I used to have a great dislike of mushrooms. Growing up in my house, mushrooms were only purchased when they could be done so cheaply: frozen and deep fried or slimy from a can. As a grown-up vegetarian, my tastes evolved and my experience with mushrooms changed. I discovered fresh mushrooms. I learned of the protein packed goodness of a grilled portabella cap, happy to discover it was cheaper per serving than a frozen veggie burger. I learned how they made a lovely meaty replacement in a Bolognese sauce. (Try replacing just half the meat in your sauce to lower the calories and make your grocery budget go farther). I now see the mushroom for the versatile tasty budget saver they are.

At Farmers Market of the Ozarks, you’ll likely find two to three different places selling mushrooms each week. There is one stand, simply decorated with green tablecloth and  price signs. Bob from Willow Mountain Mushrooms and I talk like we’re old friends. He’s patient to answer my questions and his mushrooms are the familiar varieties – portabella, cremini, shiitake. His mushrooms are your comfort food gems. This is where I get my mushrooms for Bistro White Bean Burgers, Cauliflower Fried Rice or stuffed red peppers. Priced very reasonably, you’ll be inspired to “beef up” your fajitas with sliced portabellas or mince some mushrooms for texture in your next crockpot chili.

At Trammel Mushrooms, the mushrooms go beyond the basics. They transform mushrooms to a gourmet splurge. While his prices may be a bit higher, they are worth the every penny. The fungi he sells are really works of art. They are the mushrooms you pick for date nights at home or impress your old college friends who are still convinced you can’t cook. The shapes, sizes and varieties go well beyond your normal mushroom experience.

If you really want to step up your mushroom game, they do have some other unique ways to treat yourself. For example, you can drink your mushrooms. Reishi coffee is an organic light roast blended with reishi mushrooms. Blended like a normal cup, their web site says you won’t need nearly as much cream or sugar due to the lower acidity of the coffee blend. I’m not a coffee drinker so I can’t weigh in on those claims. I am however behind anything that keeps the added sugar or the Pink Stuff out of your morning latte.

Their mushroom jerky is something I am going to add to my treat list. This highly addictive delicacy is made from oyster mushrooms and comes in four varieties: honey chipotle, original, siracha and spicy. My favorite is the original. It’s amazingly filling and makes a lovely morning snack with a protein matcha latte. Or perhaps a cup of reishi coffee?

Not a mushroom fan? No problem, here are plenty of other things for you to check at the farmers market. The growing season is slightly off this year. On a recent tour of local farms sponsored by the Missouri Farm Bureau, I learned that the wet weather delayed the planting of many fields in Missouri. I myself notice that crops like red pepper and winter squash seemed to be appearing a bit late this year. If you’re headed out to your local market with a specific vegetable in mind, try to be flexible. You’ll still find squash, potatoes and greens – just perhaps not the variety you had in mind.

Are you a mushroom fan? What’s your favorite way to fix and eat your fungus?

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