warm weather later, new pins emerged.
Within days, many more came out and this time, we got gorgeous mushrooms.
Having missed the last fruiting, we made the most of this one. I dug out a recipe I'd been saving for the occasion: Asparagus and Oyster Mushroom Gratins with Spinach Chiffonade (recipe can be found at Vegetarian Times).
We're hoping that we get at least one more fruiting before the contents of the plastic bag become compost but it's starting to heat up like August this week and that may be too much for our mycelium. Fortunately, I'm getting good at finding oyster mushrooms in the wild. While they're not as elegant-looking at the cultivated ones, they have the distinct advantage of being large. More on my foraging adventures in another post. Some day. Who knows when? Not I.