Wild Mushroom Risotto and a Trip to Fred Treadway’s Mushroom Farm in Madison County, North Carolina

Wild Mushroom Risotto and a Trip to Fred Treadway’s Mushroom Farm in Madison County, North Carolina

The Bunkycooks were just a wee bit curious about mushrooms back a few months ago.  I was looking for some wild mushrooms to make a few dishes and I wasn’t brave enough to pick some of the ones growing in the woods.  You just don’t know which ones are safe to eat and what might happen to you if eat the wrong ones.

So, off we went in our gas guzzlin’ RV for another On the Road adventure to speak with a mushroom farmer and learn more about mushrooms and how they grow!  Maybe he could talk to us about the edible ones versus the mushrooms that might put a bit more punch in my dishes than I was looking for! 😮

Maybe Beamer likes this RV better than I do.

We traveled to visit with Fred Treadway at his farm outside of Asheville in Madison County, North Carolina.  Fred told us that when he moved back to North Carolina in 1995 that he wanted to do something very different.  He likes to take on new projects and never do the same thing twice.  So, after owning a hardware store in Louisville, Kentucky for many years as well as managing a drive-in theater (what is that you ask?!), he went to a workshop on mushroom farming and decided to take on this hobby.

Fred Treadway with his mushroom logs.

Fred primarily grows Shiitake mushrooms, but also grows some Oyster mushrooms along with the Shiitakes.  In his seven years of mushroom farming Fred has become quite the rock star.  He has had a couple of  interviews published as well as having a video clip made of he and David Kendall from the Madison County Extension Office.

Fred, who is 75 years old and farms 89 acres of land, could run circles around me and Mr. Bunkycooks.  Now, of course, that isn’t quite fair right now with my surgery and boot, etc., but my bet is he could do it on any given day!  He prefers walking to riding around the farm in his four wheeler and I am sure that is one of the reasons he is in such great health.  Me…I’d take a spin in the four wheeler, although the day we visited, we walked right along with Fred.

Mushrooms grow on these logs.

I think Fred is also in such great shape because he carries around all of these heavy logs that the mushrooms grow on!  Fred raises more than mushrooms on his farm and puts up many vegetables that he and his wife will use during the Winter.  He prefers the freshness of his own canned vegetables (and I can certainly understand that).

When Fred started mushroom farming (about seven years ago), he began with fifty logs.  By the second year he had a couple hundred logs.  He now has over eighteen hundred logs for his mushrooms!  That’s a lotta logs and a whole bunch of mushrooms!  That number of logs will yield about four to five hundred pounds of mushrooms each year.  He says it is a hobby that got out of control.  Do you think?

Fred has been asked to speak with many younger farmers who are looking at getting into mushroom farming as more people are growing their own foods and wanting to supply produce to local businesses and Farmers’ Markets.  Fred seems to be quite successful at mushroom farming, so I can see why they are contacting him.

I was not familiar with the process of how mushrooms are grown (except for the ones I have seen in the ground), so I was quite fascinated with the process of how they grow on the logs.  He had so many mushrooms growing, I think they were Happy Mushrooms! (no…not that kind of happy!).

These 'shrooms are looking pretty happy to me!

If you are not familiar with how mushrooms are farmed on logs, here is a brief lesson. Fred has an area in the woods on his farm that is shaded and damp and he has stream that runs through there to keep things moist.

This is how most of the logs are set up in the wooded area.

A stream runs through the area where Fred keeps his logs.

He soaks all eighteen hundred logs beginning in the Spring and then will repeat this process every two to three months to keep them moist throughout the growing season. They will sit in a tank full of fresh water for twenty-four hours.

The next process is incredibly tedious.  There are forty holes drilled into every log in a particular pattern.  Spawn (mushroom spore mixture) is placed in the holes with a plunger.  It is then sealed with cheese wax.  This becomes the root system for the mushrooms.  The logs are then placed in the moist, wooded area.  If it is colder weather, he will cover them.

This is the spawn that goes into the drilled holes.

Filling the holes with spawn.

The holes are then covered with cheese wax and will begin to grow mushrooms.

In three to four days (and even faster when it’s warmer) Voila! you have baby mushrooms.  They will get cut from the logs once they are fully grown.  This process will continue until November.

Baby Shiitake Mushrooms

In addition to the Shiitakes, Fred grows some Golden Oysters which are from Asia (the White Oyster Mushrooms are American in origin).  He says that they have only a 1-2 day life, so they need to be cut from the logs quickly.

Golden Oyster Mushrooms

He also has some wild Turkey Tail Mushrooms that pop up in the Spring.  You can pour boiling water over these to make tea and they do have some medicinal benefits.  Fred also likes Blue Tree Mushrooms and Grey Doves (they will grow wild in October and November).

Wild Turkey Tail Mushrooms

The Shiitake Mushrooms that Fred grows are sold primarily to one restaurant in Asheville and the rest he will use or sell at local Farmers’ Markets.

Lots and lots of Shiitakes!

I am truly amazed with how they grow and how quickly!

We had such a delightful visit with Fred and would like to thank him for taking the time to show us around his farm.  It was truly fascinating and I understand why he has become one of the sources to go to when new farmers are interested in gaining knowledge on this topic.  I would also like to thank David Kendall for putting me in touch with Fred.  Mushroom farmers can be a bit elusive, so I was thankful that we were able to get to visit with one!

Well, as you might guess, I love mushrooms…all sorts of mushrooms.  Some of them are very expensive mushrooms (Chanterelles, Truffles, Morels, etc.) and therefore, do not appear at the Bunkycooks on a regular basis.  One of my favorite ways to prepare wild mushrooms is to sauté them with olive oil, butter, garlic, thyme and sherry.  It is perfect to serve alongside a great steak.

You can also whip up a Morel Sauce to serve with a steak (now we’re talking sexy food).  We had some beautiful photographs of these sautéed mushrooms, however, they have gone missing from our catalog become elusive just like the mushroom farmers!

My other favorite way of preparing wild mushrooms, especially this time of year when I want heartier, rich dishes is Wild Mushroom Risotto.  This can be served alone as a main dish or you can prepare it as a side dish.  The richness and full flavor comes in part from Homemade Chicken Stock, so I suggest you do not skimp on that.  Be sure to use a really good Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  It is also critical to the success of the dish and the flavor is incomparable.

I prepared my risotto with three types of mushrooms.

Risotto takes some time to stir to get the proper consistency, but when it is creamy and full of flavor, there is nothing more satisfying, especially on a cold Winter’s night with a really nice bottle of red wine!  We served ours with a lovely Brunello.  I made my risotto with an equal amount of Yellow Foot Mushrooms, Shiitakes and Crimini Mushrooms.  Any combination will do, but I would definitely suggest using some Shiitakes and Criminis because of their hearty texture.



Wild Mushroom Risotto

Serves 3 as a Main Dish


Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, bruised
1 pound fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced (I used Yellow Foot, Shiitake and Criminis)
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup diced sweet onion (Vidalia or Walla Walla)
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (I used a French Chablis)
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Chopped chives or chopped Italian Parsley, as a garnish


Cover the bottom of a large skillet (12-inch) with approximately 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add garlic cloves and heat over medium heat until garlic is fragrant and oil is hot, but not smoking. Remove garlic cloves. Add mushrooms. Lightly season with Kosher salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat until mushrooms are just tender and lightly browned. Set aside.

To a risotto pan or medium saucepan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Heat over medium-high heat. Add onions, lightly season with salt. Cook until they are translucent, stirring frequently, about five minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with olive oil. Continue to stir and cook for about two minutes. Add white wine, stirring and cooking over medium to medium-high heat until wine is absorbed.

* You may need to adjust your heat during this process of adding liquids, depending on the type of pot and your heat source. You do not want the rice sticking as you cook it and the liquids absorb.

Add one cup of the chicken stock, stirring frequently, until the stock is absorbed. Repeat this process with the stock two more times. You will have one cup of stock left. This will take some time, so be patient. Add the last cup of stock and stir. Add reserved mushrooms and cook until rice is cooked, yet firm to the bite (al dente) and the mixture is creamy.

Remove from the heat and add the butter and cheese. Stir to combine. Check for seasonings.

Serve immediately, garnished with either chopped chives of parsley, if desired.

18 Responses to “Wild Mushroom Risotto and a Trip to Fred Treadway’s Mushroom Farm in Madison County, North Carolina”

  1. 1

    diane and todd — December 14, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

    what a fabulous experience! great pictures too!
    We have mushroom envy and that gorgeous basket of mushrooms is to die for!

    • bunkycooks replied: — December 14th, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

      You know we will share our mushrooms with you anytime you all want to head our way! :)

  2. 2

    Barbara | Vino Luci Style — December 14, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

    I love all mushrooms but the only ones I’ve ever foraged for were Morels; and if you know what they look like you know why. Such a weird and unique shape but my most favorite mushroom ever which is surely why I live somewhere where they are totally unavailable. Love Risotto, love mushrooms…would love this dish I’m sure!

    • bunkycooks replied: — December 14th, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

      Hi Barb,

      I guess we are really pretty lucky here since we will get all sorts of mushrooms and some I have never heard of. Unfortunately, with that availability comes a hefty price tag, so when we do buy them (like Morels), we make the most of it and savor every bite! I always try to mix in the less expensive ones in dishes like this because it works, but it is nice to splurge on a few of the more unusual ones, too.


  3. 3

    Sara — December 14, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

    awesome post! loved learning about mushrooms, my favorite! Lovely risotto recipe, mushroom & risotto are a pair made in heaven! :)

    • bunkycooks replied: — December 14th, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

      Thanks Sara! I thought this would be an interesting farm visit. I sure learned quite a bit. It really was pretty fascinating. Risotto does pair well the mushrooms. It is one of my favorite dishes to make, especially this time of year!

  4. 4

    Maria P — December 14, 2010 @ 5:15 pm

    How fascinating! Thank you BunkyCooks for brightening my day. Your picture of the risotto is especially mouthwatering. Rebella wants to know if you have explored the truffle farms in Tennessee yet. Apparently they are harvesting black Perigord truffles by the 100 pounds there. The South is truly rich and bountiful!

  5. 5

    Becky — December 14, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

    This is such an informative post on mushrooms. I learned so many things about mushrooms and how they are grown. I love all kinds of mushrooms, so i”ll have to try this Risotto. Hope that your foot is feeling better.

  6. 6

    denise @ quickies on the dinner table — December 15, 2010 @ 3:50 am

    Oh do I want that basket of mushrooms! What a fantastic experience! Thanks for sharing your day, the gorgeous photos and that wonderful recipe – never had risotto, but you make me want to!

  7. 7

    Drick — December 15, 2010 @ 8:55 am

    such a fascinating story, always wondered how mushroom farming was done, thanks Gwen… like your risotto too, bet it tastes as good as it looks

  8. 8

    Debi(Table Talk) — December 15, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

    Looks like we all should become mushroom farmers–Fred looks like the picture of health!
    Your blog posts sure do cover the ultimate in foodie field trips. I would have loved this.

  9. 9

    Brian @ A Thought For Food — December 15, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

    You weren’t kidding when you said “wild” mushrooms!!! Wow!!!

    I just love risotto now that it’s so chilly out… I usually make it with quinoa, which substitutes really nicely.

    Great post!

  10. 10

    foodwanderings — December 15, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

    Love this post and the field trip sounds awesome!! Love it, I wonder if there is anything like that in DC area. J and I love all mushrooms and our son just started liking them two years ago. Truly a wonderful post!

  11. 11

    Monet — December 16, 2010 @ 1:09 am

    Oh my goodness…what a delightful post this was. Ryan and I adore mushrooms of all varieties, but I was embarrassingly uniformed about how these delicious fungi are grown. I so enjoyed traveling along with you, meeting Fred and learning the ins and outs of growing mushrooms. And the risotto recipe you included looks lovely! Rich and creamy (just how we like it!) I hope you have a wonderful end to your week. Thank you for brightening my day!

  12. 12

    SMITH BITES — December 16, 2010 @ 9:37 am

    isn’t it fascinating to learn about all of the foods we eat? i have had a long-time affair w/mushrooms stemming waaaayyyyyyy back to when my dad would forage mushrooms and bring them home for us to eat. he would bread and fry ours and i could hardly wait until they were done so i could grab a plate and chow down. this mushroom risotto looks fabulous!!!

  13. 13

    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors — December 16, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

    I LOVED LOVED LOVED this post Gwen – in fact I called hubby and the kids over to look at the pics. We have got to get the kids to see these one day…how cool to see mushrooms growing on logs! This has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.

    And your basket of mushrooms has me positively drooling and the risotto is fab :)


    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  14. 14

    Jean — December 19, 2010 @ 10:48 pm

    Wow, I can only imagine how dee-lish that risotto tasted. Nothing compares to fresh mushrooms, especially when their flavors are highlighted like this. Awesome pictures and I’m jealous of that basket overflowing with those beauties!

  15. 15

    Kim — December 22, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

    I like that you used the word “sexy” to describe mushrooms. What an adventure this must have been!!! I wish I was with you.

    One of these days, I would love to forage for wild mushrooms. Sadly, that’s a wee bit difficult to do in Southern California.


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