On the little road that extends into the park from the Grand Army Plaza on Greenmarket days, there’s a mushroom stand that with a sign that reads “Mycomedicinals—Madura Farms—Goshen, NY.”
Daniel Madura Jr. started his mushroom farm back in the 1970s, at the time selling only white button mushrooms. His business gradually gravitated mostly to other vegetables and onions, with the fungi taking a back seat, but in the last six or seven years he’s gone full mushroom again—this time with a wide variety and a message about their curative powers.
On a recent Saturday, the stand was manned by Madura’s daughters, Allie and Kim, dressed in rainbow-colored tie-dye T-shirts.
“Pretty much all of the mushrooms have certain medical values,” Allie told me, before showing me a chart listing the varying attributes of the hen of the woods, shiitake, baby bella, and gray oyster mushrooms: providing an antibacterial and antiviral boost, lowering blood pressure and blood sugar levels, aiding the immune system and respiratory health.
The superstar here is the mysterious reishi, displayed growing on a stump at the back of the stand.
“My dad’s been taking it,” Allie told me. “He used to have allergies, and it’s definitely improving.”
She said it's best to steep the reishi in hot water to make a tea, since it doesn’t have much flavor.
Most of the produce here is plenty flavorful, though, and certainly worth your time even if you feel a little skeptical about the mycomedicinal business. Madura Farms grows its crop in insulated, humidity-controlled mushroom houses, which Allie says means there’s no chemicals and no bugs to wash off before you cook them. Her general advice for mushrooms is to sauté them with a little olive oil and garlic, but she says the piopini are great in risotto and the oyster mushrooms are a good match for seafood.
Upon Allie’s recommendation, I went for the maitake. For $3, I brought home two big clusters of the grayish-colored filaments. After breaking them apart and lightly sautéing them in olive oil, I tossed them into a soba noodle salad with spinach, garlic, red peppers, and sesame oil. Even in a dish with a lot of other flavors going on, the maitake stood out. It has a wonderfully dank and foresty flavor, like camping in the woods in early spring.
Soba Noodle Salad with Mushrooms
Courtesy of Cheryl Huber, Assistant Director of the GrowNYC Greenmarkets
1 package soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/4 to 1/3 pound maitake mushrooms
1 bunch fresh spinach
Heat the sesame oil on medium/low, and add ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook until garlic is soft and golden. Stir in sugar at the very end, then remove from heat. Pour oil mixture into a separate bowl and set aside.
In the same pan, add a bit of olive oil. Break the maitakes apart into the pan and saute until tender. Set aside.
Boil the noodles according to manufacturer's directions, then run cold water over them until they cool. Drain noodles well. Add a splash sesame oil, put the noodles in a bowl, and set aside.
Wash and lightly steam the spinach.
Mix the garlic/ginger/red pepper oil into the noodles, then stir in the spinach and mushrooms. Season to taste with soy sauce and more ginger, if necessary.