Free fermentation workshop – make your own kombucha


Half Hill Farm’s Christian Grantham demonstrates how to make kombucha at home

THANK YOU to everyone who came out Saturday October 29 for our free fermentation workshop demonstrating how to make your own kombucha from home! The workshop also featured our kitchen partners and fermentation revivalist and New York Times best-selling author Sandor Katz!

The health benefits of Lion’s Mane mushroom extract


Half Hill Farm’s Lion’s Mane Mushroom Dual Extract

Over the past couple years we’ve grown a lot by listening and learning from our customers and following the latest research. After expanding into a new inspected kitchen earlier this year, we added Chaga mushroom and propolis extracts. Today, we are proud to add the power of certified organic Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushrooms to our Nature’s Remedy line of mushroom extracts!

Adding this healing edible and medicinal mushroom to our mushroom extracts gives you another natural alternative approach to better health and well being. Our Lion’s Mane extract can be used with our other mushroom extracts or as an adjunct therapy in consultation with your doctor.

Uses for Lion’s Mane extract: Half Hill Farm’s Lion’s Mane Mushroom Dual Extract combines extractions of both water and alcohol soluble compounds using certified organic ingredients in a formulation widely used by ethnobotanists and scientists in lab studies. Recent studies show cyanthane derivative triterpenes hericenones and erinacines from Lion’s Mane are unique classes of Nerve Growth Factors (NGFs) that show significant neuroprotective effects, stimulating nerve regeneration and re-myelination of neurons and helping improve memory and brain function.

Lion’s Mane mushrooms have also been used for over 2,000 years in Chinese medicine for digestive diseases. Studies linked below show extracts of Lion’s Mane mushrooms are active against ulcerative colitis, Irritable Bowel Disease, pancreatitis, Crohn’s Disease and gastrointestinal cancers (liver, colon, gastric). Unique compounds of Lion’s Mane mushrooms (palmitic acid, threitol and D-arabinitol) also help reduce blood sugar and regulate lipid levels in blood.

Recent studies on Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushrooms:

Please consult your physician before using any of our products for health purposes. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

UPDATE: mushroom workshop pavilion progress

Construction started this week on Half Hill Farm’s mushroom workshop pavilion. Made of locally milled oak & cedar, it’s a perfect setting to help foster an important relationship with nature through a hands-on learning experience. We can’t wait to share this beautiful space with you this Fall here in rural Woodbury, TN!

We could not have done this without you! Back in March of last year, several of you helped us raise a portion of the funds we needed to build this shelter. We didn’t meet our goal, but with a little hard work and support we are finally creating a space to share sustainable fungi-culture & our love of the outdoors.

We are also humbled by the love and appreciation for the healing products we create out of personal needs and our deep reverence for the natural world. Our 1:1 Red Reishi mushroom dual extract was first introduced as a gift to donors of this project last year and has since shipped to over 40 states to folks seeking nature’s balanced remedy. There is never a day we are not here quietly listening, learning and creating. Every day you reach out to us and share your story of why and how you found us affirms our commitment to serve.

How to get more vitamin D from your Shiitake mushroom harvest


Shiitake mushrooms growing on oak logs at Half Hill Farm in Woodbury, TN

If you purchased a Shiitake mushroom log from Half Hill Farm that is tagged “F14,” now is the time to follow your soaking / shocking steps to get your first edible mushrooms within a week.

Once your Shiitake mushroom log starts producing mushrooms, there’s a simple technique that dramatically increases their vitamin D before you either eat them or dehydrate them for long term storage.

Mycologist Paul Stamets details this simple process and science here, but the basic steps are pretty simple:

  1. Remove stems and slice into roughly half inch slices.
  2. Spread slices evenly on drying racks (anything that allows air flow) in the sunshine with the gills facing up for 6 peak hours avoiding early morning dew and evening moisture.
  3. Bring the mushrooms indoors overnight to avoid humidity, then repeat 6 hours of sun exposure the next day to achieve 12 total peak hours of UV exposure.
  4. Finish completely drying your Shiitake mushrooms in a dehydrator, and store them in sealed jars. To enjoy anytime, simply soak them for an hour and follow most any recipe for fresh mushrooms.

According to Stamets, Shiitake mushrooms that are not exposed to sun may have less than 40 IU/100g of vitamin D. With the steps above, you can expect 46,000 IU/100g of vitamin D, D2, D3, and D4!

To achieve healthy serum levels of vitamin D exclusively from your dried Shiitake mushrooms, you will need to eat no more than 10 grams a day which is roughly equivalent to 100 grams of fresh Shiitake (3.6 ounces).

Purchase your own mushroom log: Our one foot Shiitake mushroom logs are available for scheduled pick up on our farm in Woodbury, TN. They are $22 and will produce 15-20 lbs. of mushrooms over a 3-5 year period. Here is how to get yours.

Make your own mushroom log: Schedule your own private 2-3 hour mushroom log workshop for groups of up to four people on our farm, take home the log you make, and start turning your own logs into a sustainable food source. Here’s how to schedule your workshop.

DISCLAIMER: I am a farmer. I am not a doctor. Please consult your physician before using any of our products or advice for health purposes.

Saving seeds from last year’s crop

Seeds are pretty inexpensive, and you can find just about any variety of anything in the world online. But this year we selected seeds from some of our best organic plants that were left in the garden to fully mature and produce seeds well into Autumn.

I take small brown paper bags, place the seeds in them, label them with the variety and date and allow them to fully dry for a couple weeks. Since warm temps and humidity can ruin your seeds, place them in small airtight jars and then store in a cool place like your fridge.

Fermenting Seed: This year I went a step further with my tomato seeds by fermenting them. This removes the seed’s gel which contains a germination inhibitor and other potential disease. The entire process take about 5 days, but the steps are pretty easy.

 

Take a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of filtered water and place the freshly harvested tomato seeds in the water and sit in a cupboard for 3-5 days. Over time, the seeds will float and then sink. A film or mold will develop over the top and the water will become a little cloudy. It will also smell really bad. This is normal.

Close to the 5th day, or when all the seeds have sunk to the bottom, carefully remove the top film and then add water. What you are wanting to do is stir up the pulp and other sediment to slowly pour off until you can put the seeds in a sieve and rinse. Set them aside on a paper plate (seeds will stick to napkins) to dry. You should have fuzzy seeds ready to plant next year!

RECIPE: Cherokee Kenuche Ball – Hickory Nut Soup

We have a few mature Shaggy Bark Hickory trees on the property at Half Hill Farm that cover the ground each Fall with lots of nut husks. The nut is viewed as the best of America’s Hickory trees, and the squirrels here love them.

I was curious if there were any old Native American recipes using the nuts and came across some very obscure references to Cherokee Kenuche balls, ground up Hickory nuts (shell and meat) formed into a fist-sized ball that stores well through the Winter and is used on special occasions in soups by the American Cherokee Tribe. I can imagine many food uses and plan on putting a small grape-sized ball in our coffee maker in the morning.

The aroma of Kenuche is meant to guide the ancestors back to special family gatherings where it is served as a side dish. My guess is that memories of gathering and processing the nuts with older family members who have since passed is how ancestors are connected with this very special dish. After the time consuming process of crushing the nuts earlier today, I imagine this was a task for older family members and children who helped pick out larger shells before crushing them. It’s a beautiful side dish with a rich heritage that I’m guessing has less than 40 references online, including books.

Here is how you can make your own Kenuche. We could only gather about 100 Shaggy Bark Hickory nuts because the squirrels favor this nut over everything else. I crushed each one with a hammer. Half of them were bad, so I ended up with only 50. I picked out the larger shell pieces and left the rest in a bowl. I then took a small mortar & pestle and mashed the shells and meat into an oily paste. It’s OK and easier to leave the shells, and this is how it was traditionally done (but in a large hollowed wooden bowl).

Form the resulting Hickory nut paste into a Kenuche ball using wax paper. I find wax paper keeps the oils in the ball instead of sticking to your hand. Kenuche balls are usually the size of a fist, but ours was the size of a plum. You might need 300-400 nuts for a fist-sized Kenuche ball.

You can store Kenuche in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use it. Our ball was about 2 ounces, so I simmered it in a half quart of water for about 30 minutes until the nut meat was dissolved into a creamy sauce. A normal sized Kenuche ball would use about a half a gallon of water. I then strained the creamy broth through a sieve and discarded the small shell pieces and added hominy to the resulting broth. We added mushrooms and let this simmer. You can add venison or pretty much anything (brown sugar and maple syrup will make a sweet version and compliment the nutty flavor), but traditional Kenuche soup is the broth with hominy.

Life is all about having the patience to crack a tough nut to get to the good stuff. If your traditional gatherings are starting to focus more on the hollow and commercial aspects of life, who’s bringing what to the table, try infusing traditions that bring people together and create memories of those who have passed. You just might bring more to the table in a humble bowl of soup than you expected.

Searching for wild ‘Hen of the Woods’ mushrooms in Tennessee

As you enjoy the beautiful colors of Fall this year you may notice several varieties of wild mushrooms growing at the base of some large hardwood trees in Tennessee. One mushroom in particular we need your help finding is called “Hen of the Woods,” or Maitake (Grifola Frondosa).

If you find one of these beautiful native mushrooms, and you live within about 75-100 miles of our organic farm in Woodbury, TN, we’d love to come visit and take tissue samples to replicate in our farm’s mushroom lab.

What to look for: The huge 9 lbs. Maitake pictured here was found on our property October 22, 2012 at the base of a large oak tree. You can find them either at the base of oaks and other hardwoods or running along large surface roots fanning out from the tree. They usually return year after year (learn more).

What we’ll do: we will bring a small lab kit to sample the tissue, replicate the mycelium in a petri dish and then spawn the culture samples into various growth mediums including sawdust and pegs for logs. If you find one, call us at 615-469-7778. We will only positively identify this variety of mushroom in person, but close-up photos emailed to us can help us decide whether to make the trip.

If you are interested in growing your own Shiitake or Maitake mushrooms on logs at home, send us a short message to receive future notifications on scheduled workshops or availability of spawn pegs and inoculated logs from Half Hill Farm.

Read more: Paul Stammets has a nice article that includes excellent research on Maitake mushrooms and its medicinal value, in particular for Type 2 Diabetes. Below is the nutritional value of Maitake mushrooms excerpted from the article.

  • 377 calories per 100 grams dry weight
  • 25 percent protein
  • 3-4 percent fats (1 percent polyunsaturated fat; 2 percent total unsaturated fat; 0.3 percent saturated fat)
  • ≈60 percent carbohydrates (41 percent are complex carbohydrates)
  • ≈28 percent fiber
  • 0 percent cholesterol
  • B vitamins (mg/100 g): niacin (64.8); riboflavin (2.6 mg); and pantheonic acid (4.4 mg)
  • High concentration of potassium: 2,300 mg/100 g (or 2.3 percent of dry mass!)

Organic mushroom production begins at Half Hill Farm

Today is the first day of Fall and the official start of our organic Shiitake and Maitake mushroom production at Half Hill Farm!

This Summer we began working with a couple of local mills to source high quality organic wheat bran and hardwood sawdust for our indoor mushroom grow operation. Maitake jars (Hen of the Woods) and Shiitake blocks start in the Shroomery this weekend. Yesterday, we inoculated about 60 white oak logs we got when Mr. Logan had to take an old tree down after a bad storm.

Everything about growing mushrooms feels right. While producing a food with near magical health benefits, we are also sequestering larger volumes of carbon from felled trees into our soil through compost creating a multi-threaded sustainable loop that increases the health of our soil, our food and ultimately our planet.

Availability: It will take a few weeks before the first mushrooms appear, and you know we’ll post results along the way on Facebook like doting parents.

Our organic mushrooms will be available fresh by the pound to individuals or local restaurants or dry by the ounce online. Starting next year, we’ll host workshops and make fully inoculated logs, blocks and jars for folks wanting to grow their own mushrooms at home.