Value Added Products

H. Dehydrating Mushrooms

Dehydrating mushrooms is a good way to make a profit from less desirable mushrooms.

Mushrooms that are poor quality, or that a grower is unable to sell, are perfect for any number of value-added products. Shiitake is excellent as a dried product, and is easy to dry.

Additionally, recent research from Penn State and Paul Stamets has also discovered some compelling arguments that exposure of fresh mushrooms to sunlight converts enzymes to enhance both Vitamin D2 and D3 content in mushrooms. This is a boost to the nutritional value of the mushrooms, and also potentially improves their marketability for farmers. (See article, Appendix A)

The current legality of drying and selling mushrooms in New York is a bit confusing, but essentially:

  • Mushrooms dried using “natural” methods (sunlight) are not subject to licensing by any agency and can be sold legally without permits.
  • Mushrooms that are dried in a food dehydrator ARE subject to regulation and currently require a 20C license and needs to be done in a certified kitchen.

 

The problem with this is that the sun is not a reliable method of drying at all times of the season in New York. Growers wanting to dry in the sun must be prepared to finish in a dehydrator. This essentially means, unless a grower can develop a reliable solar drying method, they will need the 20C and access to a certified kitchen.

If a farm doesn’t have such a facility, they can often be rented from a local extension office, church, community center, fire hall, or during the off-hours of a local restaurant. The Department of Ag & Markets and your local health Department are involved in the process.

For more information, and the different certifications, read the factsheet #28 Becoming a Small Scale Food Processor – from Guide to Farming in New York and available at http://smallfarms.cornell.edu

Process for Combined Solar and Mechanical Dehydration:

If you are going to dry mushrooms, it is recommended that for highest value, growers combine solar dehydration with mechanical drying. Again, for personal use, or to share with friends, this can be done on-farm. For sale, currently one is required to follow the a 20C processing procedure.

Steps to dry mushrooms: 

1. Prepare mushrooms: Trim off any misshapen, irregular, or insect damaged areas of the mushroom.  De-stem mushrooms to be dried. The stems should be dried separately or can be used as a soup stock. The dried stems can also be sold or powdered and packaged as a seasoning. The best drying occurs within 2-3 days of picking.  Not only does this provide less chance of contamination, but a freshly dried shiitake gets a bright yellow color to it.  One that has been refrigerated for a week often turns dull brown.  It is recommended to dry wet (rain-soaked) mushrooms immediately.

 

2. Place whole mushrooms “gills up” on food-grade trays. The mushrooms should be placed “gills up” to preserve flavor. Some growers prefer to leave the mushrooms whole, and some choose to slice them. Slicing introduces more tools, and more opportunities for contamination, so sanitation becomes more critical.

It’s good to use the trays from the dehydrator you own, so that they can be transferred directly from the solar process to the dehydrator, without needing to touch or move the mushrooms another time. Another tip is to sort mushrooms based on size, as smaller mushrooms will dry sooner than larger ones.

3. Cover trays with screening, and place in sunlight. The screening protects the mushrooms from insects and critters. Lay them on a table in the sunlight for at least 5 hours, but ideally as long as possible.

Some growers have conceived of solar drying structures that increase temperature and thus speedup drying time. These are ok as long as; 1) the container protects mushrooms from insects and other contaminants, and 2) the container uses glass or a plastic that doesn’t block UV rays (if you want to achieve the increase in Vitamin D).

Mushrooms drying on racks in the sunshine.

FORMULA:

Weight of Fresh / Weight of Dried  = .06 to .15

A general rule is that 1lb (16 oz) of fresh should dry to 2 oz of product.

 

To create a powder, grind the dried mushrooms using a specially dedicated coffee grinder or food processor.

4. Move trays to a dehydrator. This means packing them into a container or directly into the dehydrator, and keeping them protected on the trip to the commercial kitchen. Once there, set up in the dehydrator, and set the temperature to 155 degrees F. The dry time will depend on how dry they became during the solar drying process.

5. Remove when fully dehydrated. The mushrooms are finished when they are “leather hard,” or in other words, are not soft in any place, but also not overly brittle. This is learned over time, and you can verify adequate dryness by weighing the mushrooms fresh and then dry; the finished product should be 6 – 15% the weight of fresh.

6. Package mushrooms in airtight backs or containers. A locking plastic bag or glass jar makes good packaging; DO NOT vacuum seal if planning to sell as this requires specific process and another processing license. The mushrooms should retain their quality for at least 6 – 12 months, and should be stored out of direct

 7. To make powder, simply grind stems/caps in a blender or coffee grinder dedicated SOLELY to this purpose. Package in glass or plastic spice jars. (must be done in 20C facility)

I. Other Value Added Products

Growers have devised a number of creative products utilizing shiitake mushrooms. Each of these needs to be developed by the grower, based on their perceived markets, the cost of production, and available ingredients. In New York, almost all of these items will be required to be produced in a 20C kitchen, except where noted.

Additionally, many value-added products must be reviewed and approved by a process authority. Cornell hosts the Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship, which can help you navigate a particular recipe you want to develop. https://necfe.foodscience.cals.cornell.edu

 

Some of the more popular products farmers have created include:

  • Shiitake Pate – shiitake processed with onion, garlic, nuts, and cream cheese/avocado/tofu
  • Rolled Goat cheese – fresh goat cheve rolled in powdered shiitake seasoning
  • Mushroom Barley Soup – can process and serve hot or freeze for customers to take home, with local vegetables and grain
  • Duxelles – traditional French dish, mushrooms, shallots, red wine, spices cooked until a creamy paste is made; can be eaten fresh or frozen
  • Canning – this is likely prohibitive for a small producer wanting to sell commercially, but mushrooms can be canned plain or with spices in a pressure canner.
  • Pickling – like canning, but in a brine (salt and vinegar) which is acidic
  • Jerky – mushrooms mixed with other herbs spices, soy sauce, then dried

Medicinal Extracts

Mushrooms extracts can be bottled and sold as a dietary supplement.

The world of medicinal extracts is complicated. They offer a potentially lucrative product for growers to consider.

Coupled with selling the product must be the knowledge and understanding of research versus lore. And, sellers need to be sure to avoid making any claims for health benefits, instead highlighting products as only “dietary supplements.” Medicinal products are subject to inspection and jurisdiction of the FDA.

The world of medicinal extracts is complicated. They offer a potentially
lucrative product for growers to consider.

Coupled with selling the product must be the knowledge and understanding
of research versus lore. And, sellers need to be sure to avoid making any
claims for health benefits, instead highlighting products as only “dietary supplements.”

Medicinal products are subject to inspection and jurisdiction of
the FDA.

Some great resources to further learn about medicinal mushroom
properties and making extracts:

• Hobbs, Christopher. Medicinal mushrooms: an exploration of tradition, healing, and culture. Book Publishing Company, 2002.

• Powell, Martin. Medicinal mushrooms - A clinical guide. Mycology Press, 2015.

• Rogers, Robert. The fungal pharmacy: the complete guide to medicinal mushrooms and lichens of North America. North Atlantic Books,
2012.

Natural medicinal products are largely unregulated, which on one hand is good for the producer, as they can more freely offer their product (provided they don’t make claims). On the other hand, it makes for a complex and confusing marketplace, where the contents of one product differ widely from another.

All this being said, those interested in pursuing more knowledge, and willing to develop consistent recipes, can offer a valuable and beneficial product to their market outlets.

The vast majority of scientific literature, along with the customs of traditional Chinese medicine, has focused around hot water extracts of the fruiting bodies (mushrooms) of a particular species. This is not to say that there are not some medicinal benefits to eating fresh mushrooms (beyond nutrition, which we know about) and the mycelium, but that in essence there has been little exploration into these forms as medicine.

According to the FDA:

"The law defines dietary supplements in part as products taken by mouth that contain a “dietary ingredient.” Dietary ingredients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs or botanicals, as well as other substances that can be used to supplement the diet. They are labeled as dietary supplements and include, among others:

- vitamin and mineral products
- “botanical” or herbal products — These come in many forms and may include plant materials, algae, macroscopic fungi, or a combination of these materials.
- amino acid products — Amino acids are known as the building blocks of proteins and play a role in metabolism.
- enzyme supplements — Enzymes are complex proteins that speed up biochemical reactions.

Source: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”at https://www.fda.gov/

Process for double extraction of shiitake:

Alcohol Extract

  1. Fill a quart jar about 3/4 full with dried mushrooms of choice. Fill the jar entirely to the top with high proof (151 or greater) alcohol.
  2. Keep mushrooms in the alcohol extract for at least one month, though more will be infused the longer you let it go (up to three months). Try to shake the jar daily.
  3. When ready to move on, strain the mushrooms and set the alcohol extract aside.

Hot Water Extract

  1. Add the strained mushrooms from above to a pot and add two quarts of water, make sure the mushrooms are covered with water.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then gently simmer (NEVER BOIL) for a minimum of two hours, but the longer the better! Be sure to monitor water level and keep it at least above the level of the mushrooms.
  3. Once done, allow to cool, and strain the mushrooms, taking care to press the maximum amount of water from the mushrooms. Then, mushrooms go in the compost.
  4. Take a clean half gallon jar, and fill first with the alcohol mixture (up to 12oz). Then add an equal amount of the water mixture (up to 12oz). At a 50:50 ratio, with 151 proof alcohol, this results in a mixture around 37.75% alcohol, though it can be diluted further. Under 25% is not considered shelf stable, and over 40% could degrade medicinal compounds in the mix.
  5. Store the tincture in a cool place, not in direct sunlight. Lasts about 1 year. For ease of use, distribute into dropper bottles. Take 1 – 2 dropperfuls daily.

To figure alcohol ratios for different proofs, first determine what volume of the proof alcohol equals 100%.  For example, In 16oz of 75.5% alcohol, 12.08 oz would be 100% alcohol (16*.755). Then, dividing 12.08 with the full content of water extract with provide the exact alcohol content.