Editor’s Note: Vintage Pacific NW revisits some of our favorite stories from some of our favorite magazine contributors. Check back each week for timeless classics focusing on food (by Nancy Leson, Providence Cicero, and chefs Greg Atkinson and Kathy Casey), gardening (by Valerie Easton and Ciscoe Morris), fitness (from former Fit for Life writer Nicole Tsong), architecture (from former NW Living writer Lawrence Kreisman), wine (from local guru Andy Perdue) and more.
Originally published Jan. 11, 2012
By Ciscoe Morris, former In the Garden writer
LOOKING FOR A FUN way to grow a delicious gourmet treat in the middle of winter? Try growing mushrooms in your kitchen.
Mushroom kits allow you to harvest delicious varieties such as portobello, shiitake and oyster mushrooms. The kits come with simple instructions and, depending on the size of the kit you buy, most will produce 2 to 3 pounds of these nutritious fungi delights over the two- to three-month harvest period.
The nutrient block requires a room temperature of 70 to 80 degrees, high humidity and frequent misting, making the kitchen the ideal spot to locate it. According to the instructions, each flush can produce up to a pound of mushrooms, but the harvest can consist of many small mushrooms or just a few big ones.
My first crop consisted of only one mushroom, but it was the size of the Queen Mary! My wife wouldn’t try eating it until I survived a day after taking a bite. Now I have to race her at harvest time to get enough mushrooms for my Brussels sprouts casserole. The kits are available online and at local nurseries and cost from $20 to $30.
Choose disease-free apple trees
Bare-root apple trees soon will be available at local nurseries and online. Bare root is a good way to go because they are less expensive and generally establish healthy root systems faster than those in containers.
When choosing which varieties to grow, save yourself hours of time and effort required for disease control by going with ones that are naturally resistant to scab and other common fungus problems in our area. Some great-tasting apples that are totally resistant to apple scab include ‘Liberty’, ‘Chehalis’, ‘Akane’ and ‘William’s Pride’.
There are also great-tasting new disease-resistant varieties bred in Eastern Europe. ‘Gold Star’, ‘Rebella’, ‘Resi’ and ‘Releika’ are extremely flavorful and should never require spraying for scab, mildew or fire blight. A great place to read about and order disease-free bare-root apples is at raintreenursery.com.
If you decide to plant apple trees, order two for cross pollination, and don’t forget to order plenty of apple-maggot barriers, as well. There still aren’t any apple trees resistant to that troublesome pest.
Grow your veggie starts from seed
Add another dimension to your vegetable-gardening experience by growing your own starts from seed indoors under lights.
Indoor seed-starter systems equipped with grow lights and heating mats are available at garden centers, but you can keep the price down by buying a used fluorescent light fixture. To get the full spectrum of light needed to grow healthy, stocky vegetable starts, combine an equal number of cool white and warm white bulbs in the fixture. Florescent lights produce no heat, so keep them within 2 to 4 inches of the seedlings. All plants need a rest at night, so buy a timer, and run the lights for about 16 hours per day.
Most vegetable seeds germinate best in warm soil, so complete your system by purchasing a propagation-heating mat, available online or at garden centers. It might seem a little expensive to get started, but you’ll save money in the long run, plus you’ll be able to grow the newest seed-catalog introductions, along with rare heirloom vegetables from seed that are difficult (if not impossible) to find in nurseries.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.